A Utah Business “Not Throwin’ Away its Shot” to Help Rural Students Experience “Hamilton”
When Zions Bank was approached by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums with a request to support the Hamilton Education Program, executives knew high school students from Title I schools and rural towns spanning the state needed to be in “The Room Where It Happens.”
The $16 billion-in-assets financial institution based in Salt Lake City has a significant presence and market share in rural communities—from southern red rock desert towns like Monticello (population 1,958) to the remote Great Basin town of Delta (population 3,436). Because of its statewide network of branches, it is important to the bank to help promote rural populations’ access to the artistic treasures concentrated in Salt Lake City.
Bi-Partisan Public Funding Amplified by Corporate Support
Through the Hamilton Education Program, nicknamed “EduHam,” producers made tickets available at a discount, which was subsidized by Zions Bank and the State of Utah through a bi-partisan appropriation sponsored by House Speaker Greg Hughes and Senator Jim Dabakis.
After weeks of studying a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton, the May 4, 2018 performance provided more than 2,300 students an opportunity to experience the musical in person. Tickets to the all-student matinee cost just $10 for each student—a Hamilton note. By some estimates, 60 percent of the attendees from Title I schools had never seen a live professional theater performance until that day.
“At first I didn’t understand this part of history, but now I love history a lot,” said Dachuneeh Martin, a ninth-grade student from Whitehorse High School in Montezuma Creek within the Navajo Nation (population 335). A handful of students from her school drove six hours to Salt Lake City, sharing a bus with teens a town an hour away in Monticello for the experience. “Learning about the Boston Tea Party and the U.S. breaking away from England shows how much you can fight for your rights to freedom,” she added.
In addition to seeing the performance of Hamilton, the audience participated in a Q&A with members of the touring cast. Additionally, students representing various schools in attendance performed an original work they created based on their classroom studies—songs, rap, poetry, scenes, monologues—on the Eccles Theater stage in front of their peers. This brief video highlights some of the energetic performers.
Telling Revolutionary History on Stage
A trio from Granger High School, a Title I school in West Valley City, Utah, impressed even the Hamilton cast member emcees with their unique rap syncopations. Alton Phonepraseuth, Ivan Padilla, and Baily Beacham rapped about the Boston Massacre told in part through the voice of former slave Crispus Attucks, the first to be killed in the uprising:
If this means that I can be free
Then let it be
It’s not just about me
Brothers and sisters and fathers and daughters
Uncles and aunties and sons and mothers
Changing tempos, San Juan High School sisters Rachel and Ashley Barrett from Monticello took a five-hour bus ride to sing a ballad on stage about the women of the Revolutionary War.
“One of the big things we wanted to express, that Abigail Adams wrote about to John often, is to remember the ladies as you’re creating this new government. They were planting the seeds of this government as well and they wanted to reap the rewards and offer their voice as well,” said Ashley. “We got so much inspiration from the way she wrote her words, because they were so expressive and so beautiful and lyrical.”
“Most people think only the men fought in the war and did most of the work and were involved the politics. I think it’s really cool to see that the women had a huge part in how they shaped history,” said Rachel.
Support for the arts and rural access to the arts was among the reasons why Americans for the Arts has named Zions Bank a BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America honoree for 2018. Presented every year by the Business Committee for the Arts, the awards honor 10 U.S. companies for their exceptional commitment to the arts through grants, local partnerships, volunteer programs, matching gifts, sponsorships, and board membership.
“It was a thrill for us to meet the students who had the chance to experience this important musical and to dive deep into this chapter of history through the Hamilton Education Program we were so proud to support,” said Rob Brough, Zions Bank executive vice president. “Because the arts bring value to our community, we wanted to make sure students from across the state had the chance to see Hamilton on tour.”