The relentless fallout from COVID-19 may put a damper on this weekend’s Fourth of July festivities but as the saying goes, “the show must go on.”
At least that’s the sentiment expressed by native Washingtonian Soloman Howard, a world-renowned opera singer, who promises to unleash his booming bass voice as he returns home for a special online live streaming concert titled, “A Tribute to the American Spirit.”
Howard, a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Morgan State University and the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, supported by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has garnered high praise for his stellar performances on opera and concert stages around the world.
And while he won’t stand before an audience as he’s more accustomed, he says that being asked to participate in a concert which will highlight the resilience of Americans, honors veterans and celebrates our nation’s independence provides more than enough motivation for him to sing with everything he’s got.
“As an artist, I’ve been taught to always bring the same kind energy and mindset whenever I take the stage and even though I won’t have that human contact and interaction which we all cherish and feed off of, there will still be an audience out there and they deserve the same kind of integrity, honesty and level of preparation that we always bring to any performance,” he said.
“When it’s time to sing, you get that energy — the adrenaline flows and takes charge. Kobe Bryant referred to as ‘Mamba Mentality,’ focusing on the processing and trusting in the hard work when it matters most. It’s that kind of philosophy that drives me,” said Howard, who took home the prestigious Kennedy Center’s Marian Anderson Vocal Award in 2019.
Howard, whose career he says was birthed at the Kennedy Center, recalled his feelings upon receiving the Vocal Award named for the great Marian Anderson.
“She set the stage for others like me to follow and established a legacy — she was bold enough to stand up for what she believed in,” he said. “She was the first African American and it’s because of her that I have the kinds of opportunities that have allowed me to pursue my dreams and my career. Most of all, receiving the award in my hometown, and recalling how she stood with pride and dignity during that historic outdoor concert after being mistreated by the DAR, reminds me that as a Black man I must do the same, no matter what the circumstances.”
The event, hosted by Aaron Gilchrist, morning anchor on NBC4, is presented due to a partnership between National Harbor, Washington Performing Arts and the U.S. Air Force Band and kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 4. It can be accessed at nationalharbor.com/july4.
Besides Howard, the lineup includes violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Larisa Martinez as well as the historic and spectacular U.S. Air Force Band, formed in 1941, and now conducted by Col. Don Schofield.
“The concert will include noteworthy selections from the guest artists as well as fun, patriotic favorites. We’re honored to have this partnership and the U.S. Air Force Band, who has something for everyone, are so talented that they manage to captivate their audience, no matter the age,” said Kent Digby, executive vice president, National Harbor.
Howard said he’s honored to bring his gifts and perspective as he seeks to exude the American spirit for the virtual audience.
“When I sing the Negro National Anthem, I will sing it knowing that it’s my anthem — I will sing it with pride,” he said. “Every verse will resonate and as the song comes to an end, I know that everyone will similarly lift their voices and sing with me. People want to see themselves reflected in those who perform on stage — and classical music is no different. I’m honored to represent the American spirit as a Black man in his hometown. We’re part of the American spirit. Ours is a long, honorable legacy that I now continue.”