World-renowned organist, Ashley Miller passed into eternity on March 20, 2006, two days short of his 88 th birthday, after a good life and an extraordinary career. Known to most people as one of the most talented and leading organists in the country and in many other parts of the world, he was also a gifted composer and arranger. His music is sought after by professionals who use his arrangements in their concerts, and by ordinary musicians who strive to achieve some of the musical structures that he mastered. He played almost every important organ in a range of venues including theatres, concert halls, churches, arenas, and pizzerias.
Ashley was a husband and father, and to many people, he was a friend. He encouraged, taught and entertained us. And, he was always in the midst of a party, enjoying every opportunity to socialize. If he sat at a keyboard, the moment he played his opening chord, the room would fall silent. His presence was distinct and enormous.
Over the years, Ashley Miller concertized, gave workshops, acted as consultant on organ restoration projects, and provided musical education to members of GSTOS. Now, we offer a grateful Thank You for the good fortune that we experienced having him in our midst for so long.
The Miller Family was present at our memorial service on Saturday, October 14, 2006 where they made a formal announcement regarding the establishment of an Ashley Miller Annual Memorial Concert. The intention was to establish an ongoing fund that will sponsor one GSTOS concert annually which will be named in Ashley’s honor.
Ashley Miller had been enamoured with the theatre organ ever since his first encounter with it at the age of twelve. His first appearance as an organist was at the organ in the Leonia Theatre, Leonia, NJ where he played childrens’ shows and intermissions. He also played a 3 manual Welte-Mignon organ in the Plaza Theatre, Englewood, NJ.
As a student at the Juilliard School of Music, Ashley studied organ for four years and conducting for three.
1939- He played a series of Sunday morning organ concerts at the Fifth Ave Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ broadcast on WQXR radio. He also worked at WBNX playing programs of popular music on the pipe organ in their studio. At the New York World’s Fair, he played an early model Hammond for the IBM exhibit.
1946 – After completing military service as an Army Air Force Pilot, he was appointed organist of the New York Society of Ethical Culture playing a Hope-Jones organ.
1946 – He started as organist at Radio City Music Hall.
1948 – He started his own trio (guitar, drums, and organ) which was featured at the Park-Sheraton Hotel, NYC and broadcast over the CBS network. He also appeared in the famous Peacock Alley of the Waldorf-Astoria.
1950- Ashley returned to RCMH and played there until Jan 1956.
1966 – He started playing organ for soap operas such as “Love of Life”, “The Secret Storm” and “Search For Tomorrow”. He was organist and music director for CBS’s show “Search For Tomorrow” from 1969 to May 1974. The original theme music “Signature for Search for Tomorrow” was written by Ashley.
1999- He was the first staff organist at the Toronto Organ Grinder pizza parlor.
As official organist of the New York Knicks, the Rangers, and the Devils, he had entertained thousands in Madison Square Garden and at the Meadowlands. As musical director and organist for “Search for Tomorrow” he was heard by millions of television viewers.
His classical credits include an Associate Degree from the American Guild of Organists and performances with the New York Philharmonic, The London Philharmonic and, under Leopold Stokowski, the American Symphony Orchestra. He can also be heard on more than a dozen recordings.
Ashley Miller has defined a style that is so distinctive, that you can’t help but comment, “Unmistakably Ashley”. The introductions and endings wend their way through tortuous chord changes and leave you breathless but hungering for more. In between you’ll find the playful, inventive style that leaves the original intent of the composer intact, but adds a complexity that reveals new dimensions. Again, “Unmistakably Ashley”.
Ashley was a skilled composer arranger who approached the keyboard with the verve and deftness of a master-colorist handling his palette. His talent with registration, combined with gorgeous chords and transitions, created distinctly beautiful arrangements. There was a similarity in the ease with which he evoked a musical spectrum from the classic mode to the pop idiom. Younger listeners were not disappointed with his renditions of their favorite “hit” selections. Ashley was a willing teacher, and his classes provided many organists with valuable insight. The greatest motivator he left us was his recorded music – when you hear it, you hear true musical genius. Thank you Ashley for setting the bar so high.
- ATOS Organist of the Year – 1983
- ATOS Hall of Fame – 1983
- ATOS Board of Directors 1981-1985 and 1987-1989.
- ATOS Convention Performer 1970, 1971, 1976+
GSTOS CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION
This certificate is awarded to
In recognition of your accomplishments including: ATOS Hall of Fame, Organist of the Year, ATOS Board of Directors, teacher, composer, arranger, you have made a worldwide impact on the art of music and have given a lifetime contribution to the sound of the unit orchestra. In particular, you are recognized by the membership of Garden State Theatre Organ Society for your professional artistry, the sharing of your musical talent, your donation of time and expertise, and your sincere encouragement of aspiring musicians. You are a consummate musician who has inspired professionals and amateurs alike and your styling is emulated by all levels of musicians. Most of all, we treasure you, Ashley Miller, as our Friend. This award is given on the occasion of the rededication of the Mighty Möller Theatre Pipe Organ at the War Memorial Auditorium in Trenton, New Jersey, the instrument which you dedicated at its premier in this Hall in 1976.