Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 19, 2012

Mission: Mountain music

Veteran musician now giving lessons

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — L. Scott Miller has played music with many famous musicians on stages around the world, although he has never wandered far from the music he learned as a young boy in the mountains.

Miller, 47, recently opened the doors to share his own musical heritage with anyone else who wants to learn at The Appalachian School of Music.

“I grew up playing traditional mountain music from this area when I was a teenager,” said Miller, whose career as a professional musician has brought him personal recognition as well as opportunities to share stages with some of the biggest names in the music business. “I always come back to that music.”

During his time in Nashville, Miller said he realized a lot of people from other places study the music written and performed by players from this immediate area, including fiddler Ed Haley.

“The fiddling I do is really related to this area,” he said, explaining the Ohio River influence which caused local musicians to play songs differently than their counterparts in the coal fields. “Traditional music here is more ‘note-y’ due to the river influence with things like polka and hornpipes.”

A couple of years ago when Miller got an opportunity to learn fiddle from Roger Cooper, he said he didn’t hesitate to immerse himself in the works of local grand masters.

“Roger is probably the last living person who got to hang out and learn from those old fiddlers,” he said. “Roger Cooper is a great example of Kentucky fiddling.”

After absorbing as much traditional fiddle skill and knowledge as possible, Miller said his goal is “to preserve and propagate” Appalachian music by teaching interested kids, adults and senior citizens how to play the old-timey songs. “I want to teach kids who are just like I was how to play music here,” he said. “And, I don’t want it to be limited to just traditional music. I would like kids to learn the traditional music and then go on and use it in any style of music they want. I want to teach this to a new generation of kids and see them take that influence to heavy metal or any other style like want.”

The Appalachian School of Music will accept student “from six years old to senior citizens,” Miller said, adding he is the only local instructor certified to teach the O’Connor Method developed by fiddler Mark O’Connor as an American alternative to the Suzuki method. An instructor at Morehead University’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, Miller is already teaching individual lessons and gearing up plans for monthly group-learning experiences. Aspiring musicians must first learn to play their instruments, he said, and then benefit from playing with others.

“The whole goal is for them to have fun playing with other people. I believe if you teach the fun of playing, you have a musician for life,” he said before adding he also hopes to team up with local dance troupes for combined students performances. Young music students are also greatly encouraged by seeing and hearing other young players, Miller noted. “Kids like music and they don’t have any prejudices. If they see another kid playing they say, ‘If that kid can do it, I can do it too.’”

While traditional music will be the focus of Miller’s teaching at The Appalachian School of Music, Miller said “It’s not just Appalachian music. It’s more of an acoustic music school.” He also hopes to give his students a foundation in music theory so they can “learn not just the how but the why.”

Miller’s credentials include “everything from the Grand Ol’ Opry to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra,” with performances alongside artists including Craig Morgan, Terri Clark, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Mac Wiseman, Jeannie Pruett, Porter Wagoner, John Conlee and Butch Baldassari. His list of awards and accolades includes titles such as 1984 Ohio State Guitar Champion, 2011 Uncle Dave Macon Old-Time Fiddle Champion, 2011 Grand Masters Traditional Fiddle Champion and 2012 Ed Haley Champion Fiddler.

For more information about The Appalachian School of Music contact Miller by email at appalachianschoolofmusic.com, search for the school on Facebook or call (606) 739-5095.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.