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How did Lizzo end up playing James Madison’s flute in the Library of Congress?

The pop star made waves by touring the flute vault and then playing the 200-year-old crystal flute during her concert

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Lizzo holds Emmy trophy in poofy red dress

Lizzo, winner of the Emmy for outstanding competition program for “Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls,” attends the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards Governors Ball on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, outside the Convention Center in Los Angeles.

Willy Sanjuan, Invision via Associated Press

When Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden found out mega pop star Lizzo was coming to Washington, D.C. for a concert, she took a chance and wrote a tweet.

In the tweet, she joked that the musical artist — who also happens to be a classically trained flautist — should come check out the crystal flute collection at the Library of Congress.

To Hayden’s surprise, Lizzo responded with a big, emphatic yes, tweeting, “IM COMING CARLA! AND I’M PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!”

How did Lizzo get to play James Madison’s flute?

On Monday, Lizzo visited the Library of Congress and received a tour of the flute vault, a collection of nearly 2,000 flutes donated to the library, according to the Library of Congress blog.

She spent more than three hours on the tour, showing interest in the piccolos, fifes and a flute walking stick.

“Just the enthusiasm that Lizzo brought to seeing the flute collection and how curious she was about it,” Library of Congress curator Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford told The New York Times. “It’s been wonderful.”

After the tour, she asked if she could play the crystal flute that belonged to former President James Madison at her concert. The preservation team leapt into action to make it happen.

The pop star had quite the jam session bringing the ancient flute onstage to roars of cheers from her fans during her concert.


Lizzo plays the flute during her performance at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

“We just made history tonight!” Lizzo said, per The Washington Post. “Thank you to the Library of Congress for preserving our history and making history freaking cool!”

What’s the history of James Madison’s flute?

French craftsmen Claude Laurent crafted the glass flute in the late 18th century, patenting a glass design when most flutes were crafted from wood or ivory, per the Library of Congress blog.

In 1813, the craftsmen sent the crystal flute as a gift to Madison and inscribed his name, title and the year it was created. There’s no record of whether Madison ever played the flute or not.

According to the Library of Congress blog, only 185 of his glass flutes still exist, and 17 of them sit in the Library of Congress.

What are people saying about Lizzo’s jam session on the flute?

“I would like a travel show where Lizzo goes around the world learning about centuries-old instruments,” Karon Liu (@karonliu) tweeted.

“give lizzo more haunted artifacts,” Twitter user Soul nate (@mnateshyamalan) tweeted.

“being excited that lizzo played james madison’s flute and being mad that lizzo played james madison’s flute are both subcategories of what I call ‘caring about flutes’, and I personally will not stand for it,” Twitter user America’s lounge singer (@KrangTNelson) tweeted.