Though she has performed for such stars as Congressman Charles Rangel and Meryl Streep, and has fiddled at Quincy Jones’ birthday party, Mitsuko Alexandra Yabe, a junior at the Riverdale Country School and violin extraordinaire, said the inauguration topped them all.
She was among the Riverdale students who flocked to Washington, D.C. to attend the inauguration festivities, and on Jan. 18, she fiddled at the Children’s Inaugural Ball.
“It’s such a great honor for us to be able to honor him,” she said of her new president.
The Upper East Side resident is principal second in the school orchestra, takes private lessons and is part of a string-based chamber group at Opus 118 Harlem School of Music. Alongside Opus’ Junior Ensemble, she performed with the chamber group, led by Roberta Guaspari.
Ms. Gauspari’s programs in Harlem public schools inspired two Academy Award-nominated films: Small Wonders and Music of the Heart.
“My friends were like ‘Say hi to Obama for me and get his autograph,” Mitsuko said of the buzz around school surrounding her departure.
“The whole thing is the historic part. And I mean it’s once in a lifetime,” she said, noting that there would never again be a first black president.
Though she admitted being slightly disappointed that Sasha and Malia Obama weren’t present at the Children’s Inaugural Ball to hear them play, the teen was genuinely moved by the opportunity to participate, as were audience members by her music.
“Our last piece was ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and this woman actually teared up and said how much it meant to her,” she said.
A day later, as Mitsuko returned to normalcy and midterms, Gavriel Margolies Scott, a Riverdale resident and third-grader at the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy, made his way to the nation’s capital for the actual inauguration on Jan. 20.
Along with his parents, he took the train to Silver Spring, Md. and fought the crowds for a piece of the action. Surrounded by people and more than a mile from the stage, the child endured near-freezing conditions for hours to see the new president ushered in.
“I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t even see the screen,” he said of his time on the National Mall. “But my dad picked me up so I could take pictures.”
Thumbing through them, he said of one, “This is a picture of a bunch of heads.”
Though it took another four-and-a-half hours to get transport back to Maryland, he has earned bragging rights for a lifetime.
“Not one, but two people in my class were going to the inauguration,” he said. “Not one but two, and I was one of them.”