Senior Advanced Placement English student Mikaela Willard said she felt fortunate to be able to see a live performance of the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton.
“The presentation was phenomenal,” she said. “I felt almost out of place, like I don’t deserve to see something so above my own capability of witnessing. Representing the equal involvement of society now, truly astounded us all … and this is how history now needs to be told.”
Southmoreland Advanced Placement English teacher Mrs. Amy Brown applied for a grant to allow her students to see the popular musical at the Benedum Theater in Pittsburgh. She spent hours completing the application process to enable forty AP students – both for AP literature and AP language – to attend the Sept. 25 performance.
The musical has received national recognition and tells the story of Amexander Hamilton and his contributions to American history and the founding of the United States.
“The Hamilton Foundation worked in conjunction with the Gilder Lehman Society,” said Mrs. Brown. “A friend of mine from New York sent me a link to apply for the grant and I contacted the foundation and had several conversations with them.”
The grant, while requiring no monetary payment, did not come free of charge. The students did have to work for the opportunity that Mrs. Brown made available to them. Southmoreland was one of only 42 schools in western Pennsylvania that qualified. An estimated 2,700 high school students attended the matinee in Pittsburgh.
“Two to three weeks later we got an acceptance letter from them,” said Mrs. Brown. “We were required to complete surveys, do a project, complete a work book, incorporate curriculum, and fill out release forms.”
Despite the work required, those in attendance believe the opportunity they had was better than simply seeing the performance itself.
“I think it made it really relevant to the students,” said Mrs. Brown. “They were performing work that they produced, so it was more engaging and relevant to contemporary society.”
Senior and junior AP English students and a juniors attended the musical. Many students felt that the music – a combination of rap, hip hop, R&B, soul and traditional style show music – related to their age group and that the political points that were made are views of their generation.
Some of the lyrics spoke of immigrants coming to this country, saying they should be able to leave their mark on our government as well as our society and being given equal opportunities as an American citizen.
“I was shocked, even as a music student who has heard the soundtrack,” said senior CJ Medley. “You wouldn’t expect for the stage performance to add so much to what is basically a modern opera, especially with what seemed to be a small ensemble with little to no stage changing. I’m not much for history, but this I feel I could fully appreciate.”