Ten years after his dream to perform at the White House was put on hold, it's finally about to come true for pianist Rio Clemente.
Clemente, a Morristown native also known internationally as "The Bishop of Jazz," will be playing there on Dec. 22.
It's quite an honor for a man who considers himself a patriot.
"America is very close to my heart," said Clemente, who served in the Coast Guard Auxilliary. "I never do a concert without ending with something patriotic."
It all started with a phone call.
Actually, it started when Clemente–who locals have probably seen perform, among other events, during Morris County's annual First Night in Morristown–was asked to perform at The Inn at Bowman's Hill in New Hope, Pa., for Veterans Day in November. "Any opportunity I have to perform for the vets, I'm there," he said.
It was during this concert that Amy Otey, Clemente's friend and a fellow musician, heard about the pianist's performance that wasn't in 2001.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen–who serves both Morristown and Randolph, where Clemente now lives–had given Pres. George W. Bush a copy of one of Clemente's CDs, prompting an invite to perform.
Then, 9/11 happened, and everything changed.
"But, I never gave up on it," Clemente said.
Despite having known him for almost two decades–primarily in the artistic realm–Otey said she had never heard about Clemente's ill-timed invitation until his performance at the New Hope bed and breakfast in November.
"It was such a surprise," said Otey, whose children's music group, Miss Amy and Her Big Kids Band, performed for Pres. Barack Obama at the White House in 2010. "This is a guy that really deserved a shot to play."
Otey used her connection established last year. "She made this phone call without even telling me," Clemente laughed. "Next thing I know, they called me and said, 'if you call this number, there's a chance you could play at the White House.'"
Two days later, the pianist was confirmed to play Christmas songs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 22, in the East Wing.
"It's always such an honor and privelege to be invited to play somewhere beautiful like that," Otey said. "It's really important."
"I would play in the closet, just for the honor," Clemente said. "I'm so excited about it."
It took 10 years, but this local jazz man finally is going to realize his patriotic dream. And, it only took a phone call.
"You never know who's going to hear you or how things are going to happen," Clemente said. "This has been a lifelong dream."