White House visit for Floyd Music School

Dan Tyminski, Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley at the White House workshopWe’ve mentioned twice this week the visit to the White House by Alison Krauss & Union Station, which included both an afternoon workshop with music students from all over the country and an evening concert in the East Room with the Obamas in attendance.

Ron Block gave us an inside look with some photos he took on Tuesday (7/21), and I have a report from Mike Mitchell, who runs the Floyd Music School in Floyd, VA, who escorted a group of his young musicians to DC for the trip.

The students from Floyd were even interviewed for local TV in Roanoke.

Mike shared some of the highlights (and lowlights) of their trip…

The Floyd Music School group at The White HouseOn Tuesday the 21st students and teachers from the Floyd Music School went to the White House for the much publicized First Lady’s Music Education series. We were hosted in the lower east wing. Around 150 students (from schools listed below) were in attendance and the kids and teachers alike got to practice a little close up hero worship.

Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley were introduced by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and someone from one of the Country Music associations in Nashville. That feller introduced Brad, Alison, a fifth grader from Nashville, and his backup guitarist and never once acknowledged Dan Tyminski, who came in to back up Alison on Angeline the Baker, they tore it up of course!  But the FMS group was so surprised by the slight that we hollered a big “Danny” when he got on the stage.

We were expecting a  “two hour interactive songwriting workshop” but, none the less, enjoyed a one hour moderated session.  Brad played two of his tunes and Alison and Dan fiddled one and sang one, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.”  They discussed how they were brought up to be performers and good players. Alison noted that she was a Midwest fiddle competition kid but really found the best fiddling when she came to the South, mentioning Kentucky and Virginia.  They both stated that a move to Nashville, following a good business model, investing the due amount of time, money and sweat were the ingredients of their success.  I found it interesting that Paisley, when asked (by an FMS student) how much home time he had, said “about four days a week” in contrast to Alison, who said “mostly when I’m recording.”

In rapt attention at the White House workshopThe kids were all enthralled with these stars, and many of my students said that they had been newly inspired.

Although we were invited to attend a private concert by these artists, the White House people escorted us out of the building and claimed no knowledge of the invitation.  Apparently the photo opportunity was over and the kids were not needed.  So, confused and a little disoriented, we went back to our hotel.

I want to share our disappointment not to pick a fight or start any trouble, but in support of my students and their families who were very excited about this event, and spent considerable time and money to be there for it.

Mike Mitchell and his students from the Floyd Music School frolic on the Capitol stepsMoving on, we regrouped, went to Ruby Tuesdays in Arlington, then saw the Monuments at night and caught a great concert given by the USAF rock band on the Capitol Building Steps. They did a bunch of great 70’s R&B classics and were a really tight, good cover band. Their CD, which they gave out free to the kids, included all original material from band members.

The other schools and music camps in attendance were:

Mitchell is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist as well as a music teacher. He performs as a solo artist and as a member of Blue Moonshine.

Mike is especially excited about his twin fiddle show on August 8 with Buddy Pendleton at the Steppin’ Out Festival in Blacksburg, VA.

The Philadelphia Inquirer had two stories about the visits to the White House by the several Philly area schools. Find them online here and here.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.