“I was warmly welcomed,” said Miller, who began working with maestro Andrew Sewell almost immediately to develop a shared vision for the Symphony’s future.
“Andrew is an incredibly collaborative partner,” Miller continued, “and we’ve already conceptualized new outreach programs and brainstormed new business model ideas to help us weather the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
We caught up with Anna while she was still wrapping up her duties as Communications Officer for the Kitsap Community Foundation, which
But more than that, Anna Miller brings a rare combination of qualities that make her an ideal fit for the job. Born into a musical family (Dad is a multiple-Grammy-award-winning professional cellist of world renown; Mom is a music production lighting designer), Anna left home for college at 17 to pursue a career in classical ballet. Over time, the realities of being a professional dancer—the short career, the risk of injury, the pressures of staying in top physical form—began to take its toll. So her career goals morphed from being a performer to working on the other side of the curtain. But she still possesses the sensibilities of an artist and the empathy she needs to advocate for them.
“I realized that in order to become a leader that others respected and followed,” she explained, “I needed to lead from a place of service, to invest in the success and fulfillment of others, and to do work that speaks to my heart.”
Well worth a Google search for more detailed information, here are the 10 tenets of servant leadership: Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight, Stewardship, Commitment to the Growth of People, and Building Community.
“In a real way, I am grateful for the challenges I faced early in my career,” Miller said, “because I never would have connected with the academic community at GU, or found myself as a servant leader otherwise.”
Miller’s immediate goal is, in her words, “to create an entirely new business model for the Symphony that will allow our community to continue to experience music during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Beyond that, I want to help the entire arts community in our region recover from the significant losses caused by countless event cancellations during the stay-at-home mandate,” said Miller. “My vision is that the Symphony not only survives but thrives during this crisis. The biggest silver lining of this pandemic would be for the creative solutions we develop this year to become a national model that makes our art form truly accessible to everyone who wants to experience it.”
In addition to the adult orchestra, the Youth Symphony was accustomed to holding weekly rehearsals and instruction. Now, parents and students alike are struggling without their usual daily activities, social interactions, and creative outlets.
“We must find innovative ways to reach students and keep them engaged in the short term,” said Miller. “And in the long term, apply our format to an expanded model that will allow deeper interaction, broader reach, and greater program accessibility in the post-Covid-19 future.”
And so, while Anna, her husband Bryan, and their daughter, 1 1⁄2-year-old Cassidy, get accustomed to their new home on the Central Coast, the San Luis Obispo Symphony gears up for what will undoubtedly be an unprecedented season. Sounds Like Home, the concert she heard back in March, will probably not be considered as a theme any time soon. But in the coming months, Anna James Miller and the San Luis Obispo Symphony will find surprising, rewarding ways to keep the indisputable magic of music alive for all of us.
Now, more than ever, the San Luis Obispo Symphony needs your support. You can help by going to slosymphony.org.