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Inspiring Young Voices: Sophia Miller '06 Conducts the Next Generation

Written by Haley Davis
9/29/2011

Sophia Miller '06, assistant conductor of Youth People's Chorus of New York City visits Ithaca for the Choral Musical Experience.

Few musicians get the chance to conduct at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, the 92nd Street Y, Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center, and Symphony Space. Fewer still get the chance to conduct at these top venues within five years of graduating from college. But as assistant conductor of the Young People’s Chorus (YPC) of New York City, Sophia Miller ’06 is one of those few. 

Miller conducts the prelude division, the youngest YPC ensemble, giving boys and girls ages 7 through 10 a solid musical foundation as well as a chance to perform. But she wears many other hats at YPC, serving as vocal coach for children in all divisions, prepping YPC groups for concerts and television and radio performances, and teaching in YPC’s Satellite Schools program. “There’s never a dull moment,” says Miller. “I conduct, travel to schools, produce CDs, create courses, work with dance companies."

The Young People's Chorus of New York City perform their winter concert in 2008 at the 92nd St. Y.

 

“We’re a children’s chorus,” Miller says, “but we’re a professional-level ensemble. It’s opened my eyes to what children can do. We strive for the highest level artistically, but it’s just as important to us that the children find themselves and find friendships.” Over the course of their time with the group—typically eight or nine years—most perform worldwide, from around New York City to South America and Asia—and Ithaca, as part of the College’s Choral Music Experience (CME).

Each summer, Miller brings about 40 YPC members to join the Ithaca Children’s Choir to create a resident chorus for CME, a weeklong graduate-level workshop for conductors. It’s a chance for her to show off her alma mater, but also to work with her former professor and mentor—and now colleague—Janet Galván.

From the time Miller joined the women’s chorale as a freshman, she says, Professor Galván had a huge impact on her experience at Ithaca. “She gave such specific attention to everybody, including me, and I wasn’t even a music major yet. She was tough, but that’s the only way that you came out feeling like you had made a lot of progress. I can’t think of any better combination than having that support and knowing that she had such high standards.”

Professor Galván heads up the Choral Music Experience and is the conductor of the Ithaca Children’s Choir. A year after Miller graduated from IC, she landed her current job when she came back to hone her conducting skills at Choral Music Experience.

“That’s when I first met Francisco Nunez, who’s the artistic director,” says Miller. “I learned that YPC was looking for conductors, and I walked up to him during one of those workshop weeks and said, ‘Hey, I’m interested in conducting for you.’ I say all the time that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Ithaca.” 

Because her IC experience at Ithaca was so transformational, Miller loves yet another role she plays at the Young People’s Chorus. “We have a program called College Bound, and 100 percent of our graduates go on to higher education,” she says. “Some of these kids go to school where they don’t have someone guiding them. My first few years, I actually drove some of the students to Ithaca College, helped them warm up, and saw them through the audition.”

Sophia Miller '06, assistant conductor of Youth People's Chorus of New York City visits Ithaca for the Choral Musical Experience.
 

This is the ripple effect of Ithaca College. Sophia Miller’s professors at Ithaca College influenced her in a positive way, so she in turn reaches out and inspires the next generation. “That ripple effect might be more important than being some sort of incredibly enormous figure,” she says. “I think it’s those little steps people need to focus on taking—they find they’ll reach back out to somebody and be inspired to do more.”



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