Seneca saxophonist makes school history

Matt Miller earned a chair in the All State Jazz Ensemble and will be performing a solo at Seneca’s winter concert.

Matt Miller is pictured above.

Seneca High School sophomore Matt Miller has made school history by being the first Seneca band member to be a part of the New Jersey All State Jazz Ensemble.

Miller’s passion for music developed when he was a child, playing with toy pianos and xylophones, until he was able to take piano lessons in second grade and saxophone lessons in fourth grade.

His talent doesn’t stop there — he can also play soprano, alto, tenor and bari saxophones, bass clarinet, clarinet, piccolo flute and various other flutes.

During his freshman year at Seneca, he auditioned for the All South Jersey regional band and was named first chair in alto saxophone.

After his performance with the All South Jersey band, Miller did what most high school band members can only dream of, and that is to earn a chair in the All State band.

Seneca band director Doug Barber said it is extremely rare for a freshman to accomplish this, with the saxophone being one of the hardest positions to earn.

Miller was offered second chair for alto and tenor saxophones and first chair for bari saxophone. He was able to choose which chair he wanted and he chose tenor.

“I didn’t really expect to make it at all, I heard a lot of really good kids in that room,” Miller said. “No one [at Seneca has] ever done this, that makes it really special. Plus, playing with the band was really fun.”

The All State Jazz Ensemble performed at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City on Nov. 8 and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Nov. 16.

“There are some people that crack under pressure; he seems to thrive under it,” Barber said.

Barber challenges Miller to continue to learn by having him practice the clarinet and flute, which most people do not master until college. Barber said that in a professional band setting or as a part of a production on Broadway, saxophone players are expected to know those instruments as well as saxophones.

“I always tell him, ‘the worst thing to be is first chair because you have nobody to learn from,’” Barber said. “He needs to get himself into some situations where he’s challenged and intimidated.”

Barber said Miller’s talent has developed very quickly and will continue to grow throughout his journey in college. Although he has accomplished so much at a young age, Barber said he still has more to learn.

“I think the best part about him is he knows he has a long way to go. A lot of times when kids achieve this much this quickly, they think they’re at the top of the mountain,” Barber said. “I think he understands he’s at the bottom of this mountain — he can’t even see the top of it yet.”

Miller will be performing a solo of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” at Seneca’s winter concert on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. The concert is free of charge and is open to the public.