FeaturedInterviewsIssuesJune 2023

Townes Osborn Miller Artist Interview

Townes Osborn Miller enjoys teaching, playing the flute and traveling. She is an avid dog lover as well. Townes is incredibly grateful to all who have supported her over the years. 

Can you give us 5 career highlights?

Playing for William Bennett (Wibb), and him always remembering me, will always stand out in my memory. He was a generous teacher and a kind soul. My playing for him at Wildacres, Western Carolina University, and during one of his summer courses in England, was early on in my career. I’ll never forget being at one of the NFA conventions, a few years later, and he invited me and the friends I was with, to join him for dinner. If that wasn’t enough, he paid the bill. 

As a college flute professor, having my flute choir selected to perform at the NFA 50th in Chicago was an honor. Having my students attend and be a part of the convention experience was very special. In past years, it’s also been a highlight to have a student receive the Frances Blaisdell Convention scholarship in 2021 so she could attend the virtual convention and another student was selected in 2019 to serve as an intern.

Being selected to serve as the NFA Volunteer Coordinator was a true highlight. I love to be involved and engaged with the arts and flute, so when Kimberlee Goodman, who served the NFA as Equipment Manager for 18 years, asked if this was something I’d be interested in taking on, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s been a very rewarding experience that has opened more doors for me than I could have imagined.

Performing the fun duet, “High Voltage”, with you, Viviana, was so much fun and a highlight of mine to have the opportunity to share the stage with you! You bring so much energy and light to your performances and to your teaching. It’s a joy to share in your space.

I never had the desire to be a band director for K-12, so I received my degrees in performance. As you can imagine, that made my family very, very nervous. But after I finished my masters in NC, my husband and I moved to Kansas City, and I built a successful flute studio and freelancing career which was something that I had dreamed of while in school. To achieve that has been and continues to be something that I’m quite proud of. While living in Kansas City I had a studio of 60 weekly private students, a flute/violin/cello trio (Panapolli Trio), and served as an adjunct professor. I would occasionally also play in some orchestras.  

How about 3 pivotal moments that were essential to creating the artist that you've become?

As mentioned, the 10 years I took to freelance in Kansas City really helped shape me. I loved working with my trio and teaching my flute students. It was during that time that I realized that I could make a living in the arts without having to work for a university or a symphony. I was also very proud of all that my private flute students accomplished while there. Several high school students went on to achieve their music degrees. One student ended up with a dual degree and danced professionally with the Kansas City Ballet before retiring to open a private-arts Christian, school. Marcus still plays the flute, and in 2020, just before the pandemic, he came to Michigan to perform with me. It was a true joy to come full circle. Another former student, after finishing his masters, went on to become the executive director of the York Symphony Orchestra, PA and is now the vice president of artistic operations and general manager of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, NC. Way to go, Michael! I have more cool stories to share about my students, but I will run out of room!

Starting the Kansas City Flute Choir, with Emily Smith, was another pivotal moment that was special to me. We worked so hard to get the choirs off the ground and found such great friendships and success. I’m so proud to say (and I know Emily is too) that the KCFC lives on under the direction of Gina Hart-Kemper.

Turning 35 (which now was a hot minute ago) was very pivotal for me. I had sworn off higher education (being a student) after my master’s degree, but as 40 approached I wanted, or maybe needed, to know if a doctorate was a possibility. I will forever be grateful to David Fedele for accepting me as a student of his during his time at the University of Kansas. I met and worked with a lot of great talent while there and learned a lot. I finished my doctorate in 2010 and turned 40 that year. No regrets. 

What do you like best about performing?

Performing brings joy to others. It unlocks their memories, their joy and their sorrow. It’s such a powerful medium and I feel blessed to be able to do what I do. 

I enjoy the process of preparing – the practice – the collaboration. I have also enjoyed the discovery/commissioning/and playing of new music. 

CD releases? – Nope. Not that cool… yet.

What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?  

I’ll be traveling a bit for business and pleasure this summer. I’ll be in Tennessee to visit with family then I’ll be traveling through Provence and Switzerland with the International Flute Orchestra. Then I’ll be off to hike the Dolomites in Italy with my friend, Catherine McMichael (well-known composer for flute and other instruments/voice). Upon my return to the states, it’s off to Phenix, AZ to Volunteer Coordinate for the National Flute Association, then it’s back to school and teaching…

What are your goals personally?  Professionally?

I want to keep moving forward, keep learning, keep living. I, somewhat inadvertently, have gotten into commissioning new works. Over the last few years, I’ve performed newly written music by Moonyeen Albrecht and Bill Withem that were written for me and friends. I would love to commission more works and create an album.   

What inspires you the most in life?

This will sound cheesy, but seriously, my students inspire me every day. So many of them are overcoming challenges that just cannot be put into words, but they show up and engage. They practice, they ask questions, they are THE best. 

What has been your professional greatest challenge?

I think it was realizing that playing in a professional orchestra was not going to be my “thing.” I really thought that was what I wanted, but it turned out that I enjoyed chamber music and other types of collaborations much more. It’s interesting how “judgey” some people can be when you tell them that you don’t play professionally in a symphony. It’s like they automatically think that because you don’t play in a symphony that somehow you can’t teach or play.  

What has been your personal greatest challenge?

Well, to be honest, achieving my degrees, finishing high school, and all of the drama that comes with that, was always pivotal in my being able to say that I have career highlights. I have a documented learning disability and came through school at a time where educators just didn’t accommodate. 

Who were your music mentors?  and what did you learn from them?

Probably the biggest musical mentor in my life was Dr. Eldred Spell. He was an incredible flute professor, mentor and friend. He was in my life for 30 years. Spending time with him and learning from him was one of the biggest gifts I was given. Eldred had a gift for teaching and for sharing his vast knowledge with all who asked him a question. It was not going to be a short answer but man would you learn a lot! 

Eldred died suddenly back in December 2022 and I don’t think I still believe that he is gone. I still have more to learn and I find myself reaching for the phone to call him to ask a question…

Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?  

Running, hiking, biking, traveling, scuba diving…basically anything that gets me outdoors and allows me to see the world. I love cuddle time with our black lab, Ellie and our yellow terrier, Enzo. Oh…and wine tasting! Love that! Cheers!

What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?

Don’t compare yourself to others – you do you.

Ask questions, lots of questions.

Get your flute serviced regularly (with a flute specialist). Don’t assume the problem is you, it’s more than likely the flute.

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