Jazz Institute of Chicago

Donald G. Miller: Ellington Scholar

Donald G. Miller: Ellington Scholar
by Tony Schmidt

An occasion for member input was the recent death of Donald G. Miller, a long time JIC member but known to a selected Chicago group primarily as the catalyst in the development of (a) the worldwide Duke Ellington Study Group and (b) the resulting yearly international Ellington Conferences.

The Study Group was composed primarily of specialists, some of whom were transcribing the Ellington “book” from records and tapes and others constructing discographies, filmographies, and chronologies from the disorderly records of Duke’s fabulous worldwide career. The conferences, held world-wide from ‘83 on, let the rest of us in on the new knowledge.

Among the testimony to Don’s enormous unpublicized effect is the following from still-JIC member and early Chicago Study Group member, now in Carlsbad, CA, Tony Schmidt. The slightly longer original went to the Duke Ellington Music Society (DEMS) Bulletin (01,1) published by Sjef Hoefsmit in the Netherlands, used here with permission—Sue Markle

The Ellington community has lost yet another proud and influential voice with the passing of Don Miller. Don affected my life in a number of important ways. He helped me understand the depth and breadth of Duke Ellington’s music. He enriched my life by sharing his extensive collection of records and tapes featuring Duke in private and public performances....

He convinced me, as he did others, of the importance of preserving and promoting the transcribing of the many wondrous compositions that musicians, scholars and historians can now pass on to future generations. Through Don, I had the great pleasure and honor of meeting Gunther Schuller, Jeff Lindberg, and Richard Wang [and many others], to all of whom the music of Ellington meant a living, breathing thing that deserved to be nurtured and shared with everyone.... I gained an appreciation for the countless hours he spent writing letters and making telephone calls all over the world to promote the creation of the Duke Ellington Study Group and Conferences.

The joys and pleasures of this music have been enriched due, in large measure, to Don’s unflinching faith and determination to bring the Ellington community together for the common good of all. Don had a vision that he never lost sight of, and his tireless efforts have made us all the richer for it. Don summed it up best with his closing words whether in writing or in conversation: "All for the love of Duke." Bless you, Don. We will miss you always.

Copyright ©2003. All rights reserved.

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