Podcast Episode #8 – Sylvia Miller and the Miller Piano Music Academy

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Miller Piano Specialists February 1, 2020 10 Min Read

The Miller Piano Specialists Podcast | Nashville, TN
The Miller Piano Specialists Podcast | Nashville, TN
Podcast Episode #8 - Sylvia Miller and the Miller Piano Music Academy

Another episode of the Miller Piano Podcast is here! In this episode, host Jason Skipper talks with Sylvia Miller, Owner, and Director of the Miller Piano Music Academy. This is a great episode that you DO NOT want to miss! Enjoy!

Topics Discussed:

  • Sylvia’s Background and Beginnings in the Piano Business
  • The Miller Piano Music Academy and All of the Training Options That Are Offered at the Store.
  • The Amazing Benefits of Learning How to Play the Piano.


Jason Skipper 0:12
Welcome to the Miller Piano Podcast where in each episode we explore the world of music, and pianos, how technology has changed over the years in music and the latest happenings at Miller Piano Specialists. I’m your host, Jason Skipper, and I’m here with Sylvia Miller, who is the owner of Miller Piano Specialists along with her husband Ross. She is also the director of the Miller Piano Music Academy. Hi Sylvia, welcome to the podcast.

Sylvia Miller 0:39
Hi, Jason. Glad to be here.

Jason Skipper 0:41
It’s great to have you. It’s so good to have you here on the podcast. We’ve been wanting to get both you and Ross on here to do an episode talking about the history of Miller Piano. We haven’t done it yet. But to all of our listeners, that’s coming very, very soon, so stay tuned! Really looking forward to that. In any case, before we get into our topic, let’s get to know you a little bit better since this is your first time on the podcast. I saw on the website that between you and Ross, you have over 80 years of experience in the piano business. Is that right?

Sylvia Miller 1:15
That’s right. It’s approaching 90 years.

Jason Skipper 1:20
Oh, wow. Yeah, that that’s amazing. That’s amazing. So where are you from Sylvia?

Sylvia Miller 1:26
Well, you know, I grew up in Upper East Tennessee, in Kingsport and lived there until I went to college.

Jason Skipper 1:37
Okay, where’d you go to college?

Sylvia Miller 1:38
I went to college it East Tennessee State, which is in Johnson City. Johnson City is just a few short miles from Kingsport.

Jason Skipper 1:47
And so how did it happen? How did you get into the piano business? Did you do it before you met Ross? Or did you meet him and then get into it then? How did you get in?

Sylvia Miller 1:56
I actually did. I was going to College, and Hammond Organ Company opened a manufacturing facility in Johnson City. And I was approached by somebody that worked in HR there, they were looking for three people who played piano who could work in their final inspection area. And I took that job and that’s what really got me into the music business. I had played piano since I was in about second grade. And I played the organ, also. But from there, I worked there about a year and a half, I guess, and was not in school and decided I really wanted to go back to school and get my degree. And so I took a little part-time job at the local piano store there in Johnson City. And that’s where I met my husband.

Jason Skipper 3:00
Wow. So you guys met at the piano store?

Sylvia Miller 3:02
We did? Yes. And at that time, I was selling sheet music. And he was doing part-time delivery at Christmas. He was in college also.

Jason Skipper 3:14
Okay, gotcha. Well, I won’t spoil everything for our meeting whenever we talk with Ross as well. So I’ll let you get deeper into that. But how did you guys end up in Nashville?

Sylvia Miller 3:26
Oh, goodness. Let me think we were working for a piano company in Indiana. And they had two stores in the Nashville area and asked us to move to this area to manage those two stores and that’s what we did back in, goodness, 1996 I believe it was. And from there, we left there and opened our own business.

Jason Skipper 4:03
Wow. Okay, so you’ve been in Nashville for close to 25 years.

Sylvia Miller 4:10
Close to it.

Jason Skipper 4:11
Okay. 25 years. Wow.

Sylvia Miller 4:13
This is home for us.

Jason Skipper 4:14
Yes, this is home. Good deal. So, Miller piano specialist was opened in was 2001, 2002 I believe?

Sylvia Miller 4:23
January 2 of 2002, which is actually my birthday. What better gift could I have gotten!

Jason Skipper 4:32
That is so true. What is a gift! Was it a gift, or was it part of that gift… was that on purpose?

Sylvia Miller 4:41
No, just coincidence.

