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Musical Events at the White House

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During the terms of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), White House musical events became a major, regularly scheduled feature of the mansion’s social life. Many innovations took place: the first program by a famous concert pianist; the first musicale devoted to a single opera; the first performance on a clavichord; and the first East Room piano–a fine concert grand from Steinway & Sons presented to the White House in 1903. The world’s greatest pianists from Josef Hofmann to the legendary Ignacy Paderewski were invited to perform for the Roosevelts, and instrumental music reached further heights with the Kneisel Quartet, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, and the new Washington Symphony Orchestra. One of the most distinctive programs of the era, however, was that of the twenty-eight-year-old Spanish cellist, Pablo Casals, who played on January 15, 1904. More than a half century later, Casals would perform again in the White House for President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.

Landmark Era Performances

1903: The famous "Gold Steinway" was presented to the White House in January on the occasion of Steinway’s 50th anniversary establishing the East Room as a focal point for the performing arts. For the next several decades, Steinway arranged appearances by the great pianists of the day---Busoni, Hofmann, Samaroff, and the legendary Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

1905: Scott Joplin's celebrated 1899 Maple Leaf Rag was first played at the White House in 1905 at a diplomatic reception at the request of Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, Alice, who wanted to hear "that new jazz."

Grand piano presented to the White House in 1903.

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