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River Campus director Gary Miller dies

Friday, May 6, 2011

Robert Conger conducts the jazz lab band as they perform Carl Strommen's "Sausalito Strut" to a crowd of 140 Thursay, May 5, 2011 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall on the River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University.
(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
Many of Gary Miller's colleagues claim no words can describe him, but several come flooding out at the sound of his name: consummate musician, teacher, mentor, linguist, harpsichordist, friend.

Miller, who died Wednesday, was the associate dean and director of the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts -- otherwise known as the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus where the university cultivates art, dance, theater and music.

Miller loved and looked after it all.

"It's a big loss. It's a huge loss for the whole area," said Chris Goeke, who took over as chairman of the department of music after Miller moved up. "It's hard to put into words what he did and what he meant to this whole community, because he was very quiet about what he did."

Miller became director of the River Campus in 2006, about a year before the campus opened. He was responsible for moving the department into the facility, coordinating the grand opening festivities and serving as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. This was his 31st year at the university.

Goeke had worked with Miller since 1992 when they were both professors. Miller moved up, but Goeke said he never really felt like a boss.

"It felt like a mentor that I could go to with certain questions," he said. "He was just always just right there. Solid as a rock. Great thinker, clear thinker."

Miller and Goeke shared a stage as well as a profession. Miller often accompanied not only Goeke, but dozens of other singers and musicians in the area. He was a master organ and harpsichord player and dabbled deeply in oboe, cello and piano.

"He's just great at everything he did," Goeke said. "I've never met a renaissance man such as Gary."

Miller could play almost anything technically, Goeke said, "but still brought so much musicianship to it -- and insight. I could never get enough of performing with Gary. He was just an outstanding man and it really hasn't sunk into me that he won't be around.

"It's going to be a big hole in our lives around here."

Miller held degrees from the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Michigan. He also earned the Artist's Diploma from the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik in Cologne, Germany. He studied organ, organ history and harpsichord while there. He was fluent in German and could mimic almost any accent in America. He helped build the Southeast Baroque Ensemble and sat in on several other university music groups, including the jazz ensembles.

"He could play jazz piano like nobody else," said Robert Conger, associate professor of music at Southeast and director of the Southeast Jazz Ensembles.

Conger and the student musicians who played in Thursday's "Eclectic and Electric" concert, which ended the jazz series for the year, dedicated the show to Miller.

"Gary Miller's the reason I'm at Southeast," Conger said. Miller was the department chairman when Conger interviewed at the school in 2004.

"He was a caring and concerned individual who was a consummate musician and artist," he said. "He's been the most supportive individual for me in terms of moral support."

Conger said Miller would often attend the jazz concerts and send him a note the next day about the quality of the show.

"He let you know you're wanted and you're doing a good job," Conger said.

Miller was not only a supportive administrator and accomplished musician, he was also a treasured teacher. Conger said his phone rattled with calls and text messages Thursday from former students who had discovered Miller's passing.

Conger and students shared stories and memories about Miller before the concert and during intermission.

Many in the school of performing and visual arts say they are dazed, stunned, shocked. But each of them say they respected and will miss Miller.



Pertinent address:

518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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Dr. Miller was an inspiring teacher and mentor to many, a multi-talented musician, and a loving father and husband.

His legacy lives on in the students he motivated. Prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Miller.

-- Posted by Iceburg on Thu, May 5, 2011, at 9:54 PM

Gary Miller was a great musician, a fantastic teacher, and a beloved brother.

My heart goes out to his friends, family, and students. He will be missed, yet never forgotten. LLS!!!

-- Posted by PMA_Ranch on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 12:38 AM

He was an incredible asset to our community and our lives. He was a teacher, a mentor, a friend...

-- Posted by Theorist on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 6:00 AM

Dr. Miller was an awesome person and teacher. He helped me a lot while I was at SEMO. He will truly be missed.

-- Posted by whoknows on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 8:20 AM

There are really no words to express the hole in the hearts of the many lives that Dr. Gary Miller has touched. We can take some comfort in that his legacy will live on in those people he has taught and advised.

To the Southeast Missourian, I appreciate the YouTube remembrances. Not living in Cape Girardeau anymore, it is heartwarming to be able to listen to these students and Dr. Conger talk about our friend and colleague. I especially loved the 'owl' comment...I can certainly hear him saying it in my head..."Now listen here, friends..."

Now every time there's a thunderstorm, I know that he and Bach will be going at it again with their organ or harpsichord duels. Heck...he's probably teaching Bach a thing or two about music. :)

Anyway, if it wasn't for Dr. Miller, I wouldn't be where I am today - you'll be missed, sir. Our hearts are heavy with grief, but we can take comfort in the fact that you are no longer in any pain. We love you - and we'll be sure that your legacy lives on through our own teaching!!

-- Posted by flute1952 on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 8:25 AM

This was a very nice article about a man who taught me so much about classical music, but still had time to stay after class to talk about rock, funk, or whatever other music I was interested in at the time. Thanks to the Missourian for remembering him!

-- Posted by sgodwin23 on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 9:37 AM

My heart goes out to Gary and his family, i knew him and his family personally. God bless them all.

-- Posted by wandadear on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 10:10 PM

Dr. Miller, I will miss you so much! I was going to call last week! I'm sorry I didn't get the word until this evening. I'm in boohoo hard mode over this. I know you'll be fighting with JS Bach to play that huge instrument up above! OR Maybe you'll be playing cello to accompany him or vice versa! I am going to miss ALL the smarts you had. You were SO clever, intellectual, and beyond genius in my opinion. It was you who made sure every one of your organ majors could tune a reed! (I'll never forget how horribly loud they were on that instrument when up close and personal!)

I'm sure your family is devastated so we are all praying for them to be well of this loss. Please know you were the next best mentor I had next to my own dad.

Mary, my extreme thoughts will be with you and your children in the many days to come. You too are a great friend and I know it's tough! I'll never forget us all getting together and hearing you play at Centenary "Arise, Shine, Your Love Has Come!" I was in awe...well, Gary is in a place that he's arisen to be, shining down, giving you all his love from above.

Missing you all!! God's Blessings and Love...

Roger Craft

-- Posted by RogerCraft on Tue, May 10, 2011, at 10:42 PM

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