Mitchell Miller BM 32

"Mitch Miller," wrote one critic, "is the nearest thing to a musical Secretary of State." In a tremendously varied career that has spanned more than seven decades, Mitch Miller has been one of the most colorful and accomplished personalities in American music.


He was one of America's greatest classical oboists, a phenomenally successful record company executive, a network TV star, and a much-loved symphonic and pops conductor. But to quote the man himself, "Once you have quality, everything else falls into place."


Born in Rochester on the Fourth of July, 1911, Miller was recognized early on as an unusually talented musician. He attended the Eastman School, graduating in 1932 as a Bachelor of Music with Distinction. He was a New York free-lance musician, and worked in the music department of CBS, before joining Mercury Records in the late 1940s, promoting the careers of Frankie Laine and Patti Page before being invited to Columbia Records, where he was Head of Artists & Repertoire from 1950 to 1965.


In the year 2000, Mitch Miller was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award: a fitting award not only to the Columbia Records producer who brought the label from #4 to #1, discovering and encouraging Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney, Mahalia Jackson, and many others. As a classically trained musician, he altered the methods and the very sound of popular recordings, using everything from the harpsichord to artificial reverberation. He also sold 24 million copies of his own Sing Along with Mitch albums, and led 19 Top 40 hits of his own, between 1958 and 1962.


After leaving Columbia Records in 1965, Miller made a name as a conductor of pops and symphonic concerts, with a special affinity for interpreting another American who refused to acknowledge musical barriers: George Gershwin. This was far from being Miller's first experience with Gershwin: in 1934 he toured with the composer and played in the Broadway pit orchestra of Porgy and Bess .


As an all-around musician as comfortable with the Vaughan Williams' Oboe Concerto as with "The Yellow Rose of Texas," and in recognition of his many accomplishments and significant contributions to the performance and recording music, the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester is proud to honor Mitch Miller with its Alumni Achievement Award.


Rochester, New York

September 14, 2002