East Wing a cappella: Tigertones visit the White House

The Tigertones made their White House debut Dec. 1 and plan to return for another reception next week. (Courtesy Will McCalpin ’12)

Click here for video of the group’s national anthem performance at a San Diego Chargers game Oct. 31.

Not many college students can say they have performed on the main stage of Carnegie Hall or on the field at a San Diego Chargers football game. Even fewer could say they performed at a party thrown by First Lady Michelle Obama ’85 at the White House. The Tigertones can now say they’ve done all three.

Instead of going to class Dec. 1, the ’Tones traveled to Washington, put on their white-jacket tuxedos, and performed for about 500 guests and the first lady in the East Wing of the White House.
The invitation came only a few days before Thanksgiving, so they had little time to prepare.
“We were frantically learning some Christmas carols in the past week,” tour manager Will McCalpin ’12 said.

The Tigertones sang as the guests arrived, and then watched while Mrs. Obama gave a speech about her “Let’s Move” campaign, which targets childhood obesity. The party was held in recognition of the campaign.
McCalpin noted that the first lady pointed out her own Princeton connection to the guests. “She gave us a little shout out,” McCalpin said. “We didn’t sing ‘Old Nassau.’”
The Tigertones resumed their performance but were soon interrupted. “We were in the middle of a song and a guy came over and said, ‘I need you all to make a single file line right now,’” McCalpin said.
Moments later, the Tigertones were in a back room of the East Wing with the first lady herself.
“We talked to Michelle for a little bit and she asked a couple of questions [about Princeton] like, ‘Do they still do that stupid thing where they make you take exams after Christmas?’” McCalpin said.
The student singers enjoyed speaking with the first lady and mingling with the other guests at the party. And apparently, their performance made a positive impression: The Tigertones received an invitation to come back and perform next week for the White House press holiday party.

4 thoughts on “East Wing a cappella: Tigertones visit the White House

  1. Brett Tomlinson, PAW


    We passed along your question to student writer John Wetenhall ’11, who sent the following reply:

    The Tigertones received the invitation to perform through the combination of a personal connection and the benefit of chance. Senior Rex Tien contacted his cousin who works at the White House as a military adviser. “We got the initial invite through a bit of lucky timing,” Tien said. “[My cousin] happened to forward our request to the social office just as they were looking for a performing group for Wednesday [Dec. 1].” After hearing some of the Tigertones’ songs on their website, the social office invited them to perform. After seeing the Tigertones perform in person, the holiday reception planners invited the group back to perform for the president and the first lady at the White House press party.

  2. Rachel

    What a great opportunity for the Tones! How did they get chosen? How does the White House pick between the Soons, Tones, and Feet (not to mention the co-ed/female groups)?

  3. Regina S Lee '85

    Nice that you pulled it off with short notice, though you guys always sound great (even if you felt as if you had little prep time)! Happy holidays!


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