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Young Lin-Manuel was a ‘mediocre piano player’ shared dad Luis A. Miranda Jr.

SHARE Young Lin-Manuel was a ‘mediocre piano player’ shared dad Luis A. Miranda Jr.

SALT LAKE CITY — Luis A. Miranda Jr., father of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, talked about raising his son and how a Puerto Rican family became in charge of Alexander Hamilton's legacy in an interview with the Deseret News following an EduHam press conference Oct. 26.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Deseret News: What did you think Lin would grow up to become?

Luis A. Miranda Jr.: What he is. My wife and I never had a doubt that this was his destiny, that the arts was his passion — his singing and creation. The other day, I found a poem that he wrote, and I took a picture of the page — it was handwritten — and sent it to him … it was a rap. I asked him, “Do you remember when you wrote this?” He said, “Dad, I have no idea.” We started thinking about what he was referring to, so we decided it was around 12 or 13 — and of course, a little rough around the edges at 12 or 13 — but it was using lyrics to transmit a thought and an idea, and that’s what he always did. And so we never had any doubts that this is where he would end up. You never realize that it would be so big where he cannot take the train anymore without being stopped 20 times for an autograph, but we knew that this is what he was going to be doing.

I always tell the story, he was taking piano, and actually, he was not the good pianist — my daughter was. He was sort of a mediocre piano player kid. My daughter was fantastic because my daughter is very intense in everything that she does. They had a recital, he was like 6 years old, and he was scheduled to play one song because he was not very applied in learning songs. So he played the one song, and he gets applause. And he looks and says, “I know another one,” and he plays another one, and they applaud again. And then he’s like, “I know another one.” I didn’t realize he knew so many. And then finally after the third one, the music teacher has to usher him off the bench so that other kids can play. But he says, “The applause has always been very important in my life.”

DN: What do you think Alexander Hamilton would think of his life being onstage like this?

LM: I don’t know; I will tell you that it is funny and humbling that a Puerto Rican family is in charge of the Hamilton legacy. It’s funny because it’s different; it’s humbling because it’s what our country’s about. It’s the new wave of new people coming into the country, making sure that the country goes to the next stage of development, so I think Hamilton would enjoy the smartness of the show, the wittiness of the lyrics, the passion of the music. And because Lin-Manuel has developed something so unique, just like Alexander Hamilton was able to develop an economic system that survives 250 years later. I think he would enjoy it.

DN: What do you see in Hamilton’s experience as an immigrant that mirrors your own?

LM: Immigrants in general, you have to work harder to have the same output that someone who is born and raised here … You always have to work harder. First, if English is not your first language, you’re struggling with learning a new language; you’re struggling with making yourself understood and excelling in a language that is not yours. It took me a long time not to think in Spanish and translate in my head. … English is not an easy language to learn. So just that alone is an incredible achievement that as an immigrant, if you want to succeed in this country, you’re also understanding different cultural norms and circumstances.

And then on top of that, so many of us come, and our first jobs are not the glamorous jobs, so you have to work hard. … I always believe that the immigrants who come to our country are the smartest of the brigade they left behind because they have to succeed against all odds. And for many, there’s no going back, so when you come, you come, and you have to work to make it.

DN: How do you think EduHam teaches kids about politics and being engaged?

LM: My son says all the time, “What is the recipe to have been able to create ‘Hamilton’?” And he usually says, “A dad who’s involved in politics and a mother who is a clinical psychologist.” So those two things together end up with the lyrics and music of “Hamilton.” And during rehearsals, I remember the main producer coming over when they were rehearsing “The Room Where It Happens” and Jeffrey Seller telling me, “Only your son could write ‘The Room Where It Happens’ because he knows that you’re working with so many administrations. You have been in that room where things happen.”

I just think that Lin-Manuel is masterful in capturing the emotion of exceptional people developing a country and what comes out of those ideas, and creative enough to do it in a way that is entertaining in addition to educational.

Email: sharris@deseretnews.com