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Rubenstein Center Scholarship

Artists Perform for the President

The abundance of fine artists who performed during the Theodore Roosevelt era continued to appear during succeeding administrations, and President and Mrs. William Howard Taft and the Woodrow Wilsons molded the popular White House musicale into a well-established tradition. Beginning with the Roosevelts and continuing through the Eisenhowers, Steinway & Sons assisted the First Lady with the selection of the artists and helped with their travel and hotel arrangements. Helen Taft was a fine amateur pianist, who practiced almost every day on her Baldwin piano, which was trimmed in gold to match motifs in the Blue Room (called "Mrs. Taft’s Music Room"), where it stood. While Mrs. Taft preferred concert pianists, President Taft’s tastes in music are illustrated in the Tin Pan Alley songs and arias from Puccini’s La Boheme coming from his graphanola at this time. President Wilson, too, enjoyed a novel "performer" in the White House–his Victrola, a new American "voice" that entertained him in the evenings as he and Edith Wilson relaxed by the fire.

Landmark Era Performance - 1916: The celebrated Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger played several of his compositions for Woodrow Wilson and his family on March 28.

The celebrated Australian pianist and composer Percy Grainger played for the Wilsons in 1916.

Library of Congress