The almost 600 freshman students who started at ASU’s West campus this fall will share in an unconventional experience this month: one of their first college-level discussions will include Broadway superstar of "Hamilton" fame, Leslie Odom Jr.
Each year, as part of the Summer Community Read program, incoming West campus freshman are required to read a selected book in preparation for analytical discussions in an academic setting. Then, someone with a connection to the reading material is brought in to speak with students.
“To me, it’s such an important event because it gives instructors, staff, students a way to talk to people initially, when they first get here and throughout the semester,” said Anne Suzuki, assistant dean of enrollment services for the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “And plus, we really like to bring in the community … and to bring different groups of people together to appreciate this particular (musical).”
This year’s required reading was "Hamilton: The Revolution," by Lin Manuel Miranda, and the special guest is Odom Jr.
The Grammy and Tony-award winning artist who played Aaron Burr in the musical’s original cast, will come to Glendale Oct. 16 to discuss the book and answer students’ questions. Odom Jr. will also perform a concert at the West campus.
Suzuki said the program is designed to give students a common experience before they get to campus, and build community.
“We always hope that students can connect more with the person and bring what they read alive, and make it more real,” Suzuki mused. “And they can ask deeper level questions.”
"Hamilton: The Revolution," was co-written by Jeremy McCarter and Miranda, who also wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Hamilton" and starred in its original cast. It explores the background, music and making of the musical.
The musical's ability to attract students of different majors and perspectives is another reason Suzuki’s team felt it would be a good fit.
“I think it gives (students) a platform to be able to talk about difficult topics that might be in the news right now or historically, and it’s an okay, hopefully safe environment for people to have exciting conversations,” she added. “I think because it’s so modern, first year students may feel like it’s more exciting to read about it than if we just did something more traditional.”
Following the discussion, Odom Jr. will perform a concert showcasing the music from "Hamilton" and his own jazz album. “An Evening with Leslie Odom Jr.,” starts at 7:30 p.m. in the West campus’s La Sala Ballroom. Tickets are available here.
Several other educational opportunities are available to students and the community, including "Burr, Hamilton and the Drama of America’s Founding," a special night to explore the explosive relationship between Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the wider drama of America’s founding.
This discussion will feature acclaimed historian Nancy Isenberg, author of "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr," and Hamilton scholar Peter McNamara of ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.
The free panel is at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 and registration is available at ASUGammage.com.
"Hamilton" will run at ASU Gammage Jan. 30–Feb. 25. Tickets will go on sale in December. For more information visit ASUGammage.com.