ABC News Jon Garcia reports: Every so often the White House hosts a rockin' event that doesn't feature the President or First Lady. Witness yesterday's Country music workshop in the presidential mansion. Under the watchful eye of Abe Lincoln, whose larger-than-life portrait hangs above mantel in the State Dining Room, Country superstars Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley--who, between them, have almost 30 Grammy Awards--spun yarns and played for nearly 100 music students from Philly, Virginia and (of course) Nashville.
The Obamas must have been busy tending to other matters, but their absence didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those kids, who were treated to an hour-long concert and Q&A.
Krauss and Paisley told the aspiring musicians in the audience not to give up on music. "There's something about writing music that get's people's attention," Paisley said. He told them he learned how to play guitar around age 9 and soon found out "I wasn't much good at anything else."
Early on, Krauss told the kids, "I listened to (music), I thought about it all the time but didn't think I'd do it as a career." But encouragement from her mother and her experience singing in a choir kept her focused on music.
The pair admitted a secret longing to play the piano--though neither stuck with lessons long enough to learn. But Paisley said sticking with music has been more than rewarding. "There's no better investment than writing a song," he said. "You're creating something out of thin air."
Krauss, who seemed a bit shy and nervous on stage, left the students (and press) with their mouths agape as she belted out the hymn "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow." And Paisley played to his audience with a song he called "Letter to Me," which he wrote about his less-than-happy high school experience. "I remember people coming up to me in high school, saying, ‘These are the best years of your life.’ I thought, ‘Great, shoot me. If this is it, I’m going to jump off a building. ‘Cause this is not fun," Paisley said. But what came out of that, he said, was a great song.
Paisley even lingered a while after the event to sign autographs before he and his movie-star wife, Kimberley Williams, left the White House.
For the record, the Obamas did eventually attend a Country music event later that night.