WASHINGTON, D.C. — “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” is a PBS music special in the East Room of the White House. President and Mrs. Obama will host the event on Thursday, February 24 in celebration of Black History Month and the legacy of Motown, the distinctive soul-infused pop music sound, style and presentation that was born in Detroit and embodied by the Motown Records label. The evening will include program host Jamie Foxx and performances by Foxx, Natasha Bedingfield, Sheryl Crow, the group Gloriana, Nick Jonas, Ledisi, John Legend, Amber Riley, Smokey Robinson, Mark Salling, Seal and Jordin Sparks. (Program subject to change.) The sixty-minute television special, part of the Emmy Award-nominated PBS “In Performance at the White House” series, will premiere Tuesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings.) The program will also be broadcast on March 11 via the American Forces Network to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.
The all-star tribute to the legendary Motown Sound will include stars from the Motown Records label’s golden age and performances by artists of today who have been influenced by Motown and its powerful legacy. Celebrating a 50th anniversary last year, the Motown Records label was devised by music entrepreneur Berry Gordy and launched an historic cultural shift in the racial integration of popular music, with crossover hits and artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, The Four Tops and many others.
“WETA is pleased to join the White House in celebrating such a distinctly American style of music,” noted Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA. “Our station continues a proud tradition of producing vibrant programs for the American public with this event, the forty-sixth production of the WETA ‘In Performance at the White House’ series.”
“We’re proud to bring the best of Motown into every American’s home,” said Paula A. Kerger, PBS president and CEO. “This special, together with our collection of Black History Month programming on PBS, reflects PBS’s longstanding commitment to showcasing our nation’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.”
“The Motown Sound transformed a whole generation musically, and its rich legacy continues to be felt today. To celebrate these songs and the original greats of Motown at the White House in an event during Black History Month is a wonderful tribute to the music beloved by so many,” commented Jacquie Jones, executive director of the National Black Programming Consortium, a production partner for the project.
“We are proud to support this program, the wonderful cultural impact of Motown, and the ‘In Performance at the White House’ series,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a project funder. “CPB is committed to the development of diverse and innovative programming that inspires, educates, informs and entertains.”
In addition to the evening concert, the afternoon of the concert taping the White House will host “The Sound of Young America: The History of Motown,” an educational workshop for 120 middle land high school students in the State Dining Room. The event will be produced by The GRAMMY Museum® and led by Robert Santelli, executive director of The GRAMMY Museum®. Santelli is a leading musicologist and music educator who will give the participating students a brief overview of Tamla and Motown Records, The Motown Sound, Berry Gordy, the city of Detroit and its influence on Motown, as well as the early musicians who made Motown famous. Santelli will be joined by Berry Gordy and music legend Smokey Robinson, and other artists from the evening concert, who will share their personal experiences of Motown and answer students’ questions. The White House “The Sound of Young America” workshop will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov, www.pbs.org/whitehouse, www.grammymuseum.org and www.blackpublicmedia.org.
The GRAMMY Museum® is also arranging for the participating students, who hail from twenty-one schools from nine different communities throughout the country, to tour Washington-area monuments and meet with some of their home-states’ elected officials. Additionally, the students will be provided insight into careers in television production and music by attending some of the concert rehearsals and having access to ask questions of artists and production staff. The GRAMMY Museum® will also develop downloadable “The Sound of Young America” curriculum for middle and high school teachers, available at www.grammymuseum.org and www.pbs.org/whitehouse.
“The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” will be the sixth “In Performance at the White House” program during President Barack Obama’s administration. Spanning from February 2009 to the most recent broadcast in October 2010, these latest “In Performance at the White House” events have honored the musical genius of Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney; celebrated Hispanic musical heritage during Hispanic Heritage Month; marked Black History Month by featuring the music from the Civil Rights Movement; and spotlighted Broadway and the unique spirit of the American musical. The star-studded line-ups have included Marc Anthony, Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, José Feliciano, Dave Grohl, Herbie Hancock, Faith Hill, Jennifer Hudson, Jonas Brothers, Nathan Lane, Eva Longoria Parker, Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel, Smokey Robinson, Jerry Seinfeld, Esperanza Spalding, Elaine Stritch and Jack White.
“In Performance at the White House” has been produced by WETA since 1978 and spans every administration since President Carter’s. The series began with an East Room recital by the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz. Since then, “In Performance at the White House” has embraced virtually every genre of American performance: pop, country, gospel, jazz, blues, theatre and dance among them. The series was created to showcase the rich fabric of American culture in the setting of the nation’s most famous home. Past programs have showcased such talent as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, dancer/choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov, popular music singers Linda Ronstadt and Alison Krauss, jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, the United States Marine Band, soul and jazz singers Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin, leading Broadway performers, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
“The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” is a production of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Bounce, a division of AEG, and the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). The executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson of WETA and Tim Swift of Bounce. The producer is Kristi Foley of Bounce. The program director is Leon Knoles. The music director is Greg Phillinganes. The “In Performance at the White House” series was created by WETA Washington, D.C. The series producer is Jackson Frost. Corporate funding for the program is provided by Pepsi-Cola. Foundation support is provided by The Annenberg Foundation. Major funding is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers.
For more information about “The Motown Sound: In Performance at the White House” visit www.pbs.org/whitehouse. An electronic press kit, including downloadable talent photos for promotional use, is available at pressroom.pbs.org.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include “PBS NewsHour,” “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” “The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including his upcoming work, “Prohibition.” More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.
The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) develops, produces and funds television and more recently audio and online programming about the black experience for America public media outlets, including television, digital radio and the web. Since its founding in 1979, NBPC has provided hundreds of broadcast hours documenting African American history, culture and experience to public television and launched major initiatives that have brought important public media content to diverse audiences. NBPC also develops innovative outreach and engagement projects such as the Public Media Corps, a broadband-based program designed to raise awareness about the role of public media in a democracy, to extend the reach of tax-payer funded content into the digital realm and to recruit the next generation of content makers, innovators and other stakeholders coming from all of America’s rich and diverse communities. More information is available at www.blackpublicmedia.org
PBS, with its 356 member stations, offers all Americans — from every walk of life — the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches more than 115 million people on-air and online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and Web site, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 and is steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,100 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services. More information about CPB is available at www.cpb.org.
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