August 6 in Interlochen history: A concert with JFK

On August 6, 1962, 103 members of the National Music Camp orchestra and 14 dancers performed at the White House. Here is an excerpt from a section of the April 2014 edition of "From the Archives with Byron Hanson" titled "Interlochen and the White House; 1930-2009."

"... Certainly the most memorable event occurred six years later in August 1962 when the Camp orchestra and dancers performed on the south lawn of the White House. President Kennedy arrived by helicopter just in time to introduce the concert and meet some of the young performers before heading to his office. It’s almost hard to believe these days, but the entire Interlochen entourage was invited to sit on the floor and eat their box lunches in the ornate East Room of the White House!"

The tour began with a warm-up performance at the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn, Michigan, before the students continued their journey to Washington, D.C. During the visit, the group stayed at the Fort Belvoir U.S. Army base in Virginia.

"This is a most distinguished school, turning out some of our best musicians," Kennedy said in his opening remarks. "I'm particularly proud to welcome them all to the White House.

Last year, more Americans went to symphonies than went to baseball games. This may be viewed as an alarming statistic, but I think that both baseball and the country will endure, and the country will be better off, perhaps, for it."

Ken Fischer, the President of the University Musical Society (UMS) of the University of Michigan, shared his memories of the event with the UMS community on the anniversary of President Kennedy's death. "Before the concert, President Kennedy gave a five-minute speech on the importance of the arts in America and delivered it without any notes," Fischer said. "After the concert he greeted us in the Rose Garden and invited us to enjoy a spaghetti lunch sitting on the parquet floor of the East Room. My lunch companions were Kathy McNamara, daughter of the Secretary of Defense, and Peggy Rusk, daughter of the Secretary of State."

Sondra Forsyth, one of the 14 dancers who performed on the White House lawn and founder of New York City's Ballet Ambassadors, has kept several mementos of the trip. "I have the photo framed and hanging on my wall," she said. "I kept the glove that shook his hand and never washed it. I also have the pointe shoes I wore that day. What precious memories!"

Listen to President Kennedy's remarks below, or read the transcript of his remarks courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.


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