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White House Honors Jazz Masters

Pianist Billy Taylor (pictured) performed with his trio at the White House on June 22, 2004 for the president and his wife as part of A Salute To NEA Jazz Masters-a formal celebration that was part of June’s Black History Month. The event began with opening remarks by President Bush acknowledging the legacy of black music in American culture.

“During this month, we recognize the great contribution that black music has made to the culture of our nation and to the world,” President Bush said. “This music could only have come from the unique experience of African Americans; yet it speaks to every human heart. Black music in America began with spiritual songs that bore witness to the cruelty of bondage and the strength of faith. From those roots, it grew into a variety of styles-jazz and gospel, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. All these forms capture a part of the American spirit.”

President Bush’s remarks were followed by a speech by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia spoke on behalf of the NEA Jazz Masters Program, the nation’s highest lifetime achievement honor in jazz since 1982.

Several NEA Jazz Masters were in attendance, including Taylor (who was made a Jazz Master in 1988), Chico Hamilton (2004), David Baker (2000) and James Moody (1998).

The Billy Taylor Trio-which features drummer Winard Harper, bassist Chip Jackson and pianist Taylor-performed after Gioia’s speech. Taylor also led a performance by students from the “Jazz and the New Generation” program at the Kennedy Center. Hamilton and Moody also performed.

First Lady Laura Bush spoke to close the event.

A full transcript of President Bush’s speech can be found at