One local graduate is truly making history.
Twenty-four-year-old Anthony Ramos – star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” and a New Utrecht High School alum – stopped by City Hall on Tuesday, March 22 to accept his first-ever City Council Proclamation.
Ramos, who plays two roles in the Grammy Award-winning show (he graces the stage as both Phillip Hamilton and John Laurens), began his high school career as an athlete, but was inspired by those around him to try something new before graduating in 2009.
That something new started with the lead role in a student-produced play, and it caught the eye of then-New Utrecht High School drama teacher Sara Steinweiss, who pushed him to continue honing his craft.
“He was an excellent baseball player who was definitely on the baseball track,” Steinweiss told this paper in February, shortly after Ramos and his cast accepted the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, “but [when I heard him sing] I said, ‘You have to be in the theater guild.’”
With a little push – and some intricate scheduling – Ramos went on to join Steinweiss’ theater program (which she started herself), where he would go on to land such roles as Jack in Bishop Kearney High School’s rendition of “Into the Woods” and Seymour in New Utrecht’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” – the latter being where he first caught the eye of then-New Utrecht High School history teacher (and now New York City Councilmember) Mark Treyger.
“I had the honor of watching him in the lead role of Seymour in ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ and I remember speaking to my colleagues and his friends and saying, ‘This kid is going places,” recalled Treyger. “He blew everybody away.”
Subsequently, Steinweiss helped Ramos apply for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) – a school to which he would eventually receive a full scholarship with help from “Stein” (Ramos’ nickname for Steinweiss), and her connections with the Jerry Seinfeld Scholarship/Pencil Scholarship program.
After completing the two-year program at AMDA, Ramos was offered a full-time gig on a cruise ship where he went on to make his own connections and land himself the role of a lifetime.
Today, Ramos boasts an impressive resume of performances across the country (including a trip with the cast of “Hamilton” to sing for the president at the White House earlier this month), and roles in several motion pictures due for release in the near future.
“Mr. Ramos exemplifies what the public school system can be for our young people,” said Treyger on Tuesday at City Hall , where Ramos was joined by family, friends, former teachers and other elected officials. “With the support of his family and caring assistance from his teachers, counselors, coaches and school staff, Mr. Ramos navigated his way through the pitfalls of adolescence and emerged from his public school experience ready to embark on a wonderful journey and make a tremendous cultural impact on our society.
“His success story reminds us that our public schools need the arts, athletics and the extracurricular programs that government must continue funding,” Treyger went on, thanking both City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for making the opportunity to honor Ramos possible and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and Steinweiss for being a part of the ceremony. “Most of all, I would like to thank Anthony Ramos, for serving as an inspiration to students and educators alike, reminding us of what our education system is all about.”
“Anthony is a tell-tale sign of what the arts do for our kids,” Steinweiss told this paper, stressing that the theater program at New Utrecht was eventually cut down to nothing due to funding. “This kid is holding a Grammy in his hands, and what that represents for New York City public schools is enormous. It shows students that everything is possible.”
Ramos was thrilled to accept the proclamation.
“Thank you to Councilmember Treyger and the city for this proclamation, and thank you to the public school system, teachers like Mr. Mulgrew, Ms. Steinweiss, my counselors, my coaches, for pushing me,” he said. “Let’s keep arts and theater programs going. We need to make keeping the arts in schools a priority.”