Local clarinetist raises funds for opportunities abroad

By Joshua Qualls

STANFORD — Beyond the rings and keys of his instrument, a local clarinetist’s fingertips may be on cusp of fulfilling his dreams and securing his future — but he’s asking for some help.

Chase Miller, 26, was accepted into competitive study-abroad programs with two orchestras in Europe beginning July 16, but so far he only has enough money for a one-way ticket to Italy.

Having raised $845 of a $1,500 goal through Generosity by Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding platform, Miller had to shut down his fundraising campaign a couple weeks ago when he realized it could take up to 15 business days to get the money. Although he expects to receive those funds this week, he needs the remaining $655 to return home and for other expenses.

“I’m like, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” he said. “So I’m saying a little prayer.”

Miller, born and raised in Stanford, managed to pay the $375 tuition and $25 application fee on his own for Italy, but he needs roughly another $300 to pay for food and lodging while in Ireland.

He plans to raise the money by busking during his downtime in Mezzano, Italy, but he said donations would also help.

“The music that happens at this festival is the only music in the town for that year — they just don’t have anymore music in this town, so hopefully someone will bite,” he said. “I’ll probably be playing like flashy, lots-of-notes stuff. People are just like, ‘Whoa,’ but really I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m getting by.’”

The gig in Italy is the Music Academy International Festival Orchestra, where Miller will play for nearly a month under guest conductor J. David Jackson from New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Opera.

Miller will later play for a week in Ireland with the peer-led Esker Festival Orchestra.

“I think Chase is on a trajectory … that’s going to work,” said Scott Wright, a clarinet professor at UK. “It could be next week, it could be next year — I don’t know, but he’s just doing all the right things.”

Miller, a 2009 graduate from Lincoln County High School, earned a bachelor’s in clarinet performance from the University of Kentucky in 2014, and he followed that up with a master’s in music from the University of Arizona this year.

Even in high school, his teachers knew his talent would take him places.

Local clarinetist Chase Miller, 26, poses for a photo July 1 at Baughman’s Mill in Stanford. Photo by Joshua Qualls

“Chase was then and still is one of the hardest-working students I have ever taught, and I’ve been teaching privately since I was 14,” said Jack Covell, 70, a semi-retired music educator who started teaching Miller when he was in ninth grade. “He has always been a tenacious practicer, very focused, and he’s always taken advantage of every opportunity that has come his way to make himself not only a better person, but a better musician.”

Although Miller has always loved music, he said nothing profound inspired him to pick up the clarinet.

His history with the instrument dates back to an instrument fair at Stanford Elementary, and he selected that one in particular because — well, it just seemed more practical than some of the other options.

“You come into the cafeteria, and they just show you all the instruments — and funny story is I picked the clarinet because I could take it on the bus,” he said. “I had never heard a clarinet before, and then, years later, here I am.”

And “here” has come in a pattern of zigs and zags, none of which Miller said he ever could have expected.

“The very first thing he said to me was, ‘Well, I want to play my clarinet for the rest of my life as a living, but I’ll never be able to do that — I’ll never be able to go to college,’” Covell said. “Long story short, I said to him, ‘If you do exactly what I tell you to do, you won’t ever have to worry about paying for college.’”

Miller listened to his mentor, and he has since found success in everything he pursued.

He has won concerto competitions at the Bay View (Michigan) Music Festival and UK, and he has received the UK School of Music’s McCracken Award for “exceptional achievement in music performance.”

What’s more, he has performed in several master classes and has privately studied with renowned clarinetists Alan Kay and Jeremy Reynolds, among others. He’s even performed several times in Danville’s annual Great American Brass Band Festival.

“I cannot even begin to tell you how proud I am of him,” Covell said. “He’s just an exceptional kid.”

Musicians typically audition for spots in music schools, but Miller didn’t even have to do that to go for his master’s because of what Covell and Wright describe as a combination of strong work ethic and raw talent.

“I was in Michigan at a music festival, somewhat similar to what I’m trying to go to this summer, but I got a call while I was there and they needed a clarinet player — and I had not ever met the teacher, I had never been to Arizona, I had no plans of moving from Kentucky,” Miller said. “I was like, ‘A free master’s playing clarinet? Why not?’”

While attending the University of Arizona’s Fred Fox School of Music, he performed in the Graduate Wind Quintet and studied under Professor Jerry Kirkbride, clarinetist for the Dorian Wind Quintet. Miller also completed post-graduate studies with Jackie Glazier, principal clarinetist of The Ocala Symphony.

“For a teacher, (Miller) is the best of both worlds,” Wright said. “Sometimes you get people who are really talented but lazy, and sometimes you get people who don’t have much talent but they work real hard, and he’s just kind of got it all.”

Music performance is a tough field to find work in, if not for finances alone. Instruments and training are quite expensive, and so are flights for auditions or a series of international concerts.

“A lot of times, people end up giving up on (performing classical music) simply because they can’t keep it going,” Wright said. “It’s a huge expense.”

Members of Miller’s family have been a big emotional support, but they haven’t been able to do much as far as money goes.

“They’re very supportive, but they can only help so much,” Miller said. “They do what they can, but the best that I can ask is that they just let me stay at home rent-free, eat Southern food.”

So when the time had come to seek funding for his trip to Europe, he went to Covell for advice. Covell contributed to the fundraising campaign and rallied others to help.

Noting Miller would make a phenomenal teacher, Covell said he has been encouraging his protege to pursue a doctorate because it would give him more clout for opportunities in the world of classical music.

Wright agreed, adding that Miller would have a chance to do that if he were ever to return to UK.

“I tried to explain this to my mom — this is like the biggest thing that has happened to me for multiple reasons,” Miller said. “The auditions to get in are international, and they only take two (clarinetists), so that puts things in perspective.”


If you would like to learn more about Miller or to contact him about making a donation, more information can be found at http://brymil90.wixsite.com/chase-miller.