Jason Skipper
Oh, wow. So, your birthday is also on the anniversary of the store also.

Sylvia Miller
It is Yeah.

Jason Skipper 4:50
Oh, that’s so cool. All right. Well, I wanted to get into, the topic of this episode is actually, we wanted to talk about Miller Piano Music Academy. And I know that you are the director of the Academy. And it’s something that we’re really proud of at Miller Piano. And so, first just to get started, can you give us an overview of what the Music Academy is?

Sylvia Miller 5:16
Yes, it is a group teaching format that was developed by a teacher out in Utah. And we can offer classes for ages 2 and up, and of course, there’s a lot of difference in class for a two-year-old than a class for a six-year-old. But they’re all group lessons. They’re very small groups. And it’s just a wonderful way to learn the piano.

Jason Skipper 5:55
Gotcha. Okay, and so you say two and up. So we’re talking two until they’re still kids or when they’re adults as well?

Sylvia Miller 6:05
Well, we basically, are the classes that we’re teaching right now go up to about age 10 or 11, I guess.

Jason Skipper 6:18
Okay, so I just saw on Facebook, I think it was last week or so, there were several recitals going on.

Sylvia Miller 6:27
Yes, our classes run on a semester basis. And so at the end of the fall semester, which was in January, we have recitals and parents come and friends come and they get to hear what the kids have been doing for the last four or five months.

Jason Skipper 6:49
Wow, okay. Good deal. And so, when someone enters the academy, do they start at a beginner course and then they move up? Is it almost like a, you know, you go through every semester, I guess, and you keep going up how many semesters are there?

Sylvia Miller 7:07
Oh my goodness, Well, it depends on their age because the classes are, are grouped. For instance, if you’re five or six years old, you’re going to be in a what’s called a piano pals class. And that’s a two-year program. And once you finish that two-year program, then you move up into what’s called young artists, which is advanced classes. So we have kids, that are going into young artists now that have been with us four, five, six years now, once they’ve gone through the different levels.

Jason Skipper 7:48
Okay. I it’s my understanding. What I saw here is that you use a curriculum called Art City music that is nationally accredited, correct.

Sylvia Miller 7:58
Yes. Sure is.

Jason Skipper 8:01
Can you give me any extra details about that? Well,

Sylvia Miller 8:04
You know, the typical piano teacher, and there’s nothing wrong with this. When they take a new student, put them on the piano bench, and they start teaching them how to read notes and about rhythms. And we do things a little differently here. This curriculum is a combination of learning about reading music, but also encompasses sight-reading. It encompasses learning the notes. We use, instead of learning A, B, C, D, E, F, G, we use what’s called solfege and solfege is learning the names of the notes by Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do. If you know that song, that’s how we learn the notes. It’s more musical and it’s easier for the kids to learn that way. And so we use a rug in the classroom, where we do a lot of things on the rug, and each activity is only two or three minutes and then we go to another activity. So it really keeps the kid’s attention and just makes it more fun in learning. And then we go to the piano and the things that we’ve learned on the rug, we translate that to the piano then so it’s just a great way to learn.

Jason Skipper 9:50
It really sounds like it. That keeps them interested, keeps them engaged. So I saw this the other day I was actually looking online reading some things and I saw that the philosopher Plato, he once said that “music is a more potent instrument than any other for education”. I thought that was pretty cool. A really interesting little tidbit. Do you agree with that?

Sylvia Miller 10:17
Oh, absolutely. Because people that are involved in music, especially young people, learn so many other things besides just how to play the piano. There’s a lot of self-discipline. That’s part of it. There’s, there’s commitment. There’s patience. And because many times they’re playing with other people, it just increases their hearing. If you’re playing with another person, not only do you have to pay attention to what you’re doing, you have to listen to the other person as well. And so it’s just a great way to learn and, you know, there’s a lot of math involved in playing the piano.

Jason Skipper 11:08

Sylvia Miller 11:09
And generally, if you’re playing music, you’re going to do well in math as well.

Jason Skipper 11:17
I saw that you shared something on Facebook maybe a few days ago, something that was called the benefits of taking piano lessons.

Sylvia Miller 11:24
Oh, yes. Yeah. Lots of benefits.

Jason Skipper 11:28
I saw one, memory capacity, it says after receiving piano lessons, students spatial-temporal skills increased by 34%. comprehension skills, as you said, mathematical abilities, as you said, concentration, discipline, confidence, and grit.

