In honor of Presidents’ Day, DID YOU KNOW…

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

…that many of our nation’s presidents played musical instruments?

Bill Clinton (42nd president) plays the saxaphone,

Richard Nixon (37th president) was apparently a great pianist,

Harry Truman (33rd president) used to wake up at 5am and practice piano for 2 hours before running the country,

Accompanying Lauren Bacall

Woodrow Wilson (28th president) was a violinist,

Chester Arthur (21st president) apparently played the banjo,

John Quincy Adams (6th president) dappled with the flute, violin, and harp,

and Thomas Jefferson’s whole family was musical: his wife played the guitar and keyboard (at that time “keyboard” usually meant the harpsichord, although Thomas even bought the family the recently-invented pianoforte, similar to the modern piano), his daughters played the keyboard as well, his brother fiddled on the violin.

Thomas Jefferson (3rd president) himself played the violin–at times, he would practice as much as 3 hours a day!  He loved music by many composers we still listen to and play today, such as Vivaldi, Haydn, and Handel.  Some of his favorite pieces to play were Corelli’s Op. 5 Violin Sonatas (Suzuki violinists, do you know which “Suzuki” piece is from Corelli’s Op. 5 Violin Sonatas?)

Jefferson's music room at Monticello

Jefferson had many instruments in his Virginia home at Monticello.  One of those violins may even have been a valuable Amati violin. A nice Amati today can be worth around $600,000!  Jefferson may not have been in such debt when he died if he had sold some of those instruments!


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