He’s known as the “Pianist to the Presidents.” Steinway artist David Osborne has played for every United States president since Jimmy Carter, and he continues to perform regular engagements for President Carter and his wife in their Georgia church.
One of the most popular entertainers at last year’s “Live at Lynn!” series, Osborne will venture away from his residency at Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel, returning to perform Tuesday, April 10 in the Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University. He discussed his time in the White House, his interpretations of Green Day tunes and more with Boca Raton.
What is the protocol to be a White House entertainer? I assume you don’t just pull up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, walk in and begin to tune…
Protocol at the White House is very strict. A background check is required of me and any guests I bring into the White House prior to arriving in D.C. In years past, it has varied how I entered the White House. I am usually told what gate to go to and need to arrive one hour before performance time. I am required to show ID at two different guard gates. I am then met by a White House official who escorts me to where I will be performing. On other occasions, I have been picked up at my hotel and driven past two guard gates to an entrance on the side of the White House. The piano is tuned by a professional tuner prior to my arrival.
Once you’re there, what is the atmosphere like at your White House concerts?
The atmosphere at the White House is always exhilarating, and it is exciting to see who will be the guests attending the event. I look forward every year to see the theme of the decorations at the White House, which are always breathtaking. One of my favorite things to see during the holiday season is the annual gingerbread house that is always in the State Dining Room and is magnificent. This past year, it included lighting in all rooms and the porte-cochere of the gingerbread house.
Do you change your repertoire when you perform for different presidents?
Yes. It usually depends on the requests made by the party. If I am performing during the holiday season, I usually perform the majority of traditional holiday music and mix it up with a few pop tunes or Broadway show tunes.
How do tour appearances like this one differ from your residency at the Bellagio?
Tour appearances like performing at Lynn University differ from performing at the Bellagio in several ways. When I am on tour, I travel and perform as a trio. When I am at Bellagio I perform solo on some nights and perform as a duo (with a bass player) on other nights. Musically the compositions are different because of the instruments performing. I must adapt to the situation both musically and to the audience. It is very different to perform in a concert hall full of fans that came specifically to hear me perform than it is to perform at Bellagio, where guests are coming and going all night long. And it is especially nice to have fans come to Bellagio, specifically to hear me, from all over the world.
I watched a clip of your lovely interpretation of “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” What are some of the most unlikely pop songs that you’ve turned into classical piano compositions, and why did you select them?
Thank you for watching the clip of “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” I am glad you enjoyed it. I recorded this song because my son Joshua suggested I learn some Green Daytunes. I choose songs that the public is listening to, like “Someone Like You” by Adele and “Apologize” by Timbaland. Staying current with my musical repertoire is essential in this day, when anyone can upload and download music to hear and have it instantly. I chose the song “Imagine” by John Lennon because it is President Carter’s standing request. Also, I have turned “Overjoyed” into a classical composition because it is one of Michelle Obama’s favorites.
Do you like to listen to your recordings and performances after you release them?
Yes, I like to proof-listen to my recordings after recording them, but I don’t listen to them much after that.
You’ve released an incredible 27 albums … is there any particular one that stands at as your favorite?
Yes, the “Music of the Night” album that features “Phantom of the Opera” has sold the most copies, but I am particularly fond of one of my latest albums, titled “These Dreams,” because of its contemporary nature.