Tamar Greene, who plays the role of George Washington in the Broadway production of "Hamilton" spoke with Stagg’s choir and band students through a recent Google Meet live call.
By Kelly White
Stagg High School students were able to get some creative advice from a Broadway star.
Tamar Greene, who plays the role of George Washington in the Broadway production of "Hamilton" spoke with Stagg’s choir and band students through a Google Meet live call on Oct. 21.
“ Long before I was on Broadway, I was a teacher; and to this day, my career as an artist is made richer by the ability to connect with arts students, provide insight into the field and play a role in their artistic journey,” said Greene, of New York. “Being able to still connect with these students during a pandemic is invaluable. I personally didn’t start singing until I was in high school, so I know first-hand how formative and important these years can be.”
Greene previously played the role of George Washington in the Chicago production of the show, having assumed the role from Jonathan Kirkland in 2018. He remained in the production until it closed in January of 2020.
“Each year, I try to connect my students with professional musicians whom they might know of or can connect with,” said Christopher Betz, choir teacher at Stagg.
Betz was responsible for organizing the event. He reached out to Greene in an email. Greene responded immediately and was more than happy to be a part of the interactive student project.
“I am pleased that we are able to bridge the distance gap with a performer who lives in New York City,” Betz said. “I don't believe I would have thought to reach out to a Broadway actor for a virtual meet if it weren't for the pandemic that forced me to think outside the box for this event.”
“ Having the opportunity to video conference with Tamar Greene is an honor for our students,” said Sandra Mech, division chair for English and music at Stagg. “Many of our students and teachers are fans of the musical, Hamilton, and having the chance to meet one of the actors is surreal. I want to thank choir teacher Chris Betz for arranging this meeting for Stagg students; for many, it is a dream come true.”
During the live video conference with Greene and Stagg students, Greene discussed his journey as a young musician and how he ended up singing and acting on Broadway. He reflected on his past, including originally being a pianist before he even thought about singing and acting. The session also offered students the opportunity to ask Greene any questions they had about his life journey, working in Broadway, any career advice, and creative processes. The students had nothing but positive things to say about the experience.
"As an aspiring musical theater composer, I was really looking for insight out of this experience,” said Michael Lynch, 17, of Palos Park.
Lynch said Greene provided insight about vocal technique, insight about being a working actor, and, most importantly, insight into what it’s really like to be a professional musician working on Broadway.
“One thing I hoped to gain from the interview would be to hear from him on how he lives and works as a professional performer,” said Gia Gracias, 16, of Palos Park. “I learned from him that he actually went to school for a completely different thing but theater was calling his name. This was awesome to hear because it just goes to show even if you take a stable career, you can always go back to your home of theater.”
The highlight of the event was a select group of students performing a section of a musical theater song of their choice for Greene. He provided feedback and coached them in return.
Ash Gordon, a Stagg choir student, was honored to have the experience of performing for Greene.
"Tamar Greene not only gave me insight into the world of theater that I've always been so passionate about, but also showed incredible kindness and warmth to our Stagg choir family,” Gordon said. “It was truly a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to work with him and to have such a connection through the virtual world we are all now living in."
“It is always my hope that when students meet high-caliber performers such as Tamar Greene, a barrier is broken down between the mindset of a young person and the role model they look up to,” Betz said. “I hope they see Tamar Greene as just another hard-working and skilled performer who is trying to make his way through this pandemic like the rest of us. They can better see themselves in a position of great success in performing arts.”
Faculty members from Stagg, located at 8015 W. 111 th St. in Palos Hills, agreed with Betz.
“ It was such a cool experience for our students, and we are thrilled to have had this opportunity,” said Mary Pat Carr, assistant principal at Stagg High School.