Bensing family plays at White House

By on February 13, 2019

Families have traditions during the holidays. Some cut down a Christmas tree together or go Christmas caroling.

For the Bensing family it is spending time at the White House.

From 3 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 29, the Clay Township family made its sixth visit to our nation’s capital and played their string instruments for the seventh time during a Christmas open house at the White House (one year they performed on consecutive days). Ron and Linda Bensing home-schooled their five children and along the way taught them to love music. The children all started playing music at ages 8 or 9. Now adults, the children range in ages from 32 to 23.

Pictured (left to right) are Amber, Erin, Lacey, and Lindsey Bensing. Submitted photo. 

Erin, violin; Amber, cello; Lindsey, viola; and Lacey, violin played at the White House in 2018. Their brother, Jonathan, who plays the violin, has played at the White House in the past, but missed this past year because he is a fourth-year student at the University of Pennsylvania studying dentistry. Their music teachers David and Laraine Leithmann, of Akron, encouraged Lindsey to try the viola and made music fun. David taught them how to play string instruments and Laraine was their piano teacher; they all play the piano. Now the Bensing children continue to play together because it is something they can still do together. “I wouldn’t say it comes naturally,” said Lindsey Bensing, the family’s spokesperson,  about their musical ability.

“It has been a lot of work, but we were willing to put the time into it and it was something we accomplished together. Music is something that you can do for a lifetime, and we will keep playing together as long as we have fun with it.”

The sisters play together in the orchestra at Calvary Church, and the siblings play at weddings and small assembles. Someone once coined the phrase, “The Bensing Family Strings,” and the name has stuck for a title for this group.

The family has played at open houses for three different presidential administrations — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and each did things differently, Lindsey said. Little details were different, she said. The Bushes had the Bensings play downstairs in the Booksellers Room while another group played upstairs in the Grand Foil, the normal spot where the Bensing Family Strings play. There are some subtle differences in how administrations handled security.

It all starts with an audition tape and going through the application process. There is also a background check. Each year the family must reapply.

It is a long day that starts about 7 a.m. with getting ready and the drive to Washington D.C., offsite parking and going through a security check with instruments (getting checked by a canine unit that sniffs the instruments and cases).

But it’s all worth it, Lindsey Bensing said.

“Christmas at the White House is so beautiful with guests coming through invited by the Trumps,” Lindsey Bensing said. “Playing there is an honor. It is a wonderful experience.”

Playing a variety that includes classic and sacred Christmas music, as well as songs like White Christmas for two hours, the Bensings do not get a good look at guests as they walk past them performing, but have heard cabinet members and dignities have passed them while playing. Two notable celebrities they met had eight legs. The Bensings met the Bush family dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley, when the dogs came through the booksellers room where they were performing.

Being at the White House is special, but playing with her siblings and spending time there with her family is what stands out for Lindsey Bensing, who said she can tell the visitors are excited, and music brings joy.

“You can just tell there is a buzz of excitement and visitors going through seem to have a joyful feeling, a feeling you sense throughout the White House,” she said. “After the performance we are able to go on the tour. It is so nice to see the same thing the guests are seeing, to see the Christmas decorations and the photos.”

And continue a family tradition of visiting and performing at the White House.

Eric G. Stark is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

 

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