Victoria Symphony's music director, Tania Miller

THE BIG PERSONALITY: Tania Miller

Victoria Symphony's music director gets ready to launch the 2014/15 season with Symphony Splash on Aug. 3

Foam Lake, Saskatchewan may not necessarily give the impression of being a community where a love for the arts can flourish, but Tania Miller says her small-town roots are to thank for her musical success.

A tiny farming town, where community life revolves around the hockey rink, Foam Lake – and the kids who lived there some 30 years ago – was lucky to have access to a musician who came in to town to teach a couple of days a week.

One of those students, Miller, sat down at an organ bench for the first time at eight years old. By the age of 13, she had decided music was her calling.

“Because I lived in a small town, there was a lot of need for organists and pianists in the local churches, and I was constantly being asked to play in various places,” Miller says. “And because of that, by the age of 13 I was basically the principle musician in one of the local churches and I was leading a lot of things. I was forced into taking a leading role early on. I was really enjoying being involved in the community aspects of music that brought people together.”

It’s that same passion for community that continues to inspire Miller today, as she enters her 12th season as music director for the Victoria Symphony. Kicking off the season on Aug. 3 is the unique-to-Victoria Symphony Splash, where the 55-member orchestra performs for 40,000 spectators from a barge floating in the Inner Harbour.

“Symphony Splash is one of the most incredible community-building events on the planet. I think it’s just phenomenal how our community completely embraces this beautiful day where everybody comes together, enjoys the environment, enjoys the people and enjoys the atmosphere of music,” Miller says.

It wasn’t until she was 16 years old – with aspirations of performing at Carnegie Hall – that she got her first real taste of classical music. Sitting in the audience at the Regina Symphony Orchestra remains just as strong a memory for her today as it was back then.

“I still remember the impact of hearing that live sound; it was something that I’d never experienced in my life. I remember the first piece was Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – it’s very evocative music,” she says.

Today, when she stands in front of the orchestra to lead the Symphony musicians, she naturally recalls the moment she heard the first few notes of Debussy.

“I think about that 16-year-old girl every time I do a concert, with adults and with children. I see those little girls especially, and these girls are coming away from this concert feeling like women and girls can do anything they want,” she says. “I understand what it means to come from the most humble of roots, and to not be brought up with a sophisticated musical fabric of life around me. To know that I had in me a passion for music that was virtually being discovered along the way, I now look at my audience with the same eyes; that each one of those people doesn’t know yet what their own capabilities and musical loves are.”

It was August 2003 when Miller took the stage for the first time ever as maestra of the Victoria Symphony. That performance? Symphony Splash. And the experience blew her away.

“I remember standing up on the stage, looking out on the audience – I had never seen a Symphony Splash before, so it was a bit steep in terms of breaking me in to Victoria,” Miller says. “Everything is on such a grand scale. I remember feeling the unbelievable energy and enthusiasm from the audience; everyone’s just so excited to be there. It was so mind-blowing, so overwhelmingly exciting. I truly love and look forward to Symphony Splash and that opportunity to connect so many people to the music.”

Celebrating 25 years on Aug. 3, this year’s Splash features nine-year-old young soloist Erik Lin, as well as Vox Humana choir performing alongside the Symphony. The set list includes classical scores and newer music, including a piece commemorating the First World War and a mash-up of video game music.

Miller, who’ll step down at the end of the 2016-17 season, hopes she’s helping establish the Symphony as as much a pillar of community in Victoria, as hockey is in Foam Lake.

“I hope to leave behind, more than anything, a sense that music and an orchestra in a community is imperative to a great life,” she says. “I want to leave this mark that the orchestra is so much embedded in the fabric of the community that it plays an enormous role in the vibrancy and quality of Victoria.”

 

Just Posted

Glass Tiger hits reimagined, brought to the stage

The pride of Newmarket Ont. performs songs from 31 at the McPherson Playhouse

Multiple Juno Award winning Arkells bringing new tunes to Victoria in 2019

Hamilton-based rock band proved hugely popular in city during Canada 150 celebrations

Bill Gaston, Monique Gray Smith capture Victoria Book Prizes for 2018

Butler Book Prize and Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize winners collect $5,000 each

Canada’s country music sweetheart brings The Gumboot Kids to town

Jessie Farrell to perform songs from her hit CBC TV series at McTavish Academy of Arts

VIFF wrap-up: Finely crafted films part of festival finale

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells puts a cap on his 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival experience

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

CRUSH 2018: Fine wine affair benefits the Belfry Theatre

Patrons sample B.C. wines, bid on rare international treasures donated for fundraiser

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

INDY FILM FARE: 1970s hedonism and more at The Vic Theatre

From Studio 54 to Rocky Horror, there’s plenty of excess to observe this month

Shark-attack metal band coming to Victoria tonight

Shark Infested Daughters, a Calgary metalcore group, play the Upstairs Cabaret tonight, Oct. 13

STAGE AND SONG: Spotlight on Victoria arts groups

Learn about some of the city’s favourite theatre and musical entertainment options

Island lensman Jim Decker lands three top photography awards

During exciting photo trip to Yap in Micronesia, Cobble Hill man earns trio of firsts

Most Read