It’s not every day that Sarah Jessica Parker pops in for a cameo performance at a talent show with elementary- and middle-school children.
It’s also not every day that a student talent show takes place in the East Room of the White House.
But on Tuesday afternoon, that’s what happened. First lady Michelle Obama hosted the elaborate — yet down-to-earth — talent show to highlight the importance of arts education in public schools.
The event showcased the work of the Turnaround Arts program, which helps low-performing schools increase student achievement through access to arts education. Major artists — including SJP herself — have adopted schools across the country as part of this effort.
During the show, actress Alfre Woodard led a raucous student brass band, while Sarah Jessica Parker joined an all-girl group performing “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” from the musical “Annie.”
At the show’s opening, Mrs. Obama said the arts help students get excited about taking their seats in class because they are thinking about the next musical they’re performing in or the instrument they can’t wait to play.
“But if they’re not in their seats then we can’t teach them anything at all,” she said. “The bottom line here is very clear: Arts education isn’t something we add on after we’ve achieved other priorities, like raising test scores and getting kids into college. It’s actually critical for achieving those priorities in the first place.”
In a surprise appearance, President Barack Obama made his own pitch for arts education.
“It is necessary for these young people to succeed that we promote the arts,” he said. “It’s a priority.”