Monmouth University and Asbury Park High School students met First Lady Michelle Obama and participated in the educational workshop “The History of Gospel Music” at the White House on April 14. The event paid tribute to the fundamental role gospel music has played in the American musical tradition and the important artists and repertoire that have marked its vibrant history. The Asbury Park High School students were invited by the University to join the program.
The First Lady welcomed 10 Monmouth University students, seven Asbury Park High School students and more than 100 students from across the country to take part in the interactive student workshop held in the State Dining Room.
“This is the kind of lesson that can’t be taught in a classroom,” said Joe Rapolla, professor and chair of the Department of Music and Theatre Arts at Monmouth University. “Gospel music has had such an impact on American culture. It’s an important part of our culture to share with future generations. To be invited to the White House and have the First Lady help make that connection is an experience all the students will remember for the rest of their lives.”
The event was produced by the GRAMMY Museum and led by Monmouth University alumnus Robert Santelli, the museum’s executive director. A leading musicologist and music educator, Santelli gave students an overview of the origins of gospel music, informed them of important artists and explored the unique aspects of gospel that have contributed to other American musical genres. Santelli was joined by special musical guests Rodney Crowell, Rhiannon Giddens, Darlene Love, Lyle Lovett and Michelle Williams, who also appeared in the PBS music concert special “The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House” later that evening under the executive musical direction of T Bone Burnett.
Monmouth University is one of only five university affiliates of The GRAMMY Museum. The partnership provides access to GRAMMY Museum content for educational purposes, curriculum resources, research programs, professional development seminars, collaborative marketing and promotions, project-based learning and unique student internship opportunities. For more information, visit www.monmouth.edu.