Leslie Odom, Jr. Comes To John Paul Jones Arena January 19
Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom, Jr., who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway megahit Hamilton, is coming to John Paul Jones Arena on January 19 as the 2019 UVA President's Speaker for the Arts. The multi-talented entertainer will discuss his life and career, the impact of the arts on education, and on the world in which we live during a brief address followed by a moderated conversation with University of Virginia President Jim Ryan.
Presented in conjunction with the University of Virginia's 2019 Community MLK Celebration, the event is free and open to the public. Details regarding the distribution of general admission tickets will be released within the next two weeks, once the timing is finalized for the televised UVA Men's Basketball game at Duke.
The appearance marks a return to Grounds for Odom, Jr., following his memorable performance on the UVA Lawn as part of the Bicentennial Launch Celebration in October of 2017. The Bicentennial Launch Celebration, which drew more than 20,000 to the UVA Lawn, was held just months after the tragic events of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville.
Odom, Jr. included reflections about his experiences in Charlottesville in his recently-released book, FAILING UP: HOW TO TAKE RISKS, AIM HIGHER, AND NEVER STOP LEARNING. In the book, he shares stories from his meteoric rise through the entertainment ranks in 2015 as well as inspirational stories of the hard work as a singer and actor that came before. In the process, readers are asked the kinds of questions that will help them unlock their true potential and learning lessons on what it truly takes to chase, and achieve, their dreams while living each day to the fullest.
In the book's final chapter, Odom recalls a Q and A session with Drama students where he was asked why, in the wake of rally-related cancellations by other high-profile African American acts, he decided to keep his commitment to come to Charlottesville. Odom, Jr. answered that he wanted to see the situation for himself, and do whatever he could to help. What he saw and experienced here, he wrote, had a lasting impact:
"I've truly never seen a community work so hard at meticulously and deliberately defining themselves, for themselves, as I did at the two hundredth anniversary celebration for the University of Virginia.
With a unified voice, they took great care to say to the perpetrators of hatred, 'You do not get to define us. That is not who we are.'
And you know what, I believed 'em."
Failing Up will be available for purchase at the event. The first 50 patrons to buy a book at JPJ before the event will receive a special book signing opportunity with Odom, Jr. following the conversation. Pre-signed books will also be available for purchase. Odom, Jr. will not sign any merchandise or posters. Photos can be taken of Odom, Jr. from the book signing line, but staged photos will not be allowed.
"Leslie Odom, Jr. is a remarkably talented performer and an equally impressive person," said UVA president Jim Ryan. "Two months after the events of August 11 and 12, 2017, Mr. Odom came down to Charlottesville to perform as part of our Bicentennial celebration, but also to stand with this community and see how he could help. I am honored that he has agreed to come back, and I hope as many people as possible will join our conversation."
"We are thrilled to welcome Leslie Odom, Jr. back to the University of Virginia, and to Charlottesville, for this special event," said Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the Arts at UVA. "He is in the midst of a truly extraordinary career that includes being at the center of a worldwide cultural phenomenon in Hamilton as well as high profile successes in the worlds of movies and music, and now publishing. I cannot think of a better candidate to continue this series, and his heartfelt sentiments about his time in Charlottesville in 2017 only make his return here even more significant. We are honored to host him in this unique forum."