Mikchael Miller Wins JazzErie Award
JazzErie Scholarship Winner
“If you don’t put it all in and go for it, then you never find out what you can accomplish.” JazzErie Scholarship winner Michael Miller doesn’t want to end up wondering if he could have really done something with his music. He’s enrolled at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) School of Music this fall to find out. His plan? “Get my undergraduate degree in vocal performance, a Master’s degree in performance and then my Ph.D. in conducting.” Any questions?
“I played trumpet in the school (Maplewood) jazz band for the last few years, so I could play some jazz. I started trumpet in fourth grade. I heard the Maplewood Township High School jazz band and wanted to do that. In eighth grade I watched a senior play the trumpet solo in ‘Brass Machine’ and was really excited. I got to play the solo myself my senior year.”
Mike worked his way up in the school’s jazz band system, playing solo lead in the Second Band at the District three years ago, then third trumpet in the First Band two years ago, and second trumpet this year. Improvising? “We’d play a twelve-bar blues as a warmup. Everybody would play, and then it was kind of last one standing.”
“But my main instrument is my voice.
“I’ve always loved to sing. I’ve been singing in a variety of vocal groups at school for a number of years now. I sang a little with the school jazz band – some standards, some newer funk…Jamie Gardner.”
“This year I applied for a spot on the American High School Honors Performance Series Select (vocal) Ensemble, and won a position. It was students from all over the country. We performed at Carnegie Hall in February. We sang a wide ranging repertoire, from Spirituals to an Indian Raga. It was a great experience.”
“My family has been great. My mom drove me to after-school rehearsals every evening, and they showed up for every performance.” Did they have any worries when you started talking about a career in music? “They were a little nervous. My dad suggested I might major in some other subject, and do music as a minor. But when they understood I really want to do this, they’re behind me all the way.”
“My grandpa was a musician. He had a band in Maine. Now he has Alzheimers, and can’t remember much. He sometimes forgets who we are. But grandma took him his trumpet, and he remembered how to play, though of course his lip wasn’t in good shape. He could even read a score. So I guess music stays inside of you.”
“I’m very grateful for the scholarship, which really helps with some of my expenses. The night of the presentation, I was performing in my high school concert. My mother knew I was getting the scholarship, but kept it a secret. But she insisted that after my concert we come over to catch the rest of the Next Generation concert, and we made it in time for me to receive the scholarship. It was a wonderful surprise!”
By Dick Thompson
November 10, 2012