Special to 1812Blockhouse

The Mansfield Symphony opens its season this Saturday, September 17 at 8:00 pm with “An American Journey,” dedicated to American composers and the beauty of America. 

One piece featured in this performance is “Lincoln Portrait;” in addition to its popularity as a work by celebrated American composer Aaron Copland, the narrated piece is dedicated to honoring the life and service of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

When it came to choosing a narrator for this piece, it made sense to include someone locally who, like Lincoln, has dedicated their life to honoring our great country. Joining the ranks of previous narrators for this piece including Maya Angelou, Neil Armstrong, Phylicia Rashad, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, James Taylor, and many more will be Colonel Michael Howard of the 179th Airlift Wing.

Col. Howard served over 35 years in uniform for the United States military, retiring in 2015. Even in retirement Col. Howard continues a life of service as a substitute teacher at Mansfield City Schools for elementary pre-school to 2nd grade, a role which Howard calls, “a job I love tremendously” in which he has an opportunity each day to “prepare the next generation and show young people that there is someone who loves them”. 

In addition to teaching, Col. Howard remains busy holding volunteer roles within local not-for-profit organizations including the United Way, Friendly House, Richland County Foundation, and many others.

When Col. Howard was approached with the opportunity to narrate the timeless piece, “Lincoln Portrait,” he enthusiastically said yes, saying, “I’m really excited. I’ve looked at the words and it’s really, really special.”

“Lincoln is beginning to get more of his due for the person he was. It took a very special person to bring this country through that period. He had to battle a lot of things within and without in order to make sure that this country stayed on the path to greatness. He sacrificed his life for it,” Howard said about the figure of Lincoln.

“The most important thing about Lincoln is that he believed in this republic. He understood that everybody brings something to the table and we need to appreciate all sides. It doesn’t matter what your politics are, what really matters is your commitment and dedication to something that’s bigger than you.”

In addition to “Lincoln Portrait,” An American Journey features an array of pieces by other American composers including Samuel Barber’s “First Essay for Orchestra” and “Violin Concerto” with Concertmaster Victor Beyens, as well as Zhou Tian’s “Transcend” (written in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad). The performance will be directed by Mansfield Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor Octavio Mas-Arocas.

To purchase tickets to this special performance, visit the Renaissance Theatre website, rentickets.org, or visit/call the box office at 419.522.2726, 138 Park Avenue West in Mansfield.

Source, Photo: Renaissance Performing Arts Association

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