‘Hamilton’ star training CAPA students for museum grand opening


Next month, the new Museum of the American Revolution will open in Philadelphia, with the help of Joe Biden, Cokie Roberts, and “Hamilton.”

A star from the hit Broadway musical will be part of the opening celebrations.

Actor and singer Sydney Harcourt came to town early to work up his backup singers, students from Philadelphia’s High School of Creative and Performing Arts. Harcourt came out of a performing arts high school in Detroit, so conducting a master class with students at CAPA was like coming home.

“I think this piece is really for our younger generation. I’m happy to get it out there in schools and get people listening to it,” he said. “And — I have to say — these kids are killing it. Like, better than professionals.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Most of the teenagers studying vocal performance at CAPA have not seen “Hamilton” on Broadway, and some have never heard the music. Harcourt played it out of his phone to give them an idea of how it’s supposed to sound.

The kids, listening while reading the sheet music, sporadically chimed in when they began to understand it. After a few tries, they got the complex rhythms and pop choral styling down pat.

“That was dope. You guys sound great. Really,” said Harcourt, after taking the students through a couple verses and the chorus of “Wait For It.” “A lot of people on Broadway can’t do what you’re doing. They can’t come to a room and read this, this quickly. Really, really good work.”

Harcourt is getting these students ready for the opening gala of the Museum of the American Revolution, on April 8. He will return for the grand opening on April 19.

In between technical advice on how to sing “Hamilton” correctly — he kept telling them to sing like a pop song, not like a musical — he gave them professional advice on how to make a living as a singer.

“I appreciate the criticism. I’m taking it all in,” said senior Rhymik Thompson, studying vocal arts and jazz. “A lot of these songs, fortunately I already know them. For those I don’t get, I’m learning really quickly. He’s a great teacher. I’m trying to keep a very professional attitude.”

The triumph of “Hamilton” is due, in part, to its seemingly magical ability to make dense political history and dry financial policy not just colorful, but triumphant. “There’s a lot of mood in these songs,” said Harcourt. “The lyrics are self-explanatory — and they can be deep — but the musical mood of the song speaks as loudly as the text.”

Harcourt is now preparing to release an album, and getting ready to open a new Broadway show in the fall, “Hood,” about Robin Hood. Once again, he will play the villain.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal