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Community Reflections From The Common Reading Experience and "Hamilton" The Musical

January 2016

"The Hamilton Reading Circle and Excursion represents an authentic Spelman experience," said Desiree Dean Pedescleaux, Ph.D., dean of Undergraduate Studies. Here, students, faculty and staff reflect on their experience in New York: 

somaliaRaminSomalia Ramin, C'2018, Music Major

Being a performing artist, I loved this trip so much. I always thought when I came to Spelman that we should be more involved in the arts, just as much as STEM. So, I was really excited about this program. Thank you to Dr. Campbell -- you are wonderful.


The experience has changed my life, especially because I am an aspiring performing artist. I’ve never been to a Broadway play before and I was able to speak to people in the industry. When we think about New York we think about this big spectrum and you wonder, 'How do you get to talk to individuals in the field'." This trip was an opportunity to sit in the room with them and learn from them.

I really liked reading "Hamilton." In the beginning, the number of pages will scare you; but with every group meeting we broke the book down. I was able to understand the story about one of our Founding Fathers. I really liked that the play coincided with the book really well.

tiaaustinTia Austin, C’2016, Psychology Major
My experience in New York was amazing. It was  my first time in New York and my first time at a Broadway play. It was an eye-opening experience for my as an artist. In general, I genuinely appreciated it. We have never had a program like this at Spelman before. I appreciate President Campbell for being so invested in focusing on the arts and having programs like this.

The musical "Hamilton" was amazing and this experience has opened my eyes to so many more opportunities available in the art field. I didn’t know much about The Public Theater or   that there is a place like The Public Theater in New York that develops artists.  That is essentially what I want to do too. So coming on this trip helped me to create those connections with certain people and has helped  open doors for me as a graduating senior .

I have a strong love for music and a strong appreciation for various art forms. As a psychology major, learning people and learning how they think  -- that will transition to helping me to open my own music venue one day. So coming to New York integrates with my interest in the arts. This has been an eye-opening experience for me.

Amirah Townsend-Holmes, C’2019, Political Science Major
I was amazed and honored at being accepted into the program. Being invited to the President’s house on campus was exhilarating, and being surrounded by other students who are seniors, juniors and sophomores was even better.

Discussing the book and the history associated with the book with faculty outside of the classroom setting was new. The production was more than I could have expected. Overall, it has been a great experience because for me impactful learning can come in different forms. We had the book, compounded with the play, compounded with discussions.

I’m not a history major, so I didn’t have an extreme interest in history, but this experience has made the subject more interesting. So now, I want to learn about Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, the Revolution, King George and how all these things play together. This has opened up a new door as far as learning, and having an actual theater experience.

Now I want to know what production I am going to go see next. Where do I go from here?  There are also different things I’m considering in school -- maybe I’ll take a class in theater or drama. This experience changes a lot. Maybe I’ll pick up another 700-page book and read about another person in history. Why not come to New York and work in small or large theater? A lot of avenues have opened up for me with this one experience. My application to the program has turned into something that is unforgettable.

Blythe WingerBlythe Winger, Assistant Professor, Drama and Dance
Being in the industry, I understand the play is a phenomenon unlike anyone has ever seen. There is a hype that surrounds it. I thought getting past the hype and the play living up to reality was unlikely, but it has surpassed my expectations. I think the play is a great integration of the liberal arts and the arts. I struggled with this kind of hip-hop way we got into this story about our Founding Fathers.

I struggled with the question of ‘Why do people love this show? Is it because it is a rap game and now we are legitimizing it? Is that credible? Is that enough?’ But then we had the opportunity to talk to Lin-Manuel Miranda [who wrote the book and score for the play and stars as the title character].

He said ‘It’s not about this kind of music, or this kind of people. It speaks to you. We understand a bit about our collective history and that is all it needs to be. It doesn’t have to be this esoteric -- it is us, or it is them? It is colorblind, or is it not? It’s about our collective history.’

In this current political atmosphere of electing the next president, the play is very important for America because it integrates the performing arts into America’s socio-political cultural fabric.

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