LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michelle Obama says every arts organization in the country should embrace the mission of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, which focuses on education.
Six million American children attend schools with no art or music classes, she said Wednesday at the museum’s inaugural Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon.
“Arts are a way to channel … pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful, and every human being needs that, particularly our kids,” she said. “And when they don’t have that outlet, that’s such a tremendous loss, not just for our kids but for our nation.”
The Grammy Museum has worked with the first lady since 2009 to produce concerts and music education programs for young people, bringing 1,000 students to Washington, D.C. to see live performances.
“Those are some of my favorite events at the White House,” Obama said.
The Grammy Museum has focused on education since it opened in 2008, said executive director Bob Santelli. It aims to inspire learning, creativity and critical thinking through music. The museum hosts more than 35,000 students a year and provides free curricula for various subjects that incorporate music in innovative ways.
Southern California high school teacher Sunshine Cavalluzzi developed one such curriculum: weaving music into economics lessons. She was accompanied by several of her students at the private luncheon at L.A. Live’s Club Nokia, where she accepted the Jane Ortner Education Award.
Singer-songwriter Janelle Monae, who received the Jane Ortner Artist Award, said music saved her when she was growing up in a rough neighborhood.
“Music helped me really deal with my emotions, when I could not articulate how frustrated I was,” she said. “It gave me the opportunity to get it all out.”
Her latest album, 2013’s “The Electric Lady,” rails against sexism, presenting women as subjects rather than objects.
The 28-year-old entertainer is active with the Grammy Museum’s educational outreach, entertaining students at the White House and at the museum.
“I hope we have more mentors,” Monae said. “More mentors than superstars.”
After accepting her microphone-shaped trophy, she brought out her band and performed a high-energy four-song set that included a cover of James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
The first lady introduced the petite, pompadoured Monae, calling her a “fireplug” and a friend, and revealing that the singer danced on a table during her White House performance.
“I love Janelle’s message,” Obama said. “I love that she is one of the young artists here that is making music that means something.”