BWW Feature: EDUHAM: OFFERING EVERY KID A SHOT! at Saenger Theatre
Having the great fortune of seeing the original cast of HAMILTON on Broadway was life changing, but even that could not compare to "being in the room" with 2600 captivated, grateful students during a special performance of HAMILTON at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. EduHam came to our city Friday, March 29, 2019, and may have just changed the lives of any number of students who were invited to participate.
When Lin-Manuel Miranda set out to tell the story of how one person turned the world upside down and changed it forever, did he consider that he, himself was about to accomplish the very same thing--that is--change the world by changing the way we think about education itself?
If we could actually "rewind" time, some in academia might have chuckled at the very core of the EduHam program, an education program that presupposes that American History students can comprehend and retain complex materials through rap music. Sounds a little insane doesn't it?
It is entirely possible that those may be the same heads that turned the other way when hip-hop first began in the late seventies, and were possibly the same folks who looked sideways when Miranda started using the genre for the first time on the Great White Way. The groundbreaking 2015 musical, HAMILTON, made everybody stand up and take notice when its instant popularity made getting tickets to the show virtually impossible for the average American. This inequity tugged at Miranda's heartstrings so deeply, that he found a way to make this important story accessible to everyone--hence--the HAMILTON Education Project, affectionately known as, EduHam, was born. A five-year program which has already blessed the lives of over 50,000 Title I students annually.
Miranda and his father Luis took their brainchild to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, whose mission it is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. Armed with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mirandas, along with Alexander Hamilton Biographer, Ron Chernow, Producer, Jeffery Sellers, and Gilder Lehrman President, James Basker devised the curriculum that would not only give kids a fun day out at the theater, but would turn them into active learners, grounding them in a more meaningful way to learn about their founding fathers.
"Through this groundbreaking program, the teachers and students gain access to a curated website where the kids are charged with doing their own original research on any of over 42 historical figures that ignites a passion in them," explained Basker. Watching this program in action was simply mind-blowing. As a former English teacher myself, observing kids this fired up to learn was thought-provoking to say the least. "This is so exciting, because instead of students having to write the usual required essay, they get to show how they grasped the material by creating their own original work in their own voice. It could be a poem, a rap song, or ballad. What comes out of their mouths is just astonishing," says Basker. "We saw our first-ever Benedict Arnold act in New Orleans, based on this clever child's original research. Although Arnold is not a good part of our history, this kid came up with a really brilliant satirical piece about this loyalist traitor." Basker beamed at the first-ever, very original, piece about a Jewish figure in Georgia who was involved in the revolution and created the first synagogue there. "We've never seen that story before. The kids are doing their own research and making original choices about who matters to them and creating extensions of the American story."
This originality stemming from the students participation in this program is not only helping them retain knowledge, but Miranda's baby is inspiring kids to dream bigger, and de-facto, teaching them that, like HAMILTON, their backgrounds should not reflect or affect ways in which, they too, might just change the world. Nik Walker Aaron Burr was the MC of the 16 student acts that brought cheers from their peers and brought Walker to his knees a few times. "They just blew me away. It's just amazing to see what they bring with them. They study for a few weeks, throw this together, and all of a sudden they're telling American history in ways that energize us. This is New Orleans, this is kind of what you all do here, so it was wonderful to seeing the birth of their new found creativity."
Christopher Doiron And Chase Norwood from Plaquemine High School were overwhelmed when they found out they were chosen to perform their "Benjamin Franklin" Rap piece. Doiron said, "I find it interesting that we could incorporate facts about what kids might think is pretty boring research and turn it into a lyric that people could one day memorize and hum the tune like those songs in HAMILTON." Their teacher smiled proudly over the two as Norwood chimed in. "That's a little bit crazy!"
