African-American Music Executives Meet With President Bush For Black Music Month

Warner Music Group executive vice president Kevin Liles was on hand Friday (June 22) to help President George W. Bush celebrate Black Music Month at the White House.

Bush drew laughter and applause from attendees as he recognized Liles and other notables in the crowd which included Department of Housing and Urban development secretary Alphonso Jackson, Dr. Dorothy Height, former BET owner Bob Johnson, Greg Collins, Spielman, Koenigsberg & Parker, Jonathan Platt, EVP, EMI Music Publishing and others.

"One of the best things about living here is that some of the best musicians come to play. It's amazing what kind of talent you can draw here at the White House," joked Bush, who added that the event was "an opportunity for us to thank artists whose work inspire our country."

"This event, like no other, embodies the nation's recognition of Black music's centrality in American history and culture," Kevin Liles told "I was awed to be there at the gathering of Washington's most powerful to celebrate African-American achievements in the music industry. What does it say that we now can gather in the White House every year to mark a storied past and a brilliant future? Black music continues to set trends and inspire generations of music lovers with increasingly innovative approaches to music and cultural expression."

Black Music Month is an annual observance and appreciation of African American singers, composers and musicians.

For Greg Collins, a veteran CPA with Spielman, Koenigsberg & Parker, attending the event had personal meaning.

Collins, who recently honored by the National Association of Black Accountants, was one of several key players that helped launch Black Music Month.

"I was a part of the coalition that influenced the naming of June as Black Music Month ten years ago along with Kenny Gamble and Dyana Williams of the International Association of African Americans in Music (IAAAM)," Collins told "So it was with a great sense of pride that I attended the reception that was hosted by President Bush last Friday afternoon at the White House. The influence that Black Music has had on the culture of this country and the world needs to be continually recognized and given its proper place in history. In consideration of all of the negative publicity that surrounds different aspects of our music, this was truly a day to be proud and I am thankful that I could be there to celebrate and appreciate!"

For Big Jon Platt of EMI, meeting the President of the United States was something he never anticipated.

"I could never imagine I would be in the presence of the President," Platt said. "The whole event was surreal, and to hear him acknowledge me and my contemporaries names was amazing and over the top. He said my government name. I don't care what you think about whatever President, it's an honor to be in the company of [any] President. We are leaders and we are just trying to be better leaders for our culture."

Platt and other attendees join very distinctive past guests.

Over the years, the White House has hosted numerous performances by African American entertainers.

Former President Chester Arthur is noted for welcoming the first black choir to perform at the White House, the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University.

Sissieretta Jones, one of the first black soloists to play the White House, performed for President Benjamin Harrison.

Other past performers included Joseph Douglass, the grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglas, Marian Anderson, Pearl Bailey, Eartha Kitt, Patti Austin, B.B. King, Irwin Mayfield and New Orleans soul legend, Aaron Neville.

Bush expressed his appreciation for this year’s performers, while admiring 15-year-old Karina Pasian for using her music to tackle "very mature issues" such as hunger and disease in Africa and the genocide in Darfur.

In addition to Pasian, other performers for this year’s celebration included R&B crooner KEM Owens, who sold 10,000 copies of his album KEMistry in five months after emerging from a bout with drugs, alcohol and homelessness, and violinists Tourie and Damien Escobar, who rose above their tough surroundings to form a group called Nuttin’ But Strings.

"All these artists represent the best of our country. They represent hope and hard work," said Bush. "They're going to be in a long list of performers who have come here to be able to entertain the country; to lend their musical talents to this, the people's house. I appreciate them coming to help us celebrate Black Music Month."