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Symphony honors Miller at concert

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"It was very touching. It was very meaningful to us," said Harriett Hodges, a Lebanon artist and friend of Miller’s who attended the night of the dedication. She met Miller through serving on various committees including the one that brought the City of Lebanon Museum and History Center to reality.

She added that even though she has attended the Symphony’s performances for a number of years, it was the first time she had ever heard of one being dedicated to somebody and was particularly pleased it was in honor of Miller.

"It was really special. The performance was breath-taking. It could not have been more appropriate," Hodges noted. The Nashville Symphony Chorus also performed that evening.

Miller died April 11 after suffering a heart attack.

"We were so distressed there was not going to be a memorial service" for Miller, Hodges said, adding, "he left specific instructions that he didn’t want one."

On the night she attended, Alan Valentine, president and CEO of the Nashville Symphony, addressed the audience and told them the three-night concerts were dedicated to Miller.

"He said what a wonderful support he had been. It was especially nice that he came out and said something nice about him," Hodges said of Valentine’s comments about Miller.

"He definitely had a memorial service. It was spectacular," she added.

Valentine said the concert had been planned for sometime, but even so, "it was appropriate enough." The dedication also appeared in the program "In Concert" for the three-night performances. It said, "These concerts are dedicated to the memory of James Victor Miller, whose longtime support of the Nashville Symphony will always be remembered."

"He was really one of our biggest fans," he said, adding that in his total of 30 years of working with symphony orchestras, the past 10 of them in Nashville, he has never seen "a more dedicated fan, a true fan of the symphony than James."

Miller had a long association with the Symphony, including the time when construction of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, or TPAC, was being considered. Valentine said Miller traveled with a local group to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. to tour the facility and learn what would be needed to accommodate the Symphony’s concerts in a new auditorium.

But Miller’s involvement with the Symphony went back further than that, too, to when the musicians played at the War Memorial Auditorium on Legislative Plaza, prior to moving to TPAC.

 

In recent years, he also assisted with planning the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center which opened in 2006.

Valentine said he and Miller became friends after Miller asked him why the Symphony did not open each concert with the "Star Spangled Banner" after hearing it at a performance. He explained to Miller that depending on the concert, there are not always enough musicians on stage to play it, and besides, if you hear something all the time it tends to lose meaning after a while.

"After that, we became friends," he said.

"He came to pre-concert lectures. He loved to learn about music. He was just a wonderful guy. We’re going to really miss him."

Miller was fiercely proud of the Symphony and volunteered on occasion to assist the organization.

"He left us most of what he had," Valentine said. "It was just powerfully moving and sort of awe-inspiring," and so it was decided that the May 8-10 concerts should be dedicated to his memory. Miller was listed in the concert’s program as a member of the Legacy Society, a group of people who have remembered the Symphony in estate planning or other ways.

Miller was on his way to attend a concert by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Orchestra from England on April 6 when he suffered his heart attack.

Valentine said Miller had been to dinner and ran up the stairs to his seat in the balcony. He had switched his seat to the balcony because the sound is best in that location. Miller was stricken as he reached for his program.

"I know he would have loved the concert. It happened at one of his favorite places. He was a wonderful man and we all loved him," Valentine said.

The Nashville Symphony will again honor Miller’s memory by dedicating their annual "Symphony on the Lawn" to him which is set for Tuesday, June 10 on the Memorial Hall Lawn at Cumberland University.

The event is to begin at 7 p.m., said Christy Crytzer, senior director of communications for the Symphony. It is sponsored by Regions Bank and the CBRL Group Foundation which is based in Lebanon.

Admission is $5 and will benefit the Cumberland University Fine Arts Council. Admission for students and children is free. Tickets may be purchased at the door or at any Lebanon or Mt. Juliet Regions Bank, Cox’s Gifts & Jewelry, Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, Cumberland Arts Academy and Wilson Bank & Trust in Watertown.

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