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Military Influence on White House Musical Performances

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As the war in Europe cast its shadow over the capital’s social life, White House entertaining diminished. But one event in particular stands out: "A Program of American Songs for American Soldiers," presented by Burl Ives, Wade Mainer and other folk, spiritual and ballad singers in 1941. It was a new concept, a conscientious effort to relate American traditional music to the armed services at a critical period in the nation’s history. After President Roosevelt’s death in 1945, his vice president, Harry S. Truman, succeeded him. A passionate music lover, who played Chopin, Mozart, and Bach with modest proficiency, Truman had studied piano from age eight to sixteen, and the love of music remained with him all his life.

Landmark Era Performances - 1946-1947: Because of extensive White House renovations (1948-1952), the Trumans held only one season of concerts in the mansion, from November 1946 to February 1947. These programs, however, included several prominent artists, such as Lawrence Tibbett, Oscar Levant, Carroll Glenn, Eugene List, and Helen Traubel, the esteemed vocal teacher of Truman’s musical daughter, Margaret.