Pianist is asked to play Trump inauguration unpaid

Pianist is asked to play Trump inauguration unpaid


norman lebrecht

January 18, 2017

The British pianist David Shenton was asked to accompany a singer in The Star-Spangled Banner at the inauguration of President Trump.

He asked if there was a fee and was told it’s an honour to be invited. He asked about his fare from New York to Washington DC and was told it would not be paid.

Needless to say, he politely declined.

We hear that Steinway were asked to donate a new piano which will be painted with the stars and stripes.



  • LaughingAndCrying says:

    L. O. L.

  • Joseph Shelby says:

    Do you have a source/citation for this? Google isn’t finding any reference to this at all except your post here.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      We received it from the singer he is presently accompanying. We break news on slippedisc.com.

      • Dennis says:

        I find it highly implausible that travel and accommodation expenses would not be paid. Sounds like this guy making up something for publicity’s sake, and to engage in some left-wing virtue signalling to show everyone he allegedly turned down an offer to play for Trump.

        • Peter says:

          David, this is not implausible. There was also a hairdresser who was asked to work with Melania’s hair without pay. She was told the exposure would be good for her. She felt that was condescending and also declined.

          • Dennis says:

            Considering you got my name wrong, I find it hard to take the rest of your claims at face value either. A billionaire’s wife refusing to pay her hairdresser? OK.

          • Edmun J Cole says:

            Peter if you don’t think the left wing nuts are out in force this week then you don’t know Jack S–t !

            Check out this little segment from the Tucker Carlson show last night. You guys need to get over it and soon.


          • Cyril Blair says:

            The story I read was that it was Marla Maples’ and Tiffany Trump’s hair – yes, without pay. In exchange for the “exposure.” But to Dennis, surely you’ve heard of Trump the billionaire stiffing dozens upon dozens (likely in the hundreds now) of contractors and workers who have completed jobs for him. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you are aware this is the Trump business model.

          • Peter says:

            Dennis and Edmun, this is a classical music blog. There’s no need to be so nasty.

        • melinda says:

          David is accompanying me for shows in NY. He was approached last night to accompany a singer called sevi regis unpaid and travel expenses unpaid.
          I can corroborate the email. I saw it with my own eyes!
          She may not even sing as they cannot find a pianist to play. Believe it. This is trump we are talking about. You haven’t seen anywhere as i told Norman first.

  • V.Lind says:

    This is not entirely a personal matter. Inaugurations surely have committees and budgets. While the choice of invitations might be left to the incoming President — this is where it HAS got personal — questions of fees should surely be set by a committee. Might not be their usual, if they are top people, but it would surely be to scale. And as for international transport: at an American inaugural, the anticipation would surely be that American artists would be invited. Trump has had to cast a wider net because so many of the artists of his country despise him.

    Hard to imagine what glorious publicity is to be gained by someone letting it be known that he had been asked — at the last minute — to come to do a minor piece an ocean away without fee or recompense for a huge outlay.

    And surely Jackie Evancho is singing the National Anthem? Doesn’t she have someone willing to accompany her from the USA? Can’t she sing a capella?

    • Sara Gold says:

      The entire crowd attending the inauguration should sing the national anthem. Preferably as soon as the new President takes the oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and then for as long as he tries to speak.

    • John Crockett says:

      Maybe Trump should accept his presidential salary and use some of that to pay hardworking professional musicians rather than expecting them to perform for the dubious thrill of participating in his inauguration.

  • Sammy says:

    Seems implausible… the US government has fantastic musicians in the army and navy bands whose job is to play these types of events. Why would they ask a British pianist?

  • Marg says:

    Of course there is no reimbursement …. it is the “honour” thing. Do you think Trump or the assumed organising committee have a budget too fly in, house, and reimburse the Mormon Tab Choir, along with dozens of school and University marching bands from around the nation, etc etc. Google to find out the number of marching bands etc and you will be shocked. Its a huge affair.

