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Saxophone Played by President Bill Clinton

NMM 5727.  Tenor Saxophone by L. A. Sax Company, 
Barrington, Illinois, 1993

NMM 5727. Tenor saxophone by L. A. Sax Company, Barrington, Illinois, 1993. No. 1 of a limited edition of 150 Presidential Model tenor saxophones. Presented to President Bill Clinton on Monday, May 16th, 1994, in the White House Oval Office. Gift of Bill Clinton, President of the United States, 1994.

President Bill Clinton examines the Limited Edition Presidential Model Saxophone from L.A. Sax CEO/President, Peter LaPlaca, in the Oval Office, May 16, 1994.
Photograph courtesy of the White House

President Bill Clinton accepts the Limited Edition Presidential Model Tenor Saxophone built in his honor by the L.A. Sax Co., Barrington, Illinois. Peter LaPlaca, CEO/President of L.A. Sax, made the presentation to Clinton in the Oval Office on May 16, 1994. Witnessing the presentation were (left to right) Congressman Tim Johnson (D-SD), Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD), and John Hilbert, Vice President for University Relations, University of South Dakota.

An official press release from Congressman Johnson's office described the historic event:

Everything had been carefully scripted by White House aides. The manufacturer would present his company's colorful new saxophone to President Clinton in a brief ceremony Monday afternoon in the White House Oval Office.

The President would admire the instrument, then hand it over to South Dakota Congressman Tim Johnson, who would deliver it to the Shrine to Music Museum [now the National Music Museum] in Vermillion.

But that was before Bill Clinton actually saw the saxophone--a shiny, bright model with red and white stripes, blue stars, pearl keys and lots of gleaming brass.

Clinton's first reaction: "This is funky. I never thought I'd see a patriotic saxophone."

"After he got his hands on it, the President obviously was very impressed," said Johnson. "He played a little of 'Georgia On My Mind' and a couple of other pieces. He was having a great time."

"And I was getting worried. For a while there, it looked like he might decide he wanted to keep it. How do you tell the President of the United States he can't keep a saxophone somebody else just gave to him?"

A few moments later, however, Clinton the statesman prevailed over Clinton the musician, and the transfer was completed without a hitch.

Click on any image below to see an enlargement.

Plaque noting dedication to President Bill Clinton Maker's signature and date

L.A. [Sax] / USA logo

John M. Hilpert wrote the following report for the Museum following the White House presentation:

"Mr. LaPlaca placed the saxophone case on a couch and opened it for President Clinton. His immediate response was: 'That is the most beautiful saxophone I have ever seen.' The President took the strap from the case and put it around his neck. He assembled the saxophone, wetted the reed, and began to play. Mr. Clinton paused now and again to talk with us--he told Mr. LaPlaca that the instrument had the finest upper register of any saxophone he had played--but mostly he ran scales or played parts of jazz tunes. Members of the President's staff were clearly nervous about the time, but Mr. Clinton extended our visit to nearly 20 minutes. When he had transferred the saxophone to me and our group was in the hallway outside his office, I overheard President Clinton say to his staff: 'Well, that was fun!'"

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