DANIEL MILLER is a full-time musician with a lot of levels under his knee-length dreadlocks. He speaks fluent French, graduated from Lakeside High School, earned two bachelor's degrees and has traveled the world.
Besides playing in several bands, Daniel also works full-time at on 6th Street South, where he teaches piano, guitar, voice, drums, ukulele, electric bass, violin and a rock band class – an impressive array of talents that puts to good use his degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
A native of Finn Hill, Daniel is happy to be back in his home town, and believes the work he is doing at the school is “enriching the Kirkland community,” expanding awareness of the outside world, and increasing acceptance of other cultures and lifestyles.
Studying world music in particular, he thinks, “leads to understanding other people and a more harmonious world. It helps reduce prejudice and xenophobia.”
Daniel attended and . His father, a radiologist, worked at . His French mother hails from Versailles, and he grew up speaking two languages.
When Daniel was four his father, a fiddler, signed him up for violin lessons. At 11, he learned to play ukulele before switching to guitar. He got hooked on performing in 5th grade, after singing and playing a ukulele solo with the Sandburg Singers.
Despite his talent and love for music, Daniel decided to pursue a degree in International Studies at the University of Washington. He scratched his musical itch as a singer and guitarist with a Reggae band called Nuffsed.
Then came a semester studying in Ghana, West Africa. He befriended a group of Ghanian musicians, fell in love with West African music, and realized that music was his true calling.
After graduating from the UW, Daniel played guitar in the Seattle Central Community College Jazz Ensemble before enrolling at Berklee, where he studied writing, arranging, and jazz guitar.
“It was a really great major because it combined musical theory with recording technology. They’re both important.”
AFTER GRADUATING in 2009, he formed his current band, a Reggae and world music group called The Highlife (see the attached You Tube video). He likes being a band leader. Besides writing a lot of the material, he handles the logistics. “I do the bookings myself, organize rehearsals, choose the material. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding.”
He also found some teaching jobs, but it was hard to make ends meet. Besides rent and food, he had student loans to pay off. “It was a rough time for me,” he says. “I was getting very discouraged. I thought, ‘What have I done? This isn’t a career.’”
Then a year ago, he was hired by the Kirkland Children's Music Studio. It’s a perfect fit for him. “I’ve always liked working with kids. I guess I’m a child at heart.” After work, he says, “I come back in a good mood. I look forward to going to work.”
He especially likes teaching teens in the school’s Rock Band program. “I take my personal band experience directly to the kids. How you work in a group. You have to not let the group down. I really like it a lot. It’s ensuring that the music scene continues.”
“The other thing I like about teaching is I actually learn something. It makes me a better player.”
When he isn’t teaching, or playing in The Highlife, Daniel plays in a West African band called Cordaviva and a big band called Jazz Underground. He also participates in local jazz jam sessions. “They are the most demanding. It really tests your ability. I think it’s good to be out of your comfort zone sometimes.”
He also loves to travel. Daniel’s passion for world music has taken him to exotic places, including Rio, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. He dreams of touring internationally with one of his bands.
He's looking forward to helping build the music school’s curriculums and programs and is excited about a new performance space they will open soon.
His advice to kids who want to pursue as a career? “Yes, I must recommend it, because it’s given me a lot of joy. But you have to work hard and keep your options open.”
Daniel believes in the power of music to connect us to ourselves and each other. “Music accesses the feeling of the heart somehow. Imagine a movie with no music.”