    • Cale Wiggins says:

      Those marching bands are amateur outfits. There’s a big difference between a featured professional performer, and a bunch of kids happy to have a place to play.

      • Marg says:

        Many marching bands are from Universities with Schools of Music – the “bunch of kids” are doing performance degrees and are top quality players. You display both your ignorance and your arrogance with your comment.

        • John Crockett says:

          No, Marg, you are showing your ignorance. High school & college musical groups have their own sources of funding, be it budgetary allowances or their own fundraising (“Wanna buy some cookies for the band fund, lady?”). Professional musicians are own their own. No one is going to subsidize this pianist’s travelling expenses (sounds like he would have considered playing gratis once Donald sprung to have him flown in from NYC). Hey, Marg, put your money where your mouth is — why don’t you offer to pay the pianist’s airfare and I bet he’ll take you up on it.
          It seems our new BFF Donald Trump ain’t too concerned about making America great again for professional musicians. (Perhaps because most of them tend to vote Democrat?)
          Face it folks, we are in for a bizarre bordering on the scary four years. Repeat after me (especially during Trump’s inaug speech), “We can get through this….We can get through this….We can….”

      • ruben greenberg says:

        Playing in marching bands at least keeps the kids off the streets!

  • Melinda Hughes says:

    and by the way David would NEVER have taken the gig anyway. He was curious to know what the fee was incase a colleague would be interested.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    My wife played at President Obama’s inauguration (with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Anthony McGill) and she got nothing more than a commemorative bottle opener. And frostbite. And the memory of a lifetime. Simple gifts.

    • Bruce says:

      “Simple Gifts.” Ha – I got it.

      Well, she could have not cancelled her gig with the Spokane Symphony, made a little money, stayed warm… and had a totally unmemorable experience 😛

  • Scott Fields says:

    Inauguration performers in any year don’t receive fees. They play for patriotic honor and often as a statement of support for the incoming President. That’s why so much is being made of the performer shortage this year.


  • Holly Golightly says:

    Bwaaaaa. Lost election and throwing toys from cots.

    • V.Lind says:

      No — he won the election, alas. You ARE speaking of his day to day M.O.?

      It’s one thing to pick your side and stick with it — that’s loyal. It’s another to blind yourself to absolute evidence that the whole world has seen. Who claimed every contest he ever entered and did not win — including the Emmys — was “rigged”? Including the US election — unless HE won. It’s so blatant as to be pathetic — and just the kind of behaviour you describe above.

      Nobody is requiring you to be more liberal, but did you park your common sense — and all your other senses — at the door the minute this tub of spray-on tan and hair arrived?

    • John Crockett says:

      Holly, honey, dry your tears. Trump’s approval rating (32% as of yesterday) is the lowest of any president-elect. Trump claims he won “by a landslide.” That “landslide” now equals 32%. Some landslide that is. And I am too much a gentleman to mention the popular vote.

    • Bruce says:

      Holly, sweetie, did you read the very, very first word of the article?

      • Bruce says:

        Correction: actually the 2nd word. The first word is “The.”

        • GPE Hanman says:

          FACT: David Shenton is an English born concert pianist and concert violinist who became an American citizen in 2015. He has played for heads of state in the UK and USA and has a reputation as one of the leading accompanists in the USA.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Very strange news. Given the almost unheard-of level of paranoia and disinformation on everything that has to do with the American election and presidential inauguration I would not be surprised if David Shenton and many others received a fake e-mail; somebody can always take it as a serious proposal and feed the social media cake monster with Oreos.

    • melinda hughes says:

      it’s not fake!.
      It came through a very high level fixer/ producer in New York. I read the breakdown and subsequent correspondence.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    For the record, the NY Times has estimated that this inauguration may cost upwards of $200M USD. Yes, that’s millions! Surely, the committees in charge can come up with the cost of hiring a pianist at a decent wage and fly him in. One has to wonder: there is really NO ONE in DC capable of playing the Star-Spangled Banner? And yes, “The President’s Own” (USMC) Band can undoubtedly play it in any key required.