We had the good fortune of connecting with Bill Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bill, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I used to have the worst work-life balance in the world. I had this nasty habit of working myself to exhaustion. While at college, I was horribly ill for 6 weeks (even infecting half the music department) because I did not allow myself to take a break to rest and recover for fear of falling behind. I would not rest until lengthy assignments were completed to almost perfection (which is both untenable and unachievable). In the classroom, I would work 70-hour weeks trying to build a school’s music program from the ground up, getting sick and leading a concert with no voice and a 103-degree fever (something a lot of music teachers probably can relate to). I would feel guilty if I took a break or slept in certain days. Some of it stems from a desire to not be like certain now-estranged members of my family, who took not working and turned it into an art form. Some of it was due to the unrealistically high standards I’d set for myself. I’d foolishly asked myself what I was doing wrong. Why, when I was working so hard, was I so miserable? Why hadn’t I achieved success? The answer was staring me in the face: I’d lost sight of the concept of balance, and I was paying the price. I was spinning my wheels and getting stuck in the mud. I was working hard, yes, but not smart. I’ve always told my students, “no excuses, only solutions.” Don’t tell me why something can’t be done – come up with alternative avenues to reach your goal. Don’t dwell on past mistakes – plan for the future. I still live and teach by this mantra, but I’ve learned to be realistic in its implementation when it comes to maintaining a good work-life balance. Yes, you have to take care of your work expectations (and you want to do them well), but you also need to ensure you care for yourself in the process. Think of yourself like a phone battery. It cannot power things if it is completely depleted. It needs to be recharged periodically in order to work at peak efficiency and complete tasks expected of it. You have to be able to do things you enjoy outside your line of work in order to be at your best. If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it is that we have lost sight of balance in our lives. There is so much more to our existence than simply working all the time. Everyone has only a certain amount of time on this planet. We don’t want to be on our deathbed regretting that we wasted away our lives toiling behind a desk at the expense of spending time with others or enjoying what life has to offer. So, go have a family dinner. Play video games with your friends. Read a book. Play an instrument. Call your grandparents. Draw. Paint. Find your balance. You’ll be glad you did.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As both a composer and music teacher, the path forward was a difficult one and required a lot of dedication. Both fields required me to think outside the box in my approach. I’m constantly learning new things about my industry and pass on this knowledge to my students. It’s been a long road to get to where I am now, and my journey forward has been delayed slightly due to the pandemic situation this year, but I am not deterred. I’m perhaps most proud and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in my career thus far. In 2012, Boulder Creek High School performed a Christmas march in Cave Creek’s Christmas parade. Later that year, Boulder Creek played my composition “Graduation and Beyond” at the graduation ceremony. ProMusica AZ then commissioned an Aesop’s fable-themed piece for one of their concerts. My first foray into film music occurred about a year or two later. My friend and fellow BCHS alum, Amy Suto, and I teamed up on a couple of her film projects. I scored the first season of her web series “Antidote 15” as well as the first season of her Emmy award-winning TV show “CON” (produced by USC). I made many valuable contacts and formed lasting friendships from those experiences, and I can’t express enough my gratitude to Amy for all her hard work and willingness to let me contribute to her artistic vision. Since then, I have taken on several larger composition jobs/commissions. My most recent project, the anime series “Chronexia and the Eight Seals”, sits at around 500,000 views on YouTube. Groups such as Grand Canyon University’s Wind Ensemble have commissioned numerous pieces from me in recent years. I’ve also completed work on my musical, “Caesar!”, a parody on the classic play where Caesar and his fellow Romans are modern day high school kids. There are plans in place to produce it soon. On the education side of things, I was fortunate to teach K-12 music for a few years before opting to teach primarily private music lessons. I was privileged to teach a great group of kids, of whom some are now pursuing a music career, as well. I developed a curriculum for music classes entitled “Why Study Music”; it seeks to meet the kids where they’re at and explores music’s role in their daily lives. Units include music in film, video games, mathematics, science, and more. It is now being used all around the world. As an educator, it is my hope to be as effective outside the classroom as I was in one.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I could list a lot of places, but for the purposes of this article, I’m primarily going to focus on the Music Instrument Museum (MIM). It is a fantastic place to visit for both musicians and non-musicians alike. There are instruments from all over the world, and some are incredibly rare. For example, the MIM possesses an octobass, an instrument that comes to roughly 12 feet in length. Invented by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in 1850, it is one of 7 in the world. They even have a whole room dedicated to instruments that you yourself can try out. The history behind the instruments is fascinating. They also (pre-Covid, of course) have concerts and lectures available for patrons, too.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many people I owe so much to, but I’d like to speak of one in particular: my grandfather, with whom I am privileged to share a name. My grandfather is the living embodiment of hard work and dedication. He rose above a number of struggles in his early life and achieved success in spite of what others told him. He never let obstacles stand in his way. I’m so proud and privileged to have him in my life. His work ethic is one I try to model routinely, and his compassion and care for others in times of need should also be recognized.
Other: Teachers Pay Teachers Link: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Bill-Miller YouTube Gaming Channel (with Minecraft Note Block Arrangements): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3ebFJ1fz8lBsxV7NZFa_zg