Sandra Miller (Flute ’72) is a faculty member at the Juilliard School, specializing in baroque flute and chamber music. A winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition and the Erwin Bodky Competition for Early Music, and the recipient of a Solo Recitalist’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Sandra is frequently invited to perform and record with many well-known period-instrument ensembles, including the American Classical Orchestra, the Trinity (Wall Street) Baroque Orchestra, Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, Tafelmusik, and American Bach Soloists. Find her faculty biography here.
William Short (Bassoon ’10), Alumni Network Executive Committee member and Curtis Storytellers project leader, spoke with Sandra about the ways her experiences at Curtis continue to shape her life and career today.
What were some of defining experiences or relationships you had at Curtis?
Being a wind player, I knew I was being groomed for an orchestral career, and John deLancie, who led the wind class, impressed upon us at every class meeting the discipline, consistency, and artistry required of a first-rate orchestral musician. I was fortunate, as well, to study theory, harmony, solfège, and analysis with musical studies faculty members Robert Levin (newly appointed by director Rudolf Serkin), James Harrison, and Myron Fink. These proved to be lasting professional and collegial associations, leading to long-term academic appointments. And I greatly enjoyed chamber music coaching with members of the Guarneri Quartet, who were also new to the Curtis faculty.
What effect has your Curtis experience had on what you do now?
I was recommended for my faculty positions by teachers at Curtis, and I was rigorously and excellently prepared for the demands of my performing and teaching work. I developed practice routines emphasizing reliability and consistency while I was a student, probably in a small way as a result of Mr. deLancie’s tuning exercise at the beginning of every wind class—which I found terrifying at first! I also think my analytical style of practicing prepared me well for teaching: I listen to students now in much the same way I tease things apart in my own practice. And my harmony and analysis classes really helped me to understand how I react to, and why I love, the music I perform.
What are you most proud of?
That I was able to create and enjoy a professional life in New York City, combining the best aspects of teaching and performing.
What do you hope Curtis will accomplish in the near future? In the long term?
I hope that Curtis will continue to look for the best ways to prepare gifted students for the changing classical music landscape, and will continue to offer outstanding performing opportunities to matriculated students. Learn by doing! Audiences have changed—they’re becoming younger and they’re frequently not well prepared to process what they hear. I think 21st-century conservatories are on a good path, educating students to be ambassadors for classical music. I've been happy to learn of new “co-curricular” initiatives that enhance the standard core musical training, because today’s performer is almost always required to exercise some entrepreneurial skills and to develop additional ways to communicate with an audience besides just performing well.
Why do you give to Curtis?
I will be eternally grateful for the outstanding full-scholarship education that I received at Curtis.