I started music in elementary school and I was in band all through my high school years, playing the tuba and baritone. In my junior year, I started performing in the show choir and played my first theatrical role as Rolf in The Sound of Music. That year, I was selected to all-district and all-state choirs. Those experiences meant a lot to me and the experience at all-state is what really inspired me to teach chorus. I did all of this while still in choir and band (both marching and symphonic). I was the drum major in my senior year for our high school marching band. Like the students here at North Cross, I also played lacrosse in the spring, but I admit that I would have skipped it for a major performance or rehearsal.
Was music “in your bloodlines”?
Sort of—my great grandfather played piano and was good friends with George Gershwin. He was from Hungary and married an Irish woman, my great grandmother. They immigrated to the United States and settled in Folly Beach, South Carolina. He is the only musical background in our family that I know of, but I do have one niece that is very musically talented. Everyone else in my family was very athletic and active in baseball, softball, and basketball. Everyone loved sports, including me, and it was a good thing to keep us busy because both my parents worked.
Who inspired you?
Dr. Kevin Fenton; although he probably has no clue who I am. He was the guest conductor for the All-Virginia Choir during my junior year of high school. He is a choral director from Florida State, a very good singer, and a professional; he related to students and made us feel like adults. He made me want to pursue being a choral director myself, so I went full steam ahead. I started taking vocal lessons, became involved with the youth choir at my church, and was asked to direct children's chimes, which was my first director job. My last years of high school were so stacked with ensembles, lessons, and performances. Along the way, I have had many other mentors, but Dr. Fenton truly inspired me to choose this career path.
How did Roanoke College prepare you for your career?
At Roanoke, I studied music, both vocal performance and music education. Going to school for it just felt natural. I began with wind ensemble and jazz band in my first three years of college and did choir for all four years. The music program at Roanoke College may be small compared to other schools, but the quality was very good. I also met my wife Kristin at Roanoke College in 2006 and she has been a great supporter of my love of choral music. We were married in July of 2010 at Roanoke College. Our son, Landon Reid Miller, was born on July 11, 2014.
How would you compare our choirs to the show, “Glee”?
Glee is not an accurate interpretation of a school choir. People do not just break out in song with a rock band accompanying them. There is a lot of practice, rehearsal, and learning, but the camaraderie is similar to choir. North Cross is small and our students are often involved in a lot of other activities. It’s very common that my students in choir are also performing on athletic teams and other co-curriculars; however, students in choir have a unique bond. For example, my seniors who have been in choir since for fourth grade have been performing vocal music with each other for nine years. They may play different sports, take different classes, be in different cliques in their social life, but they have choral music as a commonality.
What do you like about teaching at North Cross?
I have a great amount of freedom with my curriculum. I have the freedom to bring out religious text in music and I’m not constrained nor do I feel afraid to do that. I am really able to teach the class how I think it should be taught and I can also change things each year so every student gets more from the classes I teach. With students from 4th through 12th grade, I am also able to influence students and follow their progress over many years. This year we are having a lower school musical in the fall. I had to clear it with the headmaster, but I was given the flexibility to add this activity to the drama program. It is a great opportunity for students in the lower school to build acting fundamentals and to have their own theatrical performance. I hope to see both fall and spring musicals continue to grow in participation and quality.
If you weren’t the choir director here, what else might you be doing?
If I weren’t doing this, I’d either be a politician or a someone in the tech world joining the fight against cyber warfare. Why? Well, maybe like most Americans, I want to see something good happen. Something that makes people trust our leaders again. I wouldn’t mind being closer to the whole legislating process, although I wouldn’t like being in the public eye.