Miller, Steve (1927-March 7, 2012)
- Existence: 1927 - March 7, 2012
Steve Miller was born in 1927 in New York City. As a teenager, he attended the High School of Music and Art in New York where he studied piano and trombone, followed by a stint in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy Band. In 1944, his talent earned him a full scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music where he studied under Ernest Clarke. While attending Juilliard, Miller also played with the Dean Dixon Orchestra.
Steve’s education brought him to Kansas City, where he performed with the Kansas City Philharmonic. During that time, he also earned his master’s degree from Kansas City University and taught music lessons in piano and trombone. While Miller played with the Philharmonic, he and a drummer friend created a duo and began playing at the Stardust Lounge.
The band and its popularity grew, and Miller added a bass player and talented female vocalist who later appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. The band moved on to playing at the Southern Mansion, a restaurant known for its good food and live music. These shows led Miller to make connections with the socially elite in Kansas City, and he was soon playing at local country clubs and private parties. Eventually, Miller’s band grew to a point that he could quit the Philharmonic and focus solely on what was to become the Steve Miller K.C. Band.
The Steve Miller KC Band performed its signature jazz sound at dances, weddings, private parties, the Jewel Ball, the Ballet Ball, the American Royal Ball, a cabaret concert with the Kansas City Philharmonic, and the World’s Fair in Seville, Spain. He also accompanied Bob Hope and Ginger Rogers, and played private parties for Don and Adele Hall of the famous Hallmark Corporation and for Ewing Kauffman, a local businessman and one-time owner of the Kansas City Royals.
One client requested a show involving opera music, singers and dancers. Miller happily arranged it. Another wanted the history of jazz music incorporated into the show. He created a full show including narration and used it for many years. Miller developed quite a following; he always remembered people’s favorite songs. When people he knew would enter while he was performing, he would play their favorite songs. Entering a room during his shows became special moments for audience members.
Miller passed away on March 7, 2012, of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Sources: Excerpts and information taken from Steve Miller’s obituary, written by Melissa Schupmann in the Kansas City Star and from Leigh Michels’s 2010 article, “Simple Moments, Momentous Life,” in Leader.