After a quick perusal of the compositions Jared Miller lists on his website, it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that “no” might not be a part of his vocabulary.
With 43 works listed, starting with solo piano works in 2006, there aren’t many kinds of commissions, long or short, full orchestra or small ensemble, that the 31-year-old (now living New York) hasn’t refused. Fresh off a trip to Spain, where he led the National Youth Orchestra’s performance of his SOCAN Foundation/NYO-commissioned piece, Under Sea, Above Sky, the globe-trotting Miller is on the phone from Nashville. There, two days hence, he’ll witness the U.S. première of Ricochet – Reverb – Repeat with The Nashville Symphony. (That piece was commissioned by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, for the Victoria Symphony.)
Born in Los Angeles, Miller’s family moved to Burnaby, B.C., when he was one year old. He stayed in the province for the next 20 years, and did his undergraduate work at the University of British Columbia. “Then, much to my surprise and delight,” he recalls, “I got into Julliard for the Master’s program. So, I moved to New York nine years ago to do my master’s there, and I also got into their Doctor of Musical Arts program. I continued there for another five years, and have been freelancing ever since.” From 2014 to 2017, when he earned his doctorate, he was Composer-in-Residence for the Victoria Symphony, commuting back and forth between New York and B.C.
It’s not that Miller’s goal was simply to be productive; the consistent quality of the work puts lie to that notion. In 2012 he won both the ASCAP Morton Gould Award and the Juilliard Orchestra Competition (for 2011/2012), and he has three SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers (2011, 2015, and 2019).
How does he explain his relentless creativity? “It’s part of my personality that I can’t focus on one thing for too long,” says Miller. “As a result, I sort of take on many different projects, sometimes working on some at the same time.” But it’s not just the quantity or quality of Miller’s work that’s most exciting. That element is provided by the eclectic creativity and wit of the composer.
Traffic Jam, his first commissioned work, was for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. One might think that a newbie composer with his first big paying gig would write something serious, monumental, and somehow heroic in nature for such an epic athletic event. Instead, “I wrote a satirical piece about the traffic and construction problem that Vancouver was having as result of the Games,” says Miller. Since then Traffic Jam has been performed by symphonies all over the world.
In 2017, commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (with an assist from the Victoria Symphony), he wrote Buzzer Beater, an aural ode to the Toronto Raptors that has the musicians mimicking the horns and whistles of an intense basketball game.
Also in 2017, Miller was hired by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to write a piece, which he called Lustre. “[I was] given carte blanche to write whatever I wanted to,” he says. “For that particular piece, I did a bit of research on the rich musical history of Detroit.” Focusing on the precursors of modern EDM, Miller delved into the sounds of the early House and Techno dance music, which were invented in Detroit. “I tried to re-imagine and re-create the different techno sounds you’d hear in the techno track, but in an orchestral context,” he says.
Over the next several months Miller will be making appearances across Canada (Oct. 27 in Hamilton, Dec. 10 in Montréal, Jan. 29 in Winnipeg), and you can be sure he’ll be conjuring up more than one new project while on the road. “If not working on several pieces at a time I’m always thinking about several pieces at a time,” the prolific composer confesses. “I’ve noticed that that’s how I work best.”