UMSL Host Hamilton Lunch & Learn

Students from North County schools were able to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the cast of the hit Broadway Show Hamilton. This was made possible in part to Brian Owens and Michael Smith, who were able organize the event as a Lunch and Learn on UMSL's campus.  

Hamilton is an American Musical that is sung- and rapped about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton with music and lyrics. It is based on a book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. 

Steve Erwin is a teacher at McClure High School. He took his students to see Hamilton at the Fox the day before the Lunch and Learn. He describes the Lunch and Learn as an authentic assessment. "It gives our students the ability to apply things to the real world and brings social studies to life, it parallels what's going on in the world today." 

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Enthusiastic cheers filled the room as the cast of Hamilton descended from the stairs to take their seats on stage. The cast took their seats and introduced themselves by name and character that they play. Austin Scott who plays Alexander Hamilton, Chris De’Sean Lee who plays Marquis de Lafayette, Raymond Baynard who is part of the ensemble, Amanda Braun who is a swing, Jennifer Geller who is part of the ensemble and Jennifer Locke who is part of the ensemble. 

The questions asked of the cast were based on the L.I.F.E ARTS acronym. L-Leadership, I-Innovation, F-Faith, and E-Excellence, and how these factors played a role in getting them where they are today and how they use them now in their professions. 

Throughout the Q&A much advice was given. The audience would nod in agreement and applaud in sync to the answers given. 

A few gems included: 

"Every single one of you has something that the world needs and it's up to you to give it." said Austin Scott. 

When the cast was presented with the question "How have the leaders in your life helped and positioned you for the role in your life?" 

Raymond Benard answered, "Surround yourself with people who can push you and help you and not just tell you everything you're doing is right, look for leaders in your life who take on that role." 

"Pay attention because the best leader is a better follower, learn how to follow a good leader." said Chris De'Sean. 

The last audience question came from, Tammy Williams, a student from McClure High School within the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she asked "how does the cast feel performing this show in St. Louis knowing the background of this city's history and its racial tension?" 

A look of understanding fell across the faces of the cast. It seemed as if they had a complete understanding of the city's history and why a play like Hamilton would have an impact on a city like St. Louis. 

"They need to see this, considering what America is now they need to see this energy on stage."  replied Chris De'Sean. 

"There's a line in the show that says scratch that, this is a movement not a moment and that's what we are here for, a movement." said Jennifer Gellar "it's amazing to be somewhere like this and to show people what we're doing and why we're doing it."  

The lunch and learn ended with each school being able to take group pictures with the cast and introduce themselves personally. "It’s a day I'll never forget" said one student. 

Brian Owens