Broadway talent scouts need look no further than Colorado Academy’sLower School to discover the new cast for Hamilton. The Lower Schoolers demonstrated their talent when the very popular Bryan Terrell Clark—singer, songwriter, actor, and philanthropist—visited CA in the first week of school—and asked students to join him on the stage for the opening number of Hamilton.
Loud and clear, they sang:
My name is Alexander Hamilton
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait
CA’s youngest students proved that they can sing and rap with the pros—especially after Disney brought Hamilton to the screen in their living rooms this past summer.
Clark, who played George Washington in Hamilton on Broadway, first visited CA early in 2019, right before schools transitioned to remote learning during the pandemic. He brought the house down on his first visit and became a welcome second-time visitor over Zoom last year.
His return in person as the first performer on the Main Stage of the new Leach Center for the Performing Arts was met with enthusiastic cheers by all divisions. When he casually mentions his roles in a movie or Netflix series, students know he is the real deal, but without the ego that often accompanies a star. As much as students enjoy him, he enjoys coming to CA.
“This is one of the truly unique spaces I have ever been part of,” he told an interviewer. “That’s why I love coming back here.”
But even more important is the message he brings to students—“Follow your passion to find your purpose. Being authentic can lead you to fulfilling your wildest dreams.”
Middle and Upper School
Clark is simply brilliant when he works with students—both charismatic and down-to-earth.
He cofounded “inDEFINED,” a project to inspire and teach young people to use their voices to erase constrictive labels in society. At CA, a number of students who shared the stage with Clark proudly went home with inDEFINED hoodies or T-shirts. For Middle and Upper School, he adjusted his message to match the age group.
“At your age, you begin to shrink and hide all the things that make you “you,” he told Middle Schoolers. “I remember trying to hide, so I would lose my uniqueness and be more like the cool kids. I encourage you to have confidence and courage to be your authentic selves. At the end of the day, you have to be okay with the person you are.”
For Upper Schoolers, he expanded his message to include their role in the world at large. “Ask yourself, ‘What will move society forward in this time of division?’” he told them. “How can you aid healing? I am honored to stand in front of you, and I hope that in future years you remember that guy from Hamilton who came to your school and told you to trust your gut.”
For a group of more than two dozen Upper Schoolers, the most unforgettable experience of the day may have been their chance to have a master class in acting with Clark. He tapped into their dramatic potential with a simple exercise he said that he had first done at the Yale University School of Drama.
It was a two-person scene with what might seem the most ordinary of premises: one person had to hold on to a newspaper, and one person had to get the newspaper.
What ensued as CA students played out this mini-drama were scenes demonstrating strategy, persuasion, intimidation, and in some cases, sheer force and a lot of speed. Clark confessed that the first time he did this exercise, he ate the newspaper.
“It seems like the most simple activity,” he told the students. “But these are the building blocks to acting. You take objective, action, and stakes, and suddenly interesting theatrical things happen.”
By the end of the master class, students did not want to leave. They stood around Clark, many thanking him personally for his time, wisdom, and inspiration. But, he said, the pleasure was all his.
“To have a school with this width of age group and personal experiences is remarkable,” he said. “I am impressed by the compassion and respect that students show for each other. I can’t wait to see how you will change the world.”