First lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education.
“We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live.
Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.
Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.
She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.”
“For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks.
She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”
The honorees at the event were educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi and singer Janelle Monae, who performed “Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope.” The award honors educators and artists who are dedicated to education through the arts.
Introducing Monae, Obama said, “I love to hear her perform, and yes, she was on a table, in the White House, and that’s our little secret.” She praised Monae as “one of the young artists here who is making music that means something. … She serves as a role model and an inspiration to so many young people.” The first lady also said she was “honored to be the first Electric Lady.”
“I got my letter in the mail. I framed it. It’s up,” she said.
Ortner’s husband, entertainment attorney Charles, is a board member of the museum, and told the luncheon that a goal is to “enhance the education environment through music, even though these are not music teachers per se.” The music is a way in to match, the sciences and history, with lesson plans posted for free on the Grammy Museum website. Joining him were his children, Eric and Amy.
The first lady’s visit to Los Angeles included a speech at the Unite for Veterans Summit, organized by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Federal Reserve Bank and USC. On Tuesday, she appeared at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at the home of HBO’s Michael Lombardo and architect Sonny Ward.