The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• John F. Kennedy
Remarks at the White House Concert by the National High School Symphony Orchestra.
August 6, 1962

Ladies and gentlemen:

I want to welcome you all to the White House and particularly welcome this distinguished symphony orchestra.

These young ladies and gentlemen, I think approximating nearly a hundred, are the survivors of a very difficult and intensive competition, stretching nearly between 1500 and 1600 of their contemporaries who also took part in this study of music, and the best were chosen to come here to Washington.

This is a most distinguished school, turning out some of our best musicians. I'm particularly proud to welcome them all to the White House. They're going to play some songs written by Americans and also by others from around the world. It shows the very strong international nature of the arts, particularly of music. I know that there is some feeling by Americans that the arts are developed in solitude, that they are developed by inspiration and by sudden fits of genius. But the fact of the matter is that success comes in music or in the arts like success comes in every other form of human endeavor by hard work, by discipline, over a long period of time. Every musician here, every musician in the United States, every musician in the world plays after months and years of the most painstaking work, the kind of discipline which most people cannot endure. So I hope when you see them that you will realize that they are not playing merely because they happen to have natural talent, but they are playing because their natural talent was developed by their own sense of discipline.

In addition, we're glad to have them here because I think they symbolize a great artistic movement which is so strong in the United States. There are over 33 million Americans who are interested in music, interested in other forms of art. That is a tremendous statistic. That does not say that 33 million Americans play well. I was once, when I was younger, one of those statistics which were thrown around so casually in those days. That does not mean that 33 million can play so that you want to hear them, but they play because they want to hear themselves, and perhaps that's the best form of art expression. Thirty-three million in 1200 orchestras across the United States, and some of those orchestras are the best in the world. This tremendous emphasis, which is not induced by the United States Government or by the State governments, but by individual desire, is a form of national endeavor which I think is too little known around the world.

I want to, today, in paying tribute to these musicians, bring to our public mind all the others across this country who themselves are playing and living music.

So you're very welcome here. 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.

So, boys and girls, I want to tell you we are glad to have you here. I have other responsibilities, but I will certainly keep my door open. You are very welcome here and I hope that all those who hear you and all those other millions who may know that you are here, will be encouraged themselves, and people around the world will look to this country as a leader in artistic endeavor as well as in other endeavors.

We are glad to have you, Doctor, and we congratulate you for all you've done.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Remarks at the White House Concert by the National High School Symphony Orchestra.", August 6, 1962. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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