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White House Hosts Classical Stars, Hopefuls

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The White House devoted a full day to classical music on Wednesday.

Well over 100 classical music students trooped to the capitol for a workshop with some of the country's leading musicians. An evening concert in the East Room featured guitarist Sharon Isbin, violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and pianist Awadagin Pratt.

WQXR's Elliott Forrest will speak with Isbin about the experience of playing in the White House on Saturday morning.

The performance and workshop were the fourth in the White House Music Series founded by First Lady Michelle Obama. Previous events in the series have focussed on jazz, country, and Latin American music.

Wednesday evening's event included a moment of humor, according to the Los Angeles Times culture blog. While introducing the evening concert, President Obama shared a story on the White House's frequently awkward relationship with classical music.

Here's the anecdote as reported by the Los Angeles Times:

"Now, if any of you in the audience are newcomers to classical music, and aren’t sure when to applaud, don’t be nervous. (Laughter.)  Apparently, President Kennedy had the same problem.  (Laughter.)  He and Jackie held several classical music events here, and more than once he started applauding when he wasn’t supposed to.  (Laughter.)  So the social secretary worked out a system where she’d signal him -- (laughter) -- through a crack in the door to the cross-hall.   

"Now, fortunately, I have Michelle to tell me when to applaud.  (Laughter.)  The rest of you are on your own.  (Laughter.)"