‘Condi’ Rice and Aretha Franklin will be an unusual duo at the Mann

    Next week the former Secretary of State and the reigning Queen of Soul will join forces at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Condoleezza Rice will be on the piano backing up Aretha Franklin. But, in some ways, it just could be the other way around.

    Condoleezza Rice turned heads while with the Bush Administration when she displayed her prowess on the piano.

    She kept up her classical chops while Secretary of State, performing Mozart and Brahms. But next Tuesday she will go outside her comfort zone, playing “Say A Little Prayer” and “Natural Woman” with Aretha Franklin.

    “Nobody in the world sounds like her,” says Rice of Franklin. “Nobody ever has and nobody probably ever will. And I’m very excited. It’s different for me because I don’t play much in the way of jazz or R&B – this is a different genre for me. But, she’ll carry me.”

    Rice has played since she was three-years-old and she says it was important to keep it up while Secretary of State. Not because it’s a stress reliever – she emphasizes playing Brahms is not relaxing – but the intense focus required gave her respite from the responsibilities of her day job.

    Rice says serious musicianship on an amateur level should not be surprising – not in politics and not in schools.

    “I do think we’re losing a whole generation of kids who are not playing instruments, not getting it in schools,” she says. “Drives me crazy when people talk about music as extra-curricular in the schools, it seems to me it’s part of being a broad and well-educated human being.”

    Rice will also perform Mozart with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The concert will benefit the Mann Center’s inner-city school programs.

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