A quartet of current Project STEP students and alumni recently performed during a State Dinner with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, which honored Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The students performed pieces by Bach, Mozart, and Handel as guests arrived for the dinner, and they played several pieces after dinner with the United States Marine Band. At the end of the one-and-a-half hour event, President Obama publicly thanked Project STEP for performing.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Mrs. Lee Hsien Loong join State Dinner performers, Project STEP from Boston, Mass., for a group photo in the Blue Room of the White House. (Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Mrs. Lee Hsien Loong join State Dinner performers, Project STEP from Boston, Mass., for a group photo in the Blue Room of the White House.
(Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

“With only six days to put together their performance, the students really rose to the occasion and played their hearts out for President Obama and the First Lady,” says Project STEP Executive Director Gabriella Sanna. “They perform a lot, and at many different events, but this one was truly special and inspiring. Performing at the White House was a life changing experience for them.”

Project STEP is a rigorous, year-round classical string training program for under-represented minorities that invites them into a world of classical music that might not otherwise be available to them. As of 2012, just five percent of orchestra musicians in the United States are African-American or Latino. As the first program of its kind, Project STEP’s mission is to address this imbalance by identifying talented, motivated young minority students and providing them with access to the best string music training available. Project STEP was founded in 1982 by William Moyer, a now-retired Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) personnel manager. Since its inception, one hundred percent of Project STEP students go on to college or conservatory and 60 percent of its graduates are now professionally involved in music.

This is Project STEP’s second trip to the White House within the past two years. In 2014, the music organization was honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. The award is the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and is the highest honor for such programs in the United States.

Also in the audience for the performance were Vice President Joe Biden,  Mrs. Lee Hsien Loong, and 200 guests, including Massachusetts State Senator Ed Markey, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, author Amy Tan, actors Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, and singer Chrisette Michele, who also performed at the end of the evening. The event honored the United States 50-year relationship with Singapore.