First Lady Melania Trump continued a little-known presidential tradition that is kept alive by the Great American Songbook Foundation.
The Foundation’s vast historical archives include an instrument known as the “America’s First Ladies” piano, which now bears the autographs of Mrs. Trump and her seven White House predecessors: Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.
The piano, a 1911 Steinway & Sons Model O “small grand,” was restored through a partnership between the Steinway company and Michael Feinstein, founder of the Songbook Foundation. Feinstein is music preservationist. The piano was updated for functionality and restyled to reflect the French Empire décor of the Blue Room, an elegant reception parlor at the White House. The piano made its national debut when Nancy Reagan invited Feinstein to perform at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s centennial celebration for the former president in February 2011.
The signatures are made in gold marker on the piano’s fallboard, or keylid, visible above the keys. Nancy Reagan was the first to sign it, and other First Ladies have added their names as opportunities arose. In this case, Jeffrey C. McDermott, President/CEO of the Songbook Foundation and Center for the Performing Arts, arranged a brief meeting with Mrs. Trump May 8 and personally took the fallboard to the White House for her signature.
“The First Lady was very gracious and generous with her time,” McDermott stated. “We’re grateful that she appreciates the spirit of the project.”