“Hamilton” star and McCallie alumnus Chris Lee sits down with McCallie School’s Josh Deitrick to answer questions about how his experiences there prepared him for life. (Photo: Staff)

McCallie School alumnus and star of popular musical “Hamilton” Chris Lee came back to his alma mater Monday and told students to aim for greatness.

“Never let a moment pass where you aren’t being excellent,” Lee said. “If you’re going to do something here, it’s got to be the best. Why not be the best?”

Lee graduated from McCallie in 2013 before continuing his education at Belmont University.


While at Belmont, Lee caught word of a “Hamilton” audition and decided to send in a video of him rapping an original song to audition for a part.

Lee said he was invited to come to New York City for an in-person audition in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, the playwright of “Hamilton.”

Lee told McCallie students that auditioning is the hardest part of his job.

“My job isn’t what you see on TV or what you see onstage in a play; the job is auditioning,” Lee said. “That’s the hard part. That’s the part you have to get through—standing in front of a panel of people and be good enough.”

Since September 2016, Lee has been playing the role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Chicago cast of “Hamilton.”

When asked how he stays grounded while experiencing so much success, Lee said that his time at McCallie and the relationships he built there help him the most.

He keeps in close contact with many of the friends he had while in Chattanooga.

“The relationships we build here are unlike any other,” he said. “I don’t even have to try to stay grounded because I was grounded already.”

Lee said apart from that, McCallie helped by giving him the opportunities to be in his first play and write his first bits of music.

“It was where I learned how to do what I do,” he said. “It all started here.”

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah.