Music in the White House is a five part-series from WQXR that explores the history and significance of classical music at the White House. The series take an in-depth look at America’s oldest performing arts venue, as well as our most musical presidents and some of the milestone performances in White House history. It also features “The Presidents Own” United States Marine Band, who have been providing music for U.S. presidents since 1798.

Elise K. Kirk, author of the ASCAP-winning book Music at the White House: A History of the American Spirit; and Lt. Col. Jason Fettig, director of the United States Marine Band, lead us through the series with John Schaefer, host of WNYC’s Soundcheck and New Sounds. Together, they show us that the White House has been an important cultural venue, as well as a political one, and that classical music has always been at the heart of our nation.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs at a private dinner hosted by American President Ronald Reagan in the White House Yellow Oval Room in 1987.


Additional thanks to Master Sgt. Amanda Simmons, Amy Weiss and The White House Historical Association.

Recently in Music in the White House

Listen: Music and the Kennedys

Thursday, November 03, 2016

While neither a musician nor a music-lover, President Kennedy's commitment to music and the arts was evident from the moment he took office.

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Theodore Roosevelt and the Gold Steinway

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A wealth of beautiful music in the White House during the dawn of the 20th century all began with a 1903 gold Steinway, which remained in the East Room for 35 years.

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The U.S. Marine Band, America's Oldest Music Group

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The U.S. Marine Band was founded by an act of Congress – signed by then-President John Adams – in 1798, two years before Washington, D.C. became the nation’s capital.

Comments [3]

Music in Lincoln’s White House

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Though he couldn’t sing or play any instruments himself, he surrounded himself with music during the turbulent 1860s, seeking solace from the turmoil of the Civil War.


5 Times Abraham Lincoln Showed His Love of Opera

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Unlike other musical presidents, Abraham Lincoln could neither read music, sing, or play an instrument. He was nonetheless a great music lover, particularly opera.

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The Most Musical Presidents

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We kick off a five-part series on Music in the White House with the most musically talented presidents of the 19th and 20th centuries: Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman.

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Timeline: The History of Music In The White House

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Explore a timeline of notable musical events throughout the history of the White House, from George Washington through the present day.