Jon Batiste has no fear of jazz suits. The Juilliard-trained musician is known for performing around the world and winning Academy Awards and Golden Globes for Pixar’s jazz-centric animation Soul . Alongside these achievements, Batiste also wears an enviable collection of kaleidoscopic suits. When Dr. Jill Biden personally invited Batiste to perform at the White House state dinner a few weeks ago, he knew the perfect brand to channel his unique talents into black-tie attire: Bode.
Batiste wore a sleek suit and flat ribbon tie from CFDA award-winning label at his White House debut. “The late Stanley Cowell said, ‘Discover your musical personality. Play from your heart,'” Batiste shared with Vogue shortly after the event. “To me, it’s the same as the suit tradition. It’s all about the character you want to inhabit on any given night.”
That night was definitely worth remembering. President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron to the White House’s first state dinner since the COVID pandemic began. On a starry night, Baptiste put on a rousing performance that poetically interspersed with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Sing It Loud” (often referred to as the “Negro Anthem”) and the French national anthem, “Marseillaise.” Baptiste calls it a “symbolic musical concept,” which seems to emphasize intercultural exchange as well as multicultural identity. Baptiste grew up in Louisiana and is of Creole descent. Like the melody he played last night, American, black and French identities are inseparable for many. “I think our strength lies not in assimilation, but in celebrating the beautiful fusion of different cultures, customs, languages, traditions and heritages that we all come from,” Baptiste said.
When Baptiste was asked to perform, he wanted to make sure he His loved ones — notably his wife, writer Suleka Jawad — are likely to be in attendance. “I’ve had epic highs and lows over the past two years, all of which really made me more aware of the importance of family,” Baptiste explained. Jaouad released a memoir last year about her diagnosis of aggressive leukemia in 2010 and her years-long struggle with the disease; relapsed. Dr. Biden granted Baptiste’s request for an extra eleven, which included Baptiste’s mother and his year-old activist grandfather.
Batiste arrives with his beaming family. He holds hands with his wife in a striking yellow gown. “She killed at Oscar de la Renta,” Baptiste said. “Seeing Suleika make her first public appearance a year after her cancer treatment was so meaningful.” During the night, Baptiste and his grandfather spoke about the symbolism of their existence. “It made me happy to discuss with [him] how the original builders of the White House were enslaved Americans walking into a state dinner as guests of honor.” Shortly after Baptiste’s stirring performance, President Biden commented on the “Thank you so much for letting us keep dreaming,” said the musician.
As Batiste said, “There’s a lot of healing going on in this place.”