It’s an old joke: a befuddled tourist asks a passing New Yorker “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” only to receive the classic response “practice, Kid, practice!” This good advice doesn’t quite apply to Jared Miller, who found another route to New York’s Mecca of classical music: “Compose, Kid, compose!” has been the Miller mantra.
This spring Miller completes his Master of Music degree at Juilliard. His composition Souvenirs d’Europe was premiered by Canadian pianist Ang Li a few months ago at Carnegie Hall, and his piece for solo piano, Instincts, won him a 2011 SOCAN Young Composers Award. His new orchestral work, Cartoon Music: Three Movements for Orchestra, was premiered by the Juilliard Orchestra at their concert home in Lincoln Centre this February. “Conductor Jeffrey Milarsky was really enthusiastic, and the orchestra sounded wonderful,” says Miller.
Trained as a pianist, he began at UBC as a composition major studying with Dorothy Chang and Stephen Chatman
Miller hails from Burnaby. Trained as a pianist, he began at UBC as a composition major studying with Dorothy Chang and Stephen Chatman. He also studied piano with Sarah Davis Buchner and Corey Hamm. By the time he graduated, Miller was on the radar of a number of important Vancouver music organizations. In 2008 he had a piece aired at the Vancouver Symphony’s Coulthard Readings, an important program named for long-time UBC luminary Jean Coulthard that provides a first chance for selected young composers to hear their orchestral thoughts performed live at the Orpheum. Miller’s piece led to a small VSO commission, 2010 Traffic Jam, which managed the neat trick of being a fine orchestral scherzo and becoming a popular favourite.
“I’m so lucky to have an orchestral piece that gets played so much – though people never seem to get the title right,” says Miller. The work was commissioned by the Vancouver Symphony to celebrate some aspect of the 2010 Olympics. “I have always been fascinated by humour in music, so I decided to focus not on the standard heroic themes of athletic competition but on the comic frustrations around the construction issues and traffic build-up in Vancouver over the years leading up to 2010.”
“Samuel Adler is one of the great compositional pedagogues of the 20th century and has taught me so much – things that I can use for the rest of my career.”
Miller considered a number of graduate schools, but time in New York was always at the top of his agenda. “The New York experience is incomparable,” he says. “It’s one of the great cities of the world, with so much to do and so many concerts to hear – there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.” And yet somehow he manages. “Juilliard in particular has been amazing. It is incredible that I get to interact on a daily basis with such talented and enthusiastic musicians, and can collaborate with them. Samuel Adler is one of the great compositional pedagogues of the 20th century and has taught me so much – things that I can use for the rest of my career.”
A resident of Manhattan since the summer of 2010, Miller has sampled a goodly number of compositional milieus while chipping away at his degree requirements. Two of his works involved students from Juilliard’s cohort of dancers. Aftermath was a collaboration with senior dance student Natham Makolandra featuring music for string quartet, and Roi is a collaboration with choreographer Ingrid Kapteyn written for woodwind quartet.
He’s also been integrating into the broader North American scene. 2010 Traffic Jam has been performed by Cleveland’s Contemporary Orchestra and is slated for a 2012 performance by the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. And Miller was the featured composer in a new music project in Halifax. “It was the inaugural concert of the Musikon Music Society, which operates out of the St. Mary’s University Art Gallery,” he explains. “They do music inspired by the art on view in the gallery – in this case an installation by Jacqueline Riemer called Six Low-Cast Maidens in Search of a Porch.”
Last June Miller offered a new take on the piano recital with a program he called “A New York Tasting Menu,” complete with a New York-inspired buffet.
But Miller has also kept up with the Vancouver scene and his piano playing. Last June he offered a new take on the piano recital with a program he called “A New York Tasting Menu,” complete with a New York-inspired buffet. It was the perfect showcase for Miller’s new skills and influences and a reunion of sorts with friends and colleagues – part of a career-building strategy that has now gone national and international. He’ll be back in Vancouver this summer for another program on June 2.
For the next phase of his burgeoning career Miller hopes to stay on the East Coast, possibly continuing in formal studies but also writing varied repertoire. “It’s all very up in the air at the moment because I’m auditioning for the doctoral program,” he says, “but I do hope to stay in New York and continue to freelance and grow as an artist. I love coming back to Vancouver because it’s such a beautiful city, but for the moment my career seems to be prospering in New York, the East Coast and, with luck, in Europe.”
You can sample Miller’s music on his website.