History and Singing Master Class with Hamilton Music Director Alex Lacamoire

Alex Lacamoire, Music Director and Orchestrator of Broadway’s most popular show, Hamilton, comes to the Frost School of Music to talk about the business of story and song – and the power of musical theater. In his master class he reveals the origin of his passion for music, how his education in the music industry was the foundation of his career in musical theater and how he hopes to inspire students and give them critical insights on how to build their own at Frost.

There’s a lot of fuss about the American musical phenomenon, the theatrical sensation of the decade for the ages – Hamilton. Rarely has a musical transformed theater the way this show has since debuting on Broadway in 2015. Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway dynamo, has reportedly broken new ground, earning 16 Tony nominations, the most in Broadway history. It also made Miranda one of the few musical theater writers to receive a MacArthur Foundation Award, and its music director and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire received a Tony and Grammy award, respectively.

To talk about this feat and tell us all about the creator’s experimental style of hip-hop musical, which ignored the traditions of musical theater form, is Alex Lacamoire, who will hold his master class next Friday 11 Maurice Gusman Concert Hall. As music director of the much-touted Hamilton, In the Heights and Tick, Tick. . . Boom! Lacamoire is here to talk about what music directors do, what inspires them and how they do it.

In his master class, Lacamoire also talks about his passion for music and the performance that changed his life forever. Always playing in the orchestra pit, with his eyes on what’s going on around and above him, this music director and orchestrator helps the actors sing material a certain way and enjoys playing an integral part in the show you’re watching and hearing. And for a decade he’s had a vantage point onto the stage – his favorite spot.

Lacamoire is the man behind the music for some of the most talked about musical theater productions: In the Heights, Bring It On: The Musical, Wicked, Annie, Dear Evan Hansen, and musical director of Carmen Jones, a Cuban adaptation of the opera Carmen. For this Cuban American, that score is low. Music that is “in my blood,” he said.

Ever since he landed on the New York scene as a backup keyboardist in the ditch for The Lion King, he’s embarked on a love affair with musical theater. He loves how all the departments work in sync – spreading their magic with the music, lights, sets and choreography – creating spectacular stories that audiences will love too.

In his master class he teaches about the lessons he learned from seeing the power of story and song. Musical theater, often considered light entertainment, can open the mind through storytelling. Some of the most insightful conversations explore how Lacamoire’s working relationship with Miranda also taught him valuable lessons, mostly like shows like Hamilton, In the Heights and Tick, Tick. . . Boom! changed the course of Broadway’s future. Something for the students to take notes on.

You started playing the piano at the age of four, which reminds me of a young Mozart. How was this experience for you?

Alex Lacamoire: Well, Mozart is too much of a comparison. [Smiles] But thanks. I can say that we both played instruments when we were young, but I wasn’t composing symphonies when I was four. I want to remember that I was precocious and enjoyed and probably had a fondness for music, especially piano. I got it quickly.

What kind of music were you interested in growing up?

Alex Lacamoire: Both pop music and classical music. I was interested in performing in a classical medium and on stage. Whether it was performing a pop song on stage or accompanying actors on stage, there was a certain aspect of performing that I enjoyed. So in addition to my curiosity about instrumentation, how an electric guitar, bass guitar or drums work in a group, I was very aware that these sounds come together. For example, when I was playing the Beatles, I would hear one of their pop songs and join a French horn or a trio of trumpets into the song.

So did that start your career path?

Alex Lacamoire: Yeah, that stuff made me realize how orchestral pop music can be. I didn’t know it then, but I’ve trained my whole life for my career path just through the things that interested me. That, combined with my ability to adapt quickly and build knowledge over the years.

Have you always been passionate about your art?

Alex Lacamoire: If you are an artist by nature and you are passionate about your art, then you are only interested in your art. I took English, math and science in school because I had to. But it was really important to me when I could go back to the piano. When can I hear the song again? When can I perform again? That was important to me. Going to an artistic junior high school, an artistic high school that values ​​the arts and the pursuit of knowledge, was where I prepared myself and what I wanted to do. You’ve heard the saying If you do what you love for a living, you won’t work a day in your life. That felt true to me. These magnet schools not only prepared me to give myself this structure, but also to be surrounded by other like-minded artists.

Why is it so important to be in an artist collective during school?

