President Obama Tops List of America's Favorite Unexpected Musicians; Actors Meryl Streep and Robert Downey, Jr. Tie for Second

President Obama Tops List of America's Favorite Unexpected Musicians; Actors Meryl Streep and Robert Downey, Jr. Tie for Second  thumbnail

He may be leader of the free world, but little did anyone know President Barack Obama was also a natural vocalist. This year, President Obama claimed the number one spot in NAMM’s annual survey on America’s favorite “Unexpected Musician,” a personality not primarily known for playing a musical instrument, with a majority of 29 percent. Since crooning a few lines of Al Green's "Let’s Stay Together" at a New York fundraising event in January, the president has captured America’s heart with his surprising talent. In an interview with Barbara Walters one month prior, he revealed that he deeply regrets not having learned a musical instrument in school.

Seasoned Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep (violin) tied with actor Robert Downey, Jr. (piano, vocals) for second-place, both securing 24 percent of votes, while funnyman Steve Carell came in fourth place (10 percent) for his flute-playing skills, over “The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence (5 percent), who plays the guitar.

The National Association of Music Merchants created the Unexpected Musicians Database in 2010 in response to a Gallup Poll that found 85 percent of Americans who do not play a musical instrument wish they did[i], in an effort to encourage aspiring musicians by helping them find further musical inspiration from celebrities they already admire.

The extensive list includes professional athletes, actors, politicians and more. From Julia Roberts’ skills on the clarinet to Clint Eastwood’s hidden piano talent, the detailed database offers fans the opportunity to find out just how talented their favorite celebrities really are, demonstrating that anyone can become a musician despite age, experience or profession. The Unexpected Musicians Database can be found at www.wannaplaymusic.com/look-whos-playing.

This year, as part of NAMM’s National Wanna Play Music Week (May 7-13, 2012), the association commissioned a survey to learn which Unexpected Musicians Americans favor most. Key survey findings include:

More women (28 percent) than men (23 percent) were excited to discover that President Obama is a vocalist, while 20 percent of women and 27 percent of men were excited to learn that Robert Downey, Jr. sings and plays the piano.

Millennials were most excited to learn about President Obama’s (30 percent) and Robert Downey, Jr.’s (30 percent) musical talents.
Meanwhile, survey-takers aged 65-plus were most excited to learn about Meryl Streep’s musical abilities, with 37 percent voting for the actress. Streep was also the Baby Boomers’ celebrity of choice at 34 percent.

The findings are the result of a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,000 adults ages 18 and over, living in the United States, conducted by KRC Research, April 19-22, 2012, on behalf of NAMM. The margin of error for this study is +3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The data was weighted by demographic variables to ensure the sample accurately reflects the U.S. adult population.

About National Wanna Play Music Week
National Wanna Play Music Week is the main initiative every year for NAMM’s Wanna Play? public awareness campaign, designed to educate the public on the numerous proven health benefits that music and music education has on people’s everyday lives, and to encourage people of all ages to pick up any type of instrument and learn how to play. In addition, Wanna Play? has the support of more than 100 celebrities, including Jack Black, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., Band from TV, Orianthi, and Gary Sinise. For more information and to get involved, interested parties can visit www.wannaplaymusic.com.

[i] Results from the 2009 Public Attitudes Toward Music study.