From Frost to Broadway: how UM alum Q Robinson became the touring drummer for ‘Hamilton’

UM alum and Miami native Quinton "Q" Robinson plays drums in the touring company of "Hamilton," which is now performing at the Adrienne Arsht Center through March 24. Photo credit: Carl Casey Jr. Photo credit: Carl Casey Jr
UM alum and Miami native Quinton "Q" Robinson plays drums in the touring company of "Hamilton," which is now performing at the Adrienne Arsht Center through March 24.
UM alum and Miami native Quinton "Q" Robinson plays drums in the touring company of "Hamilton," which is now performing at the Adrienne Arsht Center through March 24. Photo credit: Carl Casey Jr. Photo credit: Carl Casey Jr

Down in the orchestra pit of the Adrienne Arsht Center, you’ll find Quinton “Q” Robinson in the drum booth keeping the rhythm of “Hamilton” afloat.

A Miami native and 2003 Frost School of Music alum, Robinson has been looking forward to his current Miami run at the Arsht Center, where the North American tour of the famous Broadway musical is performing now through March 24.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to sit in this chair,” said Robinson, who joined the “Hamilton” tour in November 2022.

His path to the hit Broadway musical

Robinson’s Broadway drumming experience started with the musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.” It was on this tour that he got a phone call from Sam Merrick, the previous touring drummer for “Hamilton.” Merrick, who was soon to leave the tour, urged Robinson to audition.

“In this business, you say ‘yes’ and figure the rest out,” Robinson said.

Two weeks after he submitted his video audition, he received word that he was selected to take over for Merrick, but nearly declined the position. His contract for “Ain’t Too Proud” wasn’t up until November 2022.

“It means a lot to me that my word is my bond, and that people can trust that,” Robinson said.

The “Hamilton” tour also valued Robinson’s commitment and held the position for seven months until Robinson was available. After finding time to prepare on his own, he audited the show on Nov. 14, 2022 and took over as the drummer just three days later.

Keeping time and staying motivated

Sixteen months and nearly 500 shows in, Robinson has become intricately familiar with the “Hamilton” drum book. He describes the drums like the engine of a cruiseliner, pushing the show forward.

“This show is so drum-heavy and it leads with the drum so much. I have to make sure I’m doing everything that I can so everyone can build on top of me,” Robinson said.

Percussion is particularly prominent in the openings of songs like “Aaron Burr, Sir” and “The Schuyler Sisters,” and is the driving force of other songs like “Right Hand Man” and the Act I finale, “Non-Stop.”

The iconic refrain of the opener “Alexander Hamilton” — another section featuring the drums — repeats several times throughout the show.

“The crowd always erupts,” Robinson said of the moment when Hamilton delivers his first line in the opening number. “More times than not, we always have to hold for applause there.”

Playing eight shows in a week gets demanding, but knowing that it’s someone’s first time seeing the Tony Award-winning musical keeps Robinson motivated.

“Four hundred and seventy-five shows in, I still take notes and I still study because while it may be my 475th show, it’s someone’s first time experiencing ‘Hamilton,’” Robinson said. “I just wanna make sure that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do to make sure that person has the best time.”

A lifelong love of musical theater

“My grandmother, while she was still carrying me in the womb, said I would be a great musician,” Robinson recalled.

Growing up in North Miami, Robinson got his start playing drums at a small church in Liberty City. He’s been “enamored by drums” for as long as he can remember.

“[My teachers] used to tell her [my mother] to send me to school with one pencil. Never two, because if there were two of anything, they became drumsticks,” Robinson said.

A self-proclaimed theater kid, Robinson attended performing arts schools throughout his childhood. He found himself drumming in the jazz and marching bands while juggling his theatrical ambitions.

This balance, however, became too difficult to maintain when he was cast in a school play as Jim Hawkins, the lead role in “Treasure Island.”

“The band director and the music theater director cornered me, and it was like, ‘Hey, you can’t do both,’” Robinson said. “And in my 13-year-old mind, I’m thinking that they’re telling me I can’t be an actor and I can’t play drums. That’s not what they were saying at all.”

Seemingly given an ultimatum, the then-teenage Robinson left acting behind to focus on drumming. Now, being a part of “Hamilton” brings joy to his inner theater kid.

“Music chose me. I chose music theater. So, to be in this place where I can combine my two loves together is a treat,” Robinson said.

How UM impacted his career

After starting at UM, Robinson quickly learned that succeeding at Frost, which he calls “an elite program,” meant continually working on his craft.

“It takes more than talent to make it because everybody’s talented,” Robinson said. “It takes a different type of work ethic. It takes rehearsing that extra hour.”

When recalling instructors who left an impact on him, Robinson praised Harry Hawthorne Jr., a longtime percussion faculty who passed away in 2015 at the age of 84. He remarked how Hawthorne saw his potential and pushed him to become a better instrumentalist.

“Not every program has an instructor who allows the student to find their own sound,” Robinson said. “Harry was very strict on me, but at the same time, he allowed me the room to grow.”

“We would work on my weaknesses, but he would also not let me forget that I was good and I was at the U for a reason.”

He’s grateful to UM for giving him the space and opportunity to become confident in his abilities.

“Thanks to the University of Miami for taking a chance on a kid from Miami,” Robinson said.

Advice to current students

“Be in unrelenting pursuit of the thing that you want,” Robinson said. “‘No’ is not forever. If you get a ‘No,’ that just means that you can’t do it that way.”

Particularly among music students, he calls competition “the thief of joy,” especially when it drives musicians to compare themselves to others or lose their love for music.

“While we have to maintain a competitive edge, that competition should never debilitate you to the point where you don’t do,” Robinson said. “Don’t quit, keep your blinders on and run your own race.”

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Layomi Adeojo
Layomi Adeojo is a senior from Leesport, Pa. double majoring in psychology & English literature and minoring in creative writing. She started writing for The Hurricane as a freshman and is excited to return as the Arts & Entertainment Editor. Involved in campus life, Layomi is also a President’s 100 Tour Guide, a Dean’s Ambassador, a leader in Inspire U Academy and a research assistant with the SHINE lab. As A&E editor, she looks forward to uniting her love for people, storytelling and the arts.