Alex Lacamoire: Well, let me put it that way. I got to go to class with my best friend in the world, Martin Bejerano, who works at the University of Miami. He was my buddy. So we sat together and played jazz and rock duets. We went to concerts together and talked about girls. . . We just had a like-minded thing. We hung out with other singers and musicians – singers, clarinetists, pianists. . . We all came together and influenced each other in ways that wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t in this collective of artists living together. So that was very important in my life.

Do you come from an artistic family?

Alex Lacamoire: Not on a professional level. My uncle plays guitar and my grandfather plays harmonica, but my family didn’t have any professional musicians before me. I have two cousins ​​who are interested in music: one who goes to Berklee College of Music and one who went to the University of Miami and is now an actor. As a Cuban-American with a rich culture and deep roots in the arts, music is in my blood.

Well, you certainly have an impressive artistic portfolio. You’ve won two Tony and Grammy awards for your work on Hamilton and In The Heights. You were also nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Hamilton. Some of your other credits include tick, tick. . . Boom!, Bring It On, Wicked, 9 to 5, Bat Boy, High Fidelity, Annie, Fly, Working, The Wiz, Legally Blonde, Dear Evan Hansen. You are an Emmy-nominated composer for your work on Sesame Street. And one of my favorites, Carmen La Cubana, based on Carmencita Jones, which you adapted from the opera Carmen. So when you look at all this, what is the biggest highlight of your career?

Alex Lacamoire: Oh my god. I was involved in many very important things. The one that feels the most unique is Hamilton for many reasons. It’s very rare for a Broadway show to be the phenomenon it is and what it is to some people. And the hype around it and the attention that goes with it, that’s very unusual. Knowing that I had a part of it is really special. This is also something I made myself. Most of my other shows I orchestrated with someone else. Hamilton was my first Broadway credit as a solo orchestrator. And that meant a lot to me to know that I did it all [musical direction] Decision – every decision and how I thought it through.

Is there anything or anyone that can be credited for the show’s success?

Alex Lacamoire: Oh yeah, that’s easy. Lin Manuel Miranda. It was the work, the piece itself. It was the writing, the idea, the creation – the minds behind it. Hamilton wouldn’t exist if he didn’t have a crazy idea. So we’re lucky he invited us. But the level of writing, musicianship and craftsmanship contained in this piece. . . The words and ideas that came out of Lin’s brain and the skill with which he does it are second to none.

Will there be a book about your thought leaders one day?

Alex Lacamoire: [laughs] I don’t know about mine, but I think they will write books about Lin. He has that kind of effect. And it’s very special to be mixed with it.

Tell me about Carmen La Cubana, which you orchestrated and transformed the narrative of Bizet’s opera Carmen. Bizet and Hammerstein certainly got a Cuban makeover, played with charm and flair.

Alex Lacamoire: Thank you for those words! This experience was incredible. I had to go to Cuba and work with great Cuban musicians. I loved that we could take this classic opera score and make a cool Cuban version of it.

I have to come up with a good song and a cool sound that fits the story. And we realized that we can do a little bit of everything – mambo, salsa. . . When we finished we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, look at all these different styles we could do! We paid tribute to Cuban music while playing this fantastic score. It was a really cool experience.

And being Cuban, how did the music move you?

Alex Lacamoire: Working with experts in this field because I’m not an expert on Cuban music and being surrounded by Cubans from the island moved me. It is an amazing experience and a life lesson that I will treasure forever.

And now share it all with our Frost students. What do you hope to get from the lessons? you havelearned?

Alex Lacamoire: Well, what I love about this masterclass is that it’s a question and answer type forum, so I’m hoping to answer any questions you might have. But that’s my hope. . . Listen, the fact that you’re studying music [I studied music]they live in Miami [I lived in Miami], and the fact that I’ve had a career in this field will hopefully inspire them in that. And yes, I’m going to talk to them about the discipline it takes to have a career in this field, the passion and tenacity it takes to have. For me, it’s all about that kind of dedication. It’s about storytelling. It’s about how you treat people. All of these things affect what kind of career you have and what kind of attitude you have, and it all goes together.

And if there is only one thing, one insight from the lecture, what would that be?

Alex Lacamoire: Do what you love and love what you do. Make sure you put your passion into what you do. Music is a beautiful field. But you have to really love it to do it.


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