The genius of the musical HAMILTON continues to change not only our ideas about how we tell stories, but also, how we educate the next generation. The Eduham Program has opened the eyes of some who may have been relying solely on the passivity of textbooks, and shown the possibilities of exploring other mediums moving forward. Music has been shown to trigger memory functions in the brain that is so far unexplainable. Yet, Arts programs are still the least treasured by our current educational system. Miranda's genius of using a rap battle to show two opposing points of view opens up the door for similar ways to discuss sensitive topics and continued active learning by students. The future is bright for those who use creative outlets to see what others are saying and what they have to say in response. It's just brilliant and exciting to see what comes next from those who are fortunate enough to be in the room where this happened!
Schools participating in the March 29 program include:
- Abramson Sci Academy
- Carencro High School
- Citronelle High School
- Destrehan High School
- Doyle High School Talented Arts Theatre Program
- Eleanor McMain Secondary School
- George Washington Carver High School
- Hancock High School
- InspireNOLA Edna Karr High School
- Jim Hill High School
- John Ehret High School
- John F. Kennedy High School at Lake Area
- Joseph S. Clark High School
- Kenner Discovery Health Science Academy
- KIPP Renaissance High School
- KIPP Booker T. Washington High School
- Lafayette High School
- Landry-Walker High School
- Lee Magnet High School
- Livingston Collegiate Academy
- McDonogh 35 High School
- Northeast High School
- Oak Grove High School
- Pass Christian High School
- Peabody Magnet High School
- Pearl River High School
- Pine Prairie High School
- Pisgah High School
- Plaquemine High School
- ReNEW Accelerated High School
- Riverdale High School
- Sophie B. Wright Institute of Excellence
- Springfield High School
- St. Amant High School
- St. Augustine High School
- St. James High School
- St. John the Baptist Parish STEM Magnet High School Program
- Sumrall High School
- The NET Charter High School
- University View Academy
- Warren Easton Charter High School
- West Harrison High School
- West Jones High School
- Woodlawn High School
The HAMILTON Education Program is one of several history education programs offered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The Rockefeller Foundation provided an initial grant of $1.46 million that funded the educational partnership in New York City. After the resounding success of the partnership, the Foundation committed an additional $6 million to the effort to support the program's national expansion. The HAMILTON producers offer tickets for this educational partnership available for $70, $60 of which was subsidized in New Orleans by The Entergy Corporation; Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison, LLC; and the AT&T Foundation. The Tickets only cost each student $10.
HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation's first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now.
With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, HAMILTON is based on Ron Chernow's biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
The HAMILTON creative team previously collaborated on the 2008 Tony Award ® Winning Best Musical IN THE HEIGHTS.
HAMILTON features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, casting by Telsey + Company, Bethany Knox, CSA, and General Management by Baseline Theatrical.
Launching April 2019 in Chicago, HAMILTON: THE EXHIBITION will take visitors deeper into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton through the immersive exhibit featuring a dynamic, interactive mix of in-depth scenography, lighting, sound, multimedia, music, and an audio tour narrated by Mr. Miranda. For more information about HAMILTON: THE EXHIBITION, please visit hamiltonexhibition.com.
The HAMILTON Original Broadway Cast Recording is available everywhere nationwide. The HAMILTON recording received a 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.
ABOUT THE Gilder Lehrman INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN HISTORY
Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K-12 history education while also serving the general public. The Institute's mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources.
At the Institute's core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. Drawing on the 70,000 documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection and an extensive network of eminent historians, the Institute provides teachers, students, and the general public with direct access to unique primary source materials.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute's programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, and the Council of Independent Colleges.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute is proud to partner with the producers of Hamilton and the Miranda family on the Hamilton Education Program. Title I-eligible high schools are being invited to integrate Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Era into classroom studies and then see the musical. The Hamilton Education Program is part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute's broader mission to improve the teaching and learning of American history. Thanks to the generous support of The Rockefeller Foundation, which helped launch the initial program and fund its national expansion, and many national and local donors, high school students in Title I schools in New York City, Chicago, and selected cities will each pay just a "Hamilton" ($10) to see the performance.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus