History Comes Alive: The Hamilton Education Program

Jun 8, 2018

"Hamilton" actors answer questions from students involved in the Hamilton Education Program
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Living history at its best.  On October 2015, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda; Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New York City Department of Education announced an educational partnership that will provide 20,000 NYC Title I public school students with the opportunity to see Hamilton on Broadway,

But before students get their shot to see the show, their teachers guide them through a hands-on classroom studies program using Gilder Lehrman Institute resources to introduce the students to the people, events, and documents of the founding era.

"Well it's a miracle what Lin Miranda has given us and the whole team that produced Hamilton. It's astonishing. It's the most important thing in American theater, but also in American history and potentially American education in 40 or 50 years."    

Jim Basker is the President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, one of partners responsible for learning program.

"We're seeing kids excited about the founding era, about making it their own, kids who never thought of the fouding era as something that had to do with them.  And we're seeing them not only interested but passionate about it and giving it voice in their own musical and verbal languages.  Being in touch with the founding I think is going to make these kids mindful citizens.  I think we are going to change the chemistry of a whole generation of kids through the effect of the show."  

The students including this time four high school from New Jersey learn how Miranda incorporated primary sources into the songs he wrote for the show and use that knowledge to produce their own performance pieces.

"Hamilton" is still going strong at the Richard Rogers Theatre
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Aaliyah Cortez is from the Bronx Lab School is one of the lucky students who gets to perform her original song at the Richard Rogers Theatre.  (SONG)

"My teacher gave us the document that we got from the Hamilton Education Program. With those documents I picked the John Adams one. When I was reading it, I was like okay, as a woman I feel the same way you know I want to be represented too.  So I saw just like saw how determined she (Abigail Adams) was in for him to get his point across and for her to get her point across.  So I decided you know let me make this out of a song."

What has she learned from the Hamilton Education Program?

"I think it's a lot about learning about the country's history, because I feel it's very important. Just learning that their were other founding fathers.  I knew for me when I heard about Hamilton which was years ago, I didn't even know who Hamilton was and he's on the ten dollar bill so I was like wow okay.  It gives us a wake up call to show this country did not grow overnight, that it happened over a course of time and at first it wasn't perfect and it's still isn't perfect but I'm mean we are getting there."

Democracy Prep Harlem High School students perform a satirical skit about what they think would happen if President Trump met George Washington and Alexander Hamilton
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

All of the performers on this afternoon are nervous, but display a determination to succeed in front of their peers. Brandon Rufini of Life Academy High School for Film and Music has been rapping for several years. This one is about the Boston Tea Party. (RAP)

Rufini credits the smash musical for helping him and other young people learn more about history and the arts and introducing them to Broadway theater.

The impressive actor who is currently playing Hamilton’s son Philip in the musical, Anthony Lee Medina, was part of panel of Hamilton performers who participated in a talk back segment with the high 

Jennie Harney is also a part the session.  Harney is the standby actress for all three Schuyler systers in Hamilton.  She told the students about the power of music in telling stories.

"Music is integral to the integrity of our entire nation, things like jazz, yes, things like jazz talk about things like Strange Fruit talk about a time in our history.  It chronicles things that have happened."
 

Jazz is very much a part of the Hamilton score.

The four high schools from New Jersey that participated this time in the Hamilton Education Program were Bloomfield Tech High School,  John E Dwyer Technology Academy in Elizabeth, Marist High School in Bayonne and METS Charter School in Jersey City. For mor information about the Hamilton Education program, you can go to gilderlehrman.org

WBGO's Doug Doyle backstage at "Hamilton"
Credit WBGO News

Click above to hear Doug Doyle's entire feature on the Hamilton Education Program and the student performance this past Wednesday at Richard Rogers Theatre.