Old meets new with Georgetown cellist Kristen Miller's performance and album release tomorrow night at Newburyport's Firehouse Center for the Arts.
While the cello often is associated with the classical genre, the singer-songwriter's innovative technique of the instrument creates a sound uniquely contemporary.
The performer's mixture of cello, voice, poetry and loop box that records sounds and allows for layered effects transcends musical categorization. The final product blends adult alternative, classical and folk-rock, Miller says.
"My music walks the line between genres," she says.
Though her sound may be inventive, Miller largely credits her artistic inspirations. Classical composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich and Bé©la Bartók paired with more the mainstream figureheads of Led Zeppelin, Dead Can Dance and White Stripes all fostered the sound Miller has become known for.
"I might not sound like my inspirations, but they all do inspire me," she says.
With the upcoming release of her third solo album "Walk," Miller's musical career has been long in the making.
At the young age of 8, Miller realized an immediate fascination with the cello at Norwalk Public School in New York. Soon after joining the school's orchestra, she found her choice in instruments was unquestionable.
"When they demonstrated them all to us, the cello shook the floor," she says. "I was immediately hooked."
The young cellist continued her musical career through high school and eventually obtained a dual degree in cello performance and music education from the University of Connecticut in 1990. A summer program at New York University's Kodaly Institute supplemented her teaching of world music.
The next chapter in Miller's musical career landed her a seat in a local Boston orchestra. However, the strict rules and creative inflexibility forced her to leave.
"The classical repertoire is beautiful, and I'm grateful for it. But I felt limited," she says. "I started creating and never looked back."
With the release of now three full-length solo albums, Miller's creativity is in full swing. Her artistic aim: to capture individual moments throughout her own experiences.
"I'm not trying to make some great revelation with my music," she says. "We're all so busy these days; I try to capture things we might have missed."
The cellist's most recent album required more than a year of writing, editing, splicing and designing.
"It's like archaeology. You have to uncover it slowly, piece by piece," she says.
While Miller is first and foremost a singer and songwriter, her real passion is in performing. Her interactive shows are frequently crafted by the mood, reaction or direct input of audience members.
Pre-written set lists are barely concrete and frequently change depending on the feel of the crowd.
"It's spiritual when I perform," she says. "I try to take the pulse of the audience. My favorite part is connecting with them."
Miller's full-time performing career was put on hold with the birth of her son almost five years ago. Primarily focused on being a mother, Miller replaced late-night club shows with casual writing, brief studio work and a part-time job as the director of the orchestra and jazz band at The Governor's Academy in Byfield.
Now ready to return to her performance career, Miller recently resigned from the teaching position.
"I love teaching. It feels spiritual in a way to help a child learn to love music," she says. "It was bittersweet to leave but, I feel I'm on the right path."
Coincidentally, the Firehouse Center was also the site for the cellist's debut album release. She fondly looks forward to her performance tomorrow as a homecoming.
"I love the Firehouse. The world would be a better place if more establishments had its same goals," she says.
Following her CD release tomorrow in Newburyport, Miller has several performances scheduled throughout the summer, including shows in Maine and radio airplay on Portland's 106.1 WSCA also July 18.
Well aware of the turbulence in performing arts, Miller eagerly looks forward to the future of her career.
"You never know where the path is taking you," Miller says.
IF YOU GO
What: Cellist Kristen Miller CD release concert
When: Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
Where: Firehouse Center for the Arts, 1 Market Square, Newburyport
How: Tickets $24 adults, $22 students, seniors and members. For reservations, call the Firehouse box office at 978-462-7336 or visit www.firehouse.org. For information, visit www.kristenmillermusic.com.