The Story of a Paper Man

Inspiration can strike at the strangest time and the most unexpected place.

For Harrison Collins, inspiration hit on a late-night bus ride from Texas to Florida.

Collins is the 17-year-old composer of The Paper Man, which is making its world premiere as part of the Akron Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Parks concert series with the City of Akron.

The inspiration for The Paper Man came during Collins’ freshman year in high school. He was on a trip with his high school marching band from his hometown of Little Elm, Texas, to Orlando, it was the wee hours of the morning, and his seat mate and best friend, Agustin, asked for a story to help him fall asleep.

Video: Harrison Collins discusses The Paper Man

“I spent about 30 minutes improvising a bedtime story, which came out pretty well,” Collins explains. “Fast forward a few weeks and we had to write a short story in English class. I had no idea what to write until I realized I could rewrite that bedtime story and the end result was The Paper Man.”

The story became a popular one around school, leading Collins to eventually turn the first part of the three-part story into The Paper Man, which will ultimately be a three-part symphony in the style of David Maslanka’s Give Us This Day.

Collins entered The Paper Man in the National Young Composers Challenge, where it won first prize for orchestra and caught the attention of Christopher Wilkins, music director for the Akron Symphony. Wilkins decided to premiere The Paper Man in Akron and will also conduct the winning pieces with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra at the annual Young Composers Composium in November.

The success of his composition has helped to reinforce Collins’ desire to pursue a career as a composer.

“I almost feel as if I don’t have a choice – I feel destined to be a writer,” he said. “I absolutely plan to follow this path and hopefully be self-sufficient through it. Composing is where I intend to go.”

Collins will be in Akron to hear the Symphony perform The Paper Man on Aug. 13. The free concert takes place at Glendale Cemetery and begins at 7:30 p.m.

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