It is safe to say that every student at Juilliard has at least one influence for their art, whether it be a parent, both parents, or a fellow artist. And at a place like Juilliard, the sky is the limit as we dream of interacting, collaborating or performing with any one of our inspirations.
As for me, I have quite a few inspirations. First and foremost, my grandmother is my biggest inspiration of all. She raised my twin sister and me since we were a year old and nurtured us to the point at which we felt confident and were intelligent. She's gone through quite a lot in her life, and to see how strong and spirited she still is, even on the edge of turning 70, is just so inspirational. I can't put into words how much I love her.
Another one of my inspirations just happens to be the Artistic Director for the Jazz Division here at Juilliard! That’s none other than Wynton Marsalis. We both hail from the Crescent City, New Orleans, Louisiana, so there is already that connection. What he has done for jazz music around the world just boggles my mind. The way he handles and articulates himself is so very impressive, and every time he gives a lecture to the jazz department, it is always filled with unbridled passion and a sense of urgency because he wants us to really learn this music. Every time he sees me, he asks if I'm taking care of business, to which I always reply, "Yes, of course." He then says, "Good, we need y'all out here."
Does the name Jon Batiste ring a bell? It should, because he just became the bandleader for Stephen Colbert's The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I recently had the opportunity to attend one of the live tapings for the show, and I can put into words how inspiring it was to see another New Orleanian make it. Watching his rapport with Colbert and how tight he was with his band (Stay Human) was incredible. Every time the band started playing, I couldn't help but move in my seat to the groove. It's in my blood.
After the show Jon and his band led the audience into the lobby in a typical New Orleans - Second Line fashion. Before the show, he texted me and told me to bring my horn, so I was ready to jump in. The first time I played with Jon was when I was in high school, for Marshall Faulk's Benefit/Super Bowl party held in New Orleans. The spirit was as alive in that Late Show lobby as it had been for Faulk's benefit. If you want to check out what went down, check out the video below, from my Facebook fanpage:
Jeffery Miller w. Jon Batiste & Stay Human (Post Colbert Late ...
Had a blast jammin' with my brotha Jon Batiste after he got done shooting The Late Show with Stephen Colbert! It felt good to represent New Orleans, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), and The Juilliard School with my big bro J-Bat and Stay Human!Posted by Jeffery Miller Music on Saturday, October 10, 2015