Miller Theatre

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 years, serving as an incubator for emerging artists and a champion of those not yet well known in the United States. A four-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 new audiences; foster enthusiasm for the arts by pioneering new programming approaches; educate the public by presenting specialized programs to a broad audience; discover diverse repertoire and commission new works; and share the University’s intellectual riches with the public. Miller’s commitment to presenting music not heard elsewhere makes it a vital part of the cultural landscape of New York City.



Theatre History

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.”

Our Director

Melissa Smey

Melissa Smey is Associate Dean and Executive Director at Columbia University School of the Arts, where she leads the Arts Initiative, Miller Theatre, and oversees the new Lenfest Center for the Arts. Passionately dedicated to creating new work and fostering audience development, Smey has commissioned 37 new works from leading international composers including Chaya Czernowin, Enno Poppe, Tyshawn Sorey, Augusta Read Thomas, and John Zorn, launched a visual art commissioning project for the theater’s lobby, produced free programs serving over 16,000 audience members, and commissioned critically acclaimed chamber operas from Hannah Lash and Missy Mazzoli.  A two-time recipient of the ASCAP-Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming and one of Musical America’s 2019 Top-30 Professionals of the Year, Smey has served as speaker and panelist for organizations including the American Academy in Berlin, The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and Philadelphia New Music Project. Smey is also the host and co-producer of Mission: Commission, a new podcast that demystifies the process of how classical music gets made.