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The Hoovers' Musical Firsts

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The roster of prominent artists who performed for President Herbert Hoover at the end of the 1920s and into the early 1930s includes Grace Moore, Rosa Ponselle, Jascha Heifetz, Vladimir Horowitz, and many others. In 1931, President and Mrs. Hoover were the first to invite an artist to play for a head of state. With the performance of the Hampton and Tuskegee choirs, the Hoovers also became the first to bring black choirs to the White House since the Fisk Jubilee Singers sang for President Arthur. During the long administration of Franklin Roosevelt, from March 4, 1933 to April 13, 1945, more than 300 concerts in the White House reached out to every corner of America. They included women’s musical organizations, black performers (notably Todd Duncan and Marian Anderson), ballet and modern dance (Martha Graham), and children’s opera (Hansel and Gretel). In 1938 Steinway & Sons replaced the 1903 concert grand with a new 9’7" instrument, which is used often in the White House today.

Landmark Era Performances - 1931: President and Mrs. Hoover were the first to invite an artist to play for a head of state (a tradition that continues today) when on April 29, 1931, harpist Mildred Dilling played for King Phra Pok Klao Prajadhipok of Siam.

The East Room’s mahogany concert grand piano, with supporting eagles of gold leaf, was presented to the White House in 1938.

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