Principal Offers Music, Hope to Students: ‘You’ll Be Back’

The smash-hit musical Hamilton has inspired millions of Americans with its fresh and earnest reimagining of the country’s founding. And, particularly since the streaming service Disney Plus brought it to new audiences this summer, its catchy tunes have also inspired numerous parodies.

The latest comes to us from Ninety-One School Principal Skyler Rodolph, who dressed up in royal garb to share his parody of “You’ll Be Back,” which — in the original musical — is a sort of break-up song from King George III to the American colonies, in the style of a British Invasion band. (Yeah…if you haven’t seen it, Hamilton is as weird as it is amazing.)

In Rodolph’s version, the song offers a hopeful message to students and families as they prepare for a fall semester that will take place against the continuing backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

“You’ll be back; soon you’ll see,” Rodolph sings in the first chorus. “Try to remember how school used to be. You’ll be back; time will tell. Just remember that we teach kids well. Covid cases rise; we need them to fall, if we’re going to be in person at all.

“But if push comes to shove, we’ll stay in Connected At-Home Learning and be sure to get it done.”

Rodolph begins his rendition with a succinct but thorough recap of last semester‘s rushed distance-learning model — which districts were forced to develop and implement in a matter of weeks — as well as the governor’s more recent announcement of the county and statewide metrics that must be met for schools to reopen, which forced almost all schools to shelve earlier plans for a hybrid approach this fall.

“You say you dislike the learning that we put you all through in May,” Rodolph sings. “You cried, ‘Don’t make us do that again in the fall or we just might die.’ I know you’re sad. We worked all summer trying to meet the governor’s guidelines. Now she’s changing what we ha-ad. It’s OK; despite all the changes, we have a plan.”

Rodolph’s YouTube channel has been a must-watch for Ninety-One families since March, featuring “Epic Joke Battles” with other principals (fair warning: the dad jokes are strong with this one) as well as educational videos such as his “Math on the Farm” series.

This has been very deliberate. As Rodolph tells the Canby Now Podcast, humor is a big part of who he is, and to him, trying to bring laughter and joy is just part of supporting and caring for district families.

“Especially during difficult times, we need more joy and laughter,” he says. “It is a way I can share a piece of who I am with my community. As an educator, I am in the people business, the kid business. I miss our staff, I miss our students, and I miss our families. I feel a bit more connected this way.”

Rodolph’s song was filmed at the Hubbard-area school last Friday (as the principal himself noted, “What would it be without a stage and spotlight?”), with its IT person and librarian on-hand to help with the project.

Ninety-One has done parody videos before, like last year’s “Read Me Maybe” — a spin on the somewhat less literary-minded Carly Rae Jepsen hit.

Adding the Lin-Manuel Miranda masterpiece to his repertoire has been in the back of his mind since he first saw Hamilton a month ago. “You’ll Be Back” has been stuck in his head pretty much ever since.

“I have been contemplating doing [a parody] for the past three to four weeks and just kept telling myself I didn’t have time,” he says. “But the lyrics just kept coming, so I finally wrote the lyrics late one evening and went from there.”

The administrator admits he has zero stage or vocal experience, but he subscribes to the theory of “fake it till you make it.”

“I would not classify myself as a good or confident singer, but I went for it,” he says. “Fortunately, good technology, a little auto-tuning, and lots of singing Hamilton made it bearable.”

Rodolph’s delightful ditty is more than bearable, and even manages to avoid the soggier moments that made Jonathan Groff’s original performance both memorable and meme-able. (Rodolph “tried to get the slobber,” he admitted, “but still can’t figure out how he does that.”)

“You’ll be back, not like before,” Rodolph sings in the final chorus. “You’ll have to wear a mask walking through the door. Six feet apart. Wash your hands. Those are just some of our safety plans. Get online. Join us on Zoom. You’ll get used to your new classroom.

“And when push comes to shove, we’ll do whatever it takes to teach you, because you’re the ones we love.”

See Skyler Rodolph’s rendition of “You’ll Be Back…to School” below:

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