The community values of Rise Up

The ‘Hamilton’ tribute band credits effortless chemistry and enthusiasm as key parts of its success.

In 2008, Lin-Manuel Miranda read “Alexander Hamilton,” a 2004 biography by Ron Chernow, while vacationing in Mexico.

What if he hadn’t casually picked it up? Time off is characteristically supposed to be relaxing, but for Miranda — then taking a break from his mid-aughts musical venture “In the Heights” — beach-reading turned into a font of inspiration. For the next few years, Miranda’s music and performances were directly inflected by the founding father, if on a small scale.

Then, beginning in 2015, Miranda made epic his newfound obsession. His claim to fame was soon Broadway’s “Hamilton,” a genre-hopping play that revised and musicalized the founding father’s story and subversively populated it with people of color and celebrations of immigrants. It became a fully fledged cultural phenom nationwide — so much so that in June 2016, Miranda, dressed in blowsy 18th-century wear, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, as if he were Broadway’s less tortured answer to Jim Morrison.

“Alexander Hamilton” led Miranda to an artistic epiphany. In turn, “Hamilton,” the musical, led Kirkland native and self-described “intermittent semi-professional musician” Jeremy Stone to one, too. When he was first introduced to “Hamilton” a few years ago, the play’s music and equal parts inclusive and emboldened messages lit up something within him.

“For me, it was something I turned to when I needed help making sense of the world,” Stone said. “It’s music that celebrates immigration at a time when maybe immigrants are not celebrated by all people. It’s music with a message that’s rooted in diversity and love. Just the material is for the right time.”

About as quickly as Stone fell for “Hamilton,” he also thought about how many people might not be able to directly see or hear what it had to offer. If you didn’t live in or close to New York City and/or didn’t have the means to attend a show, how would you be able to enjoy it? The stance for many a “Hamilton” fan to take would be to relish the show’s offerings while keeping that faint disappointment in the back of their mind.

But Stone took his fandom a step further. Some inquiries and cold calls around the Seattle area later (“Essentially, I found people on the Internet,” Stone said) and he’d formed what, in the spring of 2017, was for all intents and purposes a “Hamilton” cover band. It called itself Rise Up. It was made up of about 10 people who seemed to have the musical chops necessary to pull the project off. Stone was assiduous as he contacted people: it was important that he not only found capable artists in the greater Seattle Area but kept intact “Hamilton”’s diverse ensemble.

Jim Horne, Rise Up’s musical director and an old colleague of Stone’s, said that the latter is a bit modest about how much talent it takes to have both made the project a reality and get it to succeed in the long term. According to Horne, Stone has a strong musical instinct. But he also has notable business acumen, managing the band and getting gigs locked down, sometimes even pestering venues until he got an answer in the early days. At their initial breakfast meeting, during which Stone expanded on his recent idea, Horne voiced his concerns about getting the rights to the music — and Stone was already a step ahead of him.

“It’s tough for any band no matter how good you are to get noticed,” Horne said. “You have to keep chipping away… Jeremy has been absolutely ruthless in pursuing the success of the group.”

The pursuit appears to have paid off. Rise Up has been consistently touring since its formation, predominantly stopping by venues in the Pacific Northwest. On Nov. 14, the group is kicking off a two-day residency at the Kirkland Performance Center (KPC). The show on the 14th, as of mid-October, is almost sold out; the Nov. 15 performance is getting there. The ensemble will be joined, on the 14th, by the Finn Hill Middle School Choir. The Juanita High School Concert and Jazz Choirs will guest on the 15th. Rise Up has routinely involved community groups in past performances, and, for Kirkland, the group was cognizant of the venue’s community emphasis when it reached out.

“Because there’s such a community focus at KPC, we wanted to keep it local and get youths from the community to join us,” Stone said, adding that, when connecting with schools in the area, sometimes he’d at first receive a cocked eyebrow after stating his idea.

A typical Rise Up show lasts for about two hours. It focuses on just the music; the group does not indulge in the musical’s narrative. But that isn’t to say that performances are exclusively “Hamilton”-oriented. In addition to featuring in the setlist the majority of the play’s songs, the act incorporates tracks either adjacent or even unrelated to the musical. The group has recently added numbers from the stage musicals “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Waitress” and “Rent” to its repertoire. “You’re Welcome,” from Miranda’s “Moana” soundtrack, has also been included. Original music has become part of the shows, too. “Love Like a Yeti” — from a musical Stone, according to Horne, is ostensibly working on — has recently been stirred into the mix, for instance.

Rise Up hasn’t yet been noticed by anyone involved with the original incarnations of the play. But public reaction has been positive, and often physically evident during concerts. Last year, the act got runner up for Seattle Weekly’s Best Musical Act. This October, Rise Up received the 2019 Performance of the Year Award from the KPC.

