Citizen Cope performs on May 23 in Memphis, Tenn. (Greg Campbell/Getty Images for Tennessee Department of Tourism Development)

He didn’t get to take the stage himself, but soul singer-guitarist Citizen Cope also didn’t mind sitting in the audience. Who would when they’re at the White House?

On Wednesday, Cope (real name: Clarence Greenwood), Paula Abdul, Alfre Woodard, Tim Robbins  and others settled into the East Room for a quaint school talent show, White House style. The Turnaround Arts program, part of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, matches professional artist mentors with schools across the country. Greenwood’s school in is Minnesota, but he was cheering for everyone like a proud dad.

“All right, Compton!” he shouted as the kids from Martin Luther King Elementary School walked past. “Great job, ya’ll.”

“I don’t think you ever get sick of going to the White House,” said Greenwood, who’s been twice for Turnaround events, “especially if you’re supportive of the current administration.”

Greenwood, a self-described troubadour who recently moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, has produced five albums and tours relentlessly. Stopping in Washington was a welcome reprieve, he said, but the city is “almost not recognizable.” Back when he was a high school student at Woodrow Wilson and before his songs were featured on “One Tree Hill” and “Sons of Anarchy,” Greenwood said, he frequented the small recording studios dotting Ninth and O streets. All gone now.

“It’s an interesting time in D.C. It’s changed so much since I was here,” he said. But leaving was necessary. When it comes to professional artists, Greenwood said, Washington suffers from “the girl next door syndrome.”

“It’s one of those things where people leave, go after their dreams and they usually do well in other places. You have to kind of prove yourself somewhere else.”