Andres Forero and Celebrating Diversity Through Percussion


Catie Cho, Editor in Chief

When Andrés Forero walked into the auditorium for our interview, I remember thinking one thing: This guy looks like a rock star. With his red-tinted glasses and leather motorcycle jacket, he radiated confidence; if you saw him on the street, you probably wouldn’t expect him to perform for middle schoolers at a tiny New York Rivertown. But he did. On September 19th, the renowned drummer of Broadway’s production of Hamilton performed for Farragut Middle School students to promote the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Initially Forero didn’t set out to be a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy winning drummer, and instead trained to become a jazz and classical percussionist while in school. One day, when Ferero was 19 years old, the world-famous Max Roach, his mentor, received a call from jazz musician Eli Fontaine wondering if Forero would drum for the touring production of Jelly’s Last Jam, which had recently left Broadway. “I didn’t even know what a Broadway show was, to be honest,” he mused. “But I picked up the music, and on my flight to St. Louis I learned it.” After that, he continued to work on musicals, including The Book of Mormon, In the Heights, and now, Hamilton.

Now, Forero performs for schools and other musicians as well as Hamilton audiences in Broadway’s Richard Roger theater. Forero is also a Jazz Ambassador, meaning he, and other musicians, seeks to show people globally how music can be a unifying force in society. “We went to the sister city of Albany, which is a little city in Russia called Tula: very underprivileged, very affected by Chernobyl,” Forero said. After performing for multiple groups of people, he and other musicians “spoke to them with interpreters on how music can really bring peace and bring people together and how important it is to have contact with each other somehow.” 

He performed for FMS students not only to share the same message, but because he recognizes the importance of cultural awareness in a small, predominantly white town like Hastings; while growing up in a similarly white town, he preferred to go by his middle name, Patrick, to avoid the bullying and racism that accompanied his first name, Andrés. For Forero, promoting diversity is “everything in any community.” Even when performing in communities that are demographically opposite from Hastings—those that have almost no white people—his message stays the same. “Diversity isn’t a plan,” he explains. In any community, racial inclusion has to become a regular part of life. “It shouldn’t be an order. It should be something as simple as when we wake up and brush our teeth.” And although Forero believes that diversity needs to be talked about more, shows like Hamilton continue to “push the narrative” of racial inclusion. 

And yet, Hamilton has faced controversy in the past for being a delusion of sorts: Hercules Mulligan wasn’t black. John Laurens wasn’t Latino. To that, Forero said, “I think it’s a fantasy in a sense, because it didn’t happen that way.” But the draw to the musical is that “But no one really knows about Alexander Hamilton… [people] don’t know that he was in charge of our whole banking system, that he created the coast guard.” And people don’t know, Forero added later, that Hamilton was likely biracial. In that way, Hamilton isn’t a fantasy; his accomplishments—and his non-whiteness—are very much real. 

Forero hopes that, like the impact that his mentors had on him, “someone walks away from [the performance] with something.” If that happens, and it certainly did happen for me, he’ll be “happy with that. We’ve accomplished something.”