After representing JMU at the American Jobs Act Q&A at the White House back in September, an opportunity arose for us attend the Celebration of Country Music at the White House. We were excited to see top-performing country music artists as well as to be in the presence of President Obama and other influential politicians.
We walked through multiple security checks and proceeded to enter the White House through the front door. Making our way down the historical hallways was exciting and we chatted with other guests who expressed similar feelings. Specifically we spoke with producers from PBS who were in charge of the video production for the night. We were then ushered into a room where we received refreshments and had the chance to mingle with the other lucky guests.
Once we entered the East Room, we were directed to sit in the third and final row of chairs. Little did we know, that we would be sitting amongst people with interesting stories and impressive titles. Matt sat next to the President of the Country Music Association (CMA) and his wife, while Alicia sat next to a couple whose son had worked on the President’s campaign and now worked in the White House Administration. It seemed as though many of the guests were either from Nashville or were involved in politics.
One memorable quote from the night was when Matt made small talk with the President of the CMA, Steve Moore. When Matt asked him about his job, Mr. Moore joked around asking Matt not to hold his title against him. Matt replied with, “I’m the President of the Junior Class at JMU, don’t hold that against me.” Mr. Moore laughingly answered with, “Touché.” Common titles aside, Mr. Moore introduced us to Lyle Lovett later in the evening.
With two empty seats in the front row, we anticipated the arrival of the President and First Lady. Then, President Obama and Mrs. Obama entered the room to the sound of applause. The President walked up to the podium to give an opening speech on Country Music’s impact on America. In his speech, country music was described as: “It’s about storytelling -– giving voice to the emotions of everyday life.”
Performances for the night varied and included: Dierks Bentley, Mickey, Darius Rucker, James Taylor, Lauren Alaina, Lyle Lovett, The Band Perry, Lauren Alaina, and Kris Kristofferson. Artists not only sang their own songs, but also covered classic country songs and performed together in duets. The wide variety of songs sung represented the many facets of country music.
During Lauren Alaina’s time on stage, Matt claimed that she kept making eye contact with him. He even went as far as to say she was singing to him. Alicia disregarded the comment, only to find out later that Matt was right. After the performances, the audience proceeded back into another room in the White House for a reception. There were hors d’oeuvres and desserts, but most excitingly, the artists came out to greet the guests. We were both able to take pictures and speak with The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, Lyle Lovett, and Lauren Alaina. When Matt introduced himself to Lauren Alaina, she said, “I was singing to you out there,” and she added that she finds a select few in the crowd who look like they are enjoying themselves and chooses to sing to them.
At the end, both couldn’t believe the incredible opportunity they received in this fun experience. By continuing the contact within the White House, we are helping to keep JMU’s SGA in the minds of our Representatives in D.C. We are very fortunate to have been invited back for such a great event, and hope to keep fostering the relationship.
Here is the link to the video of the performance: (Heads up, look for Alicia’s bright red hair when the camera focuses on President Obama)