Enthusiastic audience engagement has long been a fixture at the group’s shows. Singing and dancing along has come to be expected, particularly from youngsters (5 to 85, according to Stone, is “Hamilton”’s main demographic). This was first made clear at the group’s first show — at Luther’s Table in Renton — after Rise Up invited kids in the audience to come on the grandstand with them. The effect was overwhelming.

“Pretty soon, they all came up to the stage,” Horne remembers. “The stage was absolutely packed… I had no idea what kind of impact this music had on young people.”

Contributing to the success of Rise Up is the camaraderie between its members. Backgrounds do vary. While all the musicians involved have the necessary musical experience, their relationship to music, and which outlets they’ve explored it through, differs. Yet the ensemble, according to singer Po Leapi, who also performs solo under the stage name P.O. BOXX, has had “an effortless chemistry” since day one.

“There isn’t pride or egos floating around, like some other bands I’ve been with in the past,” Leapi said. “Everyone is on the same wavelength.”

Horne cherishes the unity the group has come to achieve.

“We all come from different backgrounds,” he said. “These are people I would not have come into contact with in my normal life largely. It’s been a joy working with them.”

There’s a level of awareness, on Stone’s part, that the buzz surrounding “Hamilton” won’t last forever — which means that Rise Up, if to continue on, will likely have to adjust accordingly to retain audience interest. The ultimate goal is that, even if Rise Up eventually isn’t emphasizing “Hamilton” as much in future shows, the ensemble remains together.

“I expect Rise Up to be this music collective bringing amazing music to diverse audiences and building community through music,” he said. “The music we play is going to evolve over the years.”

Though the group’s website shows that concerts are for now scheduled until next February, Stone clarified that there is more to come. As shows go on, a sense of pride, nearly three years later, remains instilled in those involved.

“I’m so proud to be part of this group,” Horne said. “It makes people happy — I like that.”

In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

A typical stage setup at a Rise Up show. Photo courtesy Jeremy Stone

A typical stage setup at a Rise Up show. Photo courtesy Jeremy Stone

An average Rise Up performance is a high energy one. Photo courtesy Jeremy Stone

An average Rise Up performance is a high energy one. Photo courtesy Jeremy Stone

From left to right: Sam McKelvie, Jeff Brumley, Danny Le, Mikaela Romero, Bo Mendez, Jeremy Stone, Rebecca Garcia, Po “P.O. BOXX” Leapai, Alicia Rinehart and Jim Horne. Photo by Miriphoto

From left to right: Sam McKelvie, Jeff Brumley, Danny Le, Mikaela Romero, Bo Mendez, Jeremy Stone, Rebecca Garcia, Po “P.O. BOXX” Leapai, Alicia Rinehart and Jim Horne. Photo by Miriphoto

More in Life

Forbes Creek Park. Courtesy photo/City of Kirkland
Kirkland reopening playgrounds

The city states there’s been an increase in compliance in masking and social distancing in the city, leading to the reopening

Photos: Students give thank you cards to local health workers

The cards were delivered to home care and hospice centers and EvergreenHealth.

Dr. Adam Rothenber is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon at EvergreenHealth Orthopedic & Sports Care. Courtesy photo/EvergreenHealth
The ins and outs of joint replacement

By Dr. Adam Rothenberg Special to the Reporter According to the Center… Continue reading

Terry Lentz, pictured, has won the I am AGELESS Community Builder Award. Courtesy photo/Woodlands at Forbes Lake
Kirkland volunteer to receive award for spirit and service during COVID-19 pandemic

Presented by SHAG Community Life Foundation, the award recognizes those whose service, skills and spirit defy aging’s stereotypes.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Courtesy photo
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Car review

There’s a reason Honda’s CR-V has been America’s top-selling crossover vehicle over… Continue reading

2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat. Courtesy photo
2020 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat | Car review

Ford’s venerable compact Ranger pickup went away for a while. But it… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Sign up for 2020 ‘Run to Rwanda’ Fun Run slated for September

Clyde Hill resident Sophie Sharp, an 11th grade student at The Overlake… Continue reading

Screenshot of the stray kitten and the Rev. Aaron Burt from the July 12 liturgy video.
Stray kitten surprises local priest during virtual Sunday service

“It was one of the most difficult sermons I’ve ever had to offer, because I was trying not to step on her.”

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

Listen and Talk students playing on playground. Courtesy photo.
Specialty school coming to Kirkland

Listen and Talk is a specialized program for young children who are deaf or hard of hearing

Decorated statue at Marina Park in support of Black Lives Matter efforts. Reader submitted photo.
Ribbons for Black Lives Matter

The display at Marina Park coincides with statewide efforts of the local King County Black Lives Matter chapter.

Kirkland Wednesday Farmers Market will run every Wednesday from June 5 through September 25.
Kirkland farmers markets are ready for shoppers

Both Kirkland Wednesday Market and Juanita Friday Market are practicing social distancing during their reopenings.