By Courtney E. Smith
The GRAMMY Museum hosted the Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon on Wednesday (July 16) in Los Angeles. This year’s honorees included Janelle Monáe, who also performed at the ceremony, and Southern California educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi. The event’s keynote speech was delivered by the First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Mrs. Obama spoke about the White House’s dedication to exposing children to music, saying, “[W]hen Barack and I first came to Washington, we decided that it was time to shake things up a little bit. We wanted to do everything we could to make the White House the ‘People’s House.’ We wanted to open it up to as many people in this country as possible, especially our young people. So when we started inviting performers to the White House, as Bob mentioned, we told everyone that we also expected them to spend some time with young people, doing workshops and these wonderful mentoring sessions.”
She went on to say the GRAMMY Museum had flown over a thousand children to view the programs at the White House and given thousand more access to them via video.
In a statement on their website, the GRAMMY Museum elaborated on their education initatives in conjunction with the White House, stating that they have, “produced annual music education programs for students at the White House as part of the In Performance at the White House series, bringing nearly 1,000 youth to Washington, D.C. for a transformative three-day experience. These programs also reach beyond the State Dining Room where they take place, with countless students watching the live feed from their classrooms across the country.”
The program has included performances by Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, John Legend and Melissa Etheridge.
“Studies show that kids who are involved in the arts have higher grades, higher graduation rates, higher college enrollment rates,” Mrs. Obama said. “And when you think about it, that’s not really surprising. Because for many young people, arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning. Just like Janelle, they go to school each day because there’s an instrument they want to play, a musical they want to perform in, a painting they are dying to finish. See, and then once they arrive in those classrooms, that’s when we can teach them something else, like math and writing and science. That is the power of the arts for so many of our young people.”
Monáe performed “Tightrope” and a cover of James Brown’s hit song “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and backed up Mrs. Obama’s speech with her acceptance of the award, saying, “Statistics would even say that I wouldn’t even be standing here right now because of my environment. But all because of music, and music being my outlet, I stand here before you right now.”