Just to the left of the impressive Columbia University entrance gate at Broadway and 116th Street is the Miller Theater. Beginning its life as a lecture hall, the theater was established with funding from the Kathryn Bache Miller Fund, Brooke Astor and John Goelet (marking last year as its 20th anniversary) and is now a performing arts center covering contemporary classical music, opera, dance, film and jazz.
George Steel, who was the Director until last October when he left to head up the Dallas Opera, was responsible for reshaping the theater's programming to include a jazz series. There were only three jazz events per season scheduled for the first few years, but as the acceptance and audience has grown, the jazz events now number up to five per season. Melissa Smey, who is now the Acting Director and was General Manager for eight years, had been doing the jazz programming for the last few years. She is delighted to be working with jazz artists: It's such a dream job to be able to work with musicians and put on their concerts, bring an audience to it and bring the musicians to the audience and have them enjoy it. Musicians such as Eric Reed, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash, Cyrus Chestnut, Terence Blanchard and even John Zorn have performed at the theater. The
programming leans towards straightahead jazz with few forays into 'new' or avant garde jazz. Our
audience likes straightahead jazz best, commented Smey.