Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Harry Truman the piano player

One youngster who never needed to be forced to practice his piano lessons was Harry Truman. He used to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to practice for two hours.

When he became a man, music remained his first passion after politics, and he often said that if he had been a good pianist he never would have become President. "I missed being a musician," he said, "and the real and only reason I missed being one is because I wasn't good enough."

His mother became his first teacher when he was about 10. She sent him for a short time to a neighborhood teacher and then to Mrs. E. C. White, a Kansas City teacher who had studied under Theodore Leschetitzky, the renowned European master. Lifelong friend Charlie Ross said, "He didn't lack spunk when he braved the jeers of the boys to go regularly to his music teacher, carrying his music roll."

At the age of 15 he suddenly quit taking piano lessons, to the distress of his mother and Mrs. White, who had visions of him as a concert pianist, but Harry realized he wasn't good enough for that.

His favorite composers were Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, and he liked the music of Florodora, Strauss waltzes, Gershwin and Debussy.

In October, 1945, at a county fair in Caruthersville, Missouri, Truman played the piano for a group of Methodist Women and winked at them as he said, "When I played this, Stalin signed the Potsdam Agreement."


by William Hillman,
Mew York; Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952

by Alfred Steinberg
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1962

compiled by George S. Caldwell,
New York: Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1966

Some of his favorite compositions were:

  • Chopin's A-Flat Waltz, Opus 42
  • Mozart's Piano Sonata in A-Major
  • Beethoven's Piano Concert No. 4 in G
  • Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz
The Missouri Waltz was not his favorite composition.


by Laura Vernon
Independence: Posy Publications, 1985