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Century High Junior ROTC instructor to perform at gubernatorial inauguration

Century High Junior ROTC instructor to perform at gubernatorial inauguration

You wouldn't know by looking at him that Lt. Col. Lee Mitchell is a world-renowned singer. Dressed sharply in his military uniform, he's hardly the image more generally associated with world-class vocal talent.

Mitchell is the senior Army instructor of the Junior ROTC program at Century High School, but in another life, he attended the Peabody Institute and was a member of the Baltimore Opera.

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Troy Barnes, principal at Century High School, said though Mitchell sometimes performs at the school during the annual Veteran's Day event, he generally is reluctant to let people know about his singing talent.

After Wednesday's gubernatorial inauguration, Mitchell may find it difficult to keep his gift a secret.

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Mitchell, as well as three of his four daughters, will be performing during Larry Hogan's gubernatorial oath of office ceremony at noon Wednesday in Annapolis.

Mitchell, who prior to his retirement from the Army was involved with the senior ROTC program at Alcorn State University in Mississippi, said the whole idea of performing at the inauguration began as a joke.

During last year's Veteran's Day assembly at Century High School, Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, made an appearance and saw Mitchell perform.

"I teased him and told him I wanted to be his unofficial and unpaid manager, and I was already a groupie," Krebs said.

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Mitchell said he would perform at her inauguration, but never took the idea seriously. Krebs, however, said she thought he would be a perfect addition to the inauguration.

"I thought it would be great for him to represent Carroll County, our students and the military," Krebs said.

In November, she contacted Hogan's inaugural committee, and set the plan in motion. After directing committee members to a video performance online, they agreed to allow Mitchell and his daughters to perform.

His daughters, he said, have all performed in front of large audiences before and are all singer and performance oriented.

Mitchell will be performing "God Bless America" as well as "Impossible Dream," the signature song from the musical "Man of La Mancha," a stage adaptation of "Don Quixote." His daughters, Cierra, 29, Christen, 24, and Chelsea, 14, will perform "America the Beautiful."

Krebs said she met Mitchell years ago while attending a similar event and was impressed with his talent.

"He has a God-given gift and is probably the best singer I've ever met," Krebs said.

During his time as an instructor in the senior ROTC program, he was also responsible for inspecting junior ROTC programs.

"I was so impressed with what I saw at these programs I seriously started considering it as a retirement option," Mitchell said. "That planted the seed."

What finally made him decide to pursue this course in retirement was his dissatisfaction with some of the teenagers he ran into in the Baltimore area, he said.

"They don't understand what's important and need to be developed," Mitchell said. "It was my conviction, the divine voice inside me, that asked what am I going to do about it?"

In 2006, he became the senior army instructor at Century High School's Junior ROTC program and was committed to continuing until the class he started with graduated. That happened in 2012 but he chose to stay on with the program.

"I have no plans of retiring any time soon," Mitchell said.

If You Go:

What: Gubernatorial Inauguration

Where: Maryland State House, 100 State Circle, Annapolis

When: Wednesday at noon

Cost: Free and open to the public

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