Miller Theatre at Columbia University is the leading presenter of new music in New York City and one of the most vital forces nationwide for innovative programming. In partnership with Columbia University School of the Arts, Miller is dedicated to producing and presenting unique events, with a focus on contemporary and early music, jazz, opera, and multimedia performances. Founded in 1988, Miller Theatre has helped launch the careers of myriad composers and ensembles over the past 25 years, serving as an incubator for emerging artists and a champion of those not yet well known in the United States. A three-time recipient of the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming, Miller Theatre continues to meet the high expectations set forth by its founders—to present innovative programs, support the development of new work, and connect creative artists with adventurous audiences.
Miller Theatre's mission is to develop the next generation of cultural consumers, to reinvigorate public enthusiasm in the arts nationwide by pioneering new approaches to programming, to educate the public by presenting specialized, informative programs inviting to a broad audience, to discover new and diverse repertoire and commission new works, and to share Columbia University's intellectual riches with the public.
Miller Theatre was established as Columbia University's performing arts producer in 1988. Its founding followed an extensive renovation and rededication of the space, which had previously housed McMillin Academic Theatre. Built in 1924, McMillin was itself an important venue for groundbreaking contemporary artists, notably in the 1940s and 50s when it hosted the premiere performances of landmark works by Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Martha Graham. Schuyler Chapin, former Dean of the School of the Arts, championed the restoration of the theater; on the occasion of its opening in 1988, Columbia University President Michael I. Sovern remarked, ‘’At last we have a setting worthy of the talent that thrives here.”
Melissa Smey is Executive Director of the Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre at Columbia University, where she leads the campus’s pioneering venture to make the arts a vital part of every Columbian’s experience and the most acclaimed venue for new music in New York City. She has commissioned new works from composers Georges Aperghis, Julio Estrada, Hilda Paredes, and John Zorn; produced the United States premiere productions of Kaija Saariaho’s ballet Maa and James Dillon’s epic new music cycle Nine Rivers; and produced the urban outdoor premiere of John Luther Adams’s Inuksuit, featuring 99 musicians and 1,000 percussion instruments for an audience of over 2,500 in Harlem’s Morningside Park. Smey has held positions at the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Opera, serves on the board of Early Music America, and has served as panelist and speaker for various New York City and national arts organizations including New York University, Philadelphia New Music Project, Works and Process at the Guggenheim, and Chamber Music America.
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