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Music in the White House during the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter reflected a wider segment of American culture than ever before, with the appearance of jazz, gospel, ragtime, and popular song, as well as classical concert and vocal forms. Following various official state dinners, Pearl Bailey, with Richard Nixon at the piano, sang for President Pompidou of France; The Captain and Tennille performed for the Queen of England, President and Mrs. Ford and their guests: and Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie and Earl Hines entertained Shah Reza Pahlevi of Iran under Jimmy Carter. But the most important musical event of this period was the inauguration of the first PBS series of five hour-long programs broadcast from the East Room.

Landmark Era Performances

1968-1973: Music in the White House during this period reflected a wide segment of American culture. The birthday dinner and Medal of Freedom presentation to Duke Ellington turned into a massive jam session with jazz luminaries. President and Mrs. Ford were especially successful in matching the musical programs to the interests of the many heads of state who visited the United States. For the blues loving French president Giscard d'Estang, Earl Hines performed and Van Cliburn interpreted Chopin, Schuman and Debussy during the first White House entertainment for a reigning Japanese emperor.

1976-1980: The most important musical event of the Carter administration was the inauguration of the first PBS series of five hour-long programs broadcast nationally and throughout Europe from the East Room. Initiated by President and Mrs. Carter in 1978, the first series comprised Vladimir Horowitz, Leontyne Price, Mikhail Baryshnikov with Patricia McBride, Mstislav Rostropovich and Andres Segovia.

President Nixon accompanies Pearl Bailey at a reception in 1974.

National Archives

Footnotes & Resources

Elise Kirk, Musical Highlights from the White House, 146-158.

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