Sylvia Miller 11:46

Jason Skipper 11:47
You know, music is so important. And I think that a lot of times we see music as entertainment. But I think it’s a huge part of the growth of people, you know, kids, children when they’re growing up, and people overall.

Sylvia Miller 12:04
Well, and you know, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who said, I hate music. We all have music in us in different degrees. And again, you know, every day in our Piano Store, we have an adult come in and say, I started taking lessons when I was young. I quit. I wish my mom had never let me quit because I want to play now. And so we offer things to help adults learn to play as well. But this particular teaching program is wonderful and the parents whose kids are in these classes will tell you it’s a wonderful program, and kids that have been in these classes Many times go on to learn other instruments like violin and guitar and drums even. And it just expands their musical ability. Even singing, you know, a lot of our kids learn singing as a result of being in these music classes.

Jason Skipper 13:21
Right, right. So you mentioned that you also have other ways to teach adults and other things. What else do you offer in terms of education and training and classes?

Sylvia Miller 13:33
We offer private lessons for adults. And then Miss Sherry, who is our sales manager, teaches a class for adults. And she teaches the Nashville Number System, which is learning to play with chords and learning to play by ear, and that’s a free class for adults. And so that’s another great way to learn.

Jason Skipper 14:00
You know, I grew up playing music, grew up playing the piano, actually. And I’ve never learned the Nashville music, the number system and I really want to I need to go.

Sylvia Miller 14:10
You need to come to the class.

Jason Skipper 14:12
I do, I do, man because I’ve always wanted to learn that. I mean, I know how to play by ear and you know, I can read music, etc. But I just have never learned the Nashville System and I live in Nashville. you kind of need it.

Sylvia Miller 14:25
Yeah, you really do. And I did not know it either. And you know, I’ve been playing piano since I was in second grade. But I did not know the Nashville number system. And so, I have sat in on many of her classes. Just to learn that. It’s made. It’s made playing easier.

Jason Skipper 14:44

Sylvia Miller 14:45
Oh, yeah.

Jason Skipper 14:45
Wow. Okay. Okay, well, I do need to go there. I need to figure out when that is. Can you explain to everyone, to the listeners, what do people need to do if they want to get their kids involved or if they want to get lessons for themselves or come to one of these classes, how did they do that?

Sylvia Miller 15:03
Just call the store. Like I said, the children’s classes run on a semester basis. We just started our spring semester and it’ll be over about the first or second week of June. Adult, just give us a call and we can put you with a private teacher. Sherry’s class is on Thursdays at 11 am. And like I said, that’s free, there is no charge to come to that. So they could call her and get more information about that as well.

Jason Skipper 15:38
Okay, that’s every Thursday, you say.

Sylvia Miller 15:41
Yep. Unless for some reason she has to be away. But typically, it’s every Thursday morning.

Jason Skipper 15:47
Okay. And they can call you the phone number is 615-771-0020.

Sylvia Miller
That’s it. Yes.

Jason Skipper
Alright. So, finishing up here. I want to ask you one more personal question. So outside of pianos, just so we can get to know you a little bit better. What are you passionate about Sylvia?

Sylvia Miller 16:10
Ha, my grandchildren.

Jason Skipper 16:12
Your grandchildren.

Sylvia Miller 16:14
I love my grandchildren. And fortunately, they all live in the area. We have four. And I’m crazy about them and I spend as much time as I can with them.

Jason Skipper 16:25
Okay. You guys have four grandchildren. That is awesome. All right. Well, is there anything else that you would like to mention that I didn’t ask about?

Sylvia Miller 16:36
Well, just to remind everyone that we are the authorized Yamaha Piano Dealer for Middle Tennessee. And, you know, Yamaha’s the number one piano in the world. So, if you’re looking for an instrument, come and see us, we sell verticals. Grands, Digital’s, we have so many different kinds of pianos these days. And so we’d love to have anybody come and visit.

Jason Skipper 17:06
All right, Sylvia. Well, thank you. That was Sylvia Miller, everyone, the owner of Miller Piano Specialists and Director of the Miller Piano Music Academy. As always, you can find show notes and transcripts of this episode right on our website, which was MillerPS.com, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts, and Spotify. Look us up on your favorite podcast listening platform. And don’t forget to rate review and subscribe. Once again, this is your host Jason Skipper. We’ll see you next time.

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