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A Superior Showcase of Historical Talent - And Then A Matinee of Hamilton!

March 11, 2019 - Student Success

More than 2,400 students and school chaperones throughout the Tampa Bay Area were in “the room where it happens” as the Gilder Lehrman Institute brought the Hamilton Education Program to Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts on March 7.  

The Hamilton Education Program, one of several history education programs offered by the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, provides students in Title I high schools with the opportunity to engage in a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton and the nation’s Founding Fathers.  

Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller said, “Our goal is to ensure students have a shot to see Hamilton and use its words, music and staging to further their understanding and enjoyment of American history, music, and drama.” 

The “EduHam” program started with funding from The Rockefeller Foundation and is a collaboration between Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer Jeffrey Seller and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History—and we were lucky enough to have the program come to Tampa this year for our Hillsborough County Public Schools students to experience.

Once selected, teachers were provided with curriculum, a website that includes interviews with Lin-Manuel Miranda and other Hamilton cast members, an extensive collection of primary source documents and interactive features aimed at exploring the life and times of Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era.

The end result: A project that tasked students to create original songs, a spoken word work or a dramatic scene that was inspired by the history lessons they learned and lyrics from the musical.

Thirteen projects were selected for students to perform on the Straz Center for the Performing Arts stage in front of their peers. There were shouts of encouragement as students entered the stage and a theater full of applause once each of the sensational student performances concluded.  

Emma Larson, a student at Robinson High School, performed a song she created about John Adams. Not only did she create the song lyrics, but she also played the melody on her ukulele.   

“It was such a memorable project! I was nervous when I first went on stage but fell into a zone once I started performing,” said Emma.   

Hamilton cast member Julian Ramos said, “It’s so important for the kids to have this experience because they need to know that there are people that look and dream the same exact way that they do and that the people who founded our country had those exact same dreams and wants.” 

After the student performances, there was a Q&A session with the Hamilton cast and crew. After a picture-perfect day enjoying lunch in nearby parks, students then walked back along the Tampa Riverwalk to enjoy a matinee performance of Hamilton for only $10. 

Why so inexpensive? The Hamilton producers made tickets for this educational partnership available for $70, $60 of which was subsidized by the Vinik Family Foundation and the Gobioff Foundation. 

Students left the performance feeling energized, and full of inspiration. Some students shared that the play reminded them of their own personal experiences, and others were impressed by the diversity, costumes, lyrics and set design.  

“We are happy to report that Tampa just broke the record for best attendance at a matinee — the students and teachers of Hillsborough and all of the Tampa area were a true joy to work with throughout the whole process. It is clear how much our educators care for their students and the students absolutely blew us away,” said Amy DeChristina, Hamilton Education Program Manager. 

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students, many who have never seen a Broadway performance. They laughed, they cried and they truly enjoyed seeing history come to life. 

Thank you to the Hamilton Education Program, The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the Gobioff Foundation, the Vinik Family Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation for making this opportunity possible and for inspiring students and teachers to become historians, writers, musicians and performers! 

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