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Michelle Obama and Janelle Monae talk about how the arts inspired them

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janelle1On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama and soul singer Janelle Monae were both in attendance at a Los Angeles event dedicated to excellence in musical and artistic education.

The Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon was held at downtown L.A.’s Club Nokia, according to the Hollywood Reporter.  Mrs. Obama was one of several speakers who stressed the importance of music and the arts in the lives of children.

“You all have an abundance of riches here in Los Angeles, and yes, we do we have a pretty big platform at the White House,” said Obama.  “But let’s not forget there are symphonies and theaters and museums, and with every exhibit and performance folks should be asking themselves, how can we get those kids in there?  How can we get the artists and performers to connect with young people in those communities?  In other words, every arts organization in the country should be embracing the mission of the Grammy Museum.”

Janelle Monae was one of the luncheon’s honorees for her involvement with teaching and mentoring young people in the arts.  Monae said that her mother, music instructor, and fifth grade teacher were instrumental in encouraging her artistic interests.  She mentioned that when she was frustrated, she used to turn to music and “write a song, perform or write a short story.”

“I hope we have more mentors than superstars, said Monae.  “I’m happy to have mentors in Stevie Wonderand Prince.”

In closing, Monae urged listeners to “keep educating through music.”  She then performed her songs “Sincerely Jane,” “Q. U. E. E. N.,” “Tightrope,” and a cover of James Browns’ “I Got You (I Feel Good).”

A Placentia, California high school teacher, Sunshine Cavalluzzi, was also honored for her ability to implement music into her teaching of subjects such as economics.

Obama also discussed the White House music workshops and the several celebrities that have performed there, including John Legend and Patti Labelle.

“So many of the young people walk away transformed with a new sense of purpose and hope,” she said. “Engagement in the arts can unlock a world of possibilities for our young people … For many young people, arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning, just like Janelle.”

“The arts are a way to channel pain into something meaningful and productive. Every human being needs that, particularly our kids.”