For saxophonist Matt Miller, there was never a doubt about a career path. Since high school and a teacher whose love for jazz was inspirational, Matt was committed to playing and performing. A serious student of jazz, he would spend his college years at one of the nation’s premier institutions for jazz, the New School in Manhattan.
Like most musicians, playing was more personally gratifying than financially rewarding in those initial years after college. In New York he worked whenever and with whomever, primarily with friends from the New School, but the gigs were rare. “I took whatever came my way, all types of places,” he said, “cafes, jam sessions, some weddings and corporate things. I was just happy for any chance to play with other musicians.”
Meanwhile, he found supporting himself required the inevitable day jobs, most often finding himself behind a counter in a New York coffee shop.
From New York to Georgia
Matt left New York in 2010, accompanying his wife Loretta Clayton to Macon, Georgia, where she had been offered a position as a college professor. There he attended Mercer University and earned his master’s degree in performance. He also earned a teaching certificate, and by coupling teaching and performing has been able to settle into a career entirely in music. Matt and his wife have lived full-time in Atlanta since 2015. Matt teaches music at Tapestry Public Charter School in Atlanta and performs several nights most weeks in the city’s jazz clubs and for special events.
What does Matt like most about life as a musician? “I love jazz, improvising, the freedom of it. And I enjoy the interplay with other musicians. The connection you feel playing with others is unparalleled.”
And what’s not so great about life as a player? “The hard part for me is putting myself out there. I’m kind of shy, and it’s hard for me to promote myself to other musicians I’d like to play with.”
Matt is an accomplished jazz journalist as well as musician—has always held an interest in meshing the two skills. His series of podcasts alternately featuring interviews with storied players and notes on the Atlanta jazz scene can be heard here.