2017 continues to be another year of Hamilton for me! Last week, Ron Chernow gave a forum discussion at my school. Ron Chernow is the author of a Alexander Hamilton, aka the 800 page (!!!) biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write his hit-musical about the founding father. I actually bought the book right after seeing Hamilton back in January, but I’ve only read a few sections that mainly focus on his relationship with Eliza. I’m really enjoying it so far because the book reads more like a narrative than a history lesson.
Over 800 people came to the discussion, and it was so cool to see that many people interested in Hamilton in one space. Chernow began his talk by discussing some key points about Alexander’s life. As seen in the musical, he joked that Hamilton loved to talk, which helped him a lot as Washington’s right hand man and later Secretary of the Treasury. He also explained how Burr and Hamilton came to their famous duel. Despite what the show depicts, it wasn’t just the election of 1800 that caused them to duel (side note: the Drunk History episode does a fantastic job making this point as well and features Lin as our narrator!).
Chernow soon transitioned to talking about Hamilton: An American Musical and how he became involved in the project. He admitted that he was a bit skeptical of Lin’s idea at first, but Lin’s passion and determination won him over. When he recalled the first time Lin sang “Alexander Hamilton” to him, Chernow sang the entire song on stage! It was so genuine and funny, I just couldn’t stop smiling! He also shared some behind the scenes information about the show.I knew that the characters’ type of singing had something to do with their age, for example, Jefferson sings jazz while the rest of the characters have moved on to rap. However I never knew that the characters’ appearance above their neck was purposely modern-looking, while their outfits were inspired by eighteenth and nineteenth century wear.
Toward the end of the discussion, Chernow answered questions from the audience. Many of the history teachers in the crowd thanked Chernow for making history fun again. They said that Hamilton has inspired to students to learn more about Alexander Hamilton’s time in history, as well as easily incorporating the musical into their lesson plans. My hands-down favorite questions came at the end by two children, who asked what Chernow’s favorite song was (“Satisfied”) and if he would sign their books (yes). Overall, it was so exciting to have Ron Chernow at my school and hope to attend more Hamilton-esque events in the future.