Until recently, Vanderbilt’s connection to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City was from the past. Frances Robinson, BA’32, MA’33, who spent nearly four decades as the opera’s press and tour director and host of the long-running Live from the Met telecast, left his papers and collection of performing arts memorabilia, artifacts and ephemera to Vanderbilt. They reside in Special Collections of the Jean and Alexander Heard Library.
Vanderbilt’s newest connection to the Met is attorney Rich Miller, member of the Blair KeyBoard and father to rising junior George Miller, a composition major at the Blair School of Music.
A tenor who studied with Metropolitan Opera star John Alexander and currently studies with Robert White of Juilliard, Rich Miller is in his sixth year as president of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and is an advisory director of the Metropolitan Opera Association. As a Blair parent and member of the Vanderbilt Parents Leadership Committee and the Parents and Family Advisory Board, he and his wife, Carol, have made it possible for the Blair and Vanderbilt communities to access live streaming of the Met through a subscription service.
“This is the second year for the service,” Miller says, “and Holling [Smith-Borne, director of the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library] has been very diligent in keeping track of the usage numbers. The statistics concerning which operas are being watched and how many times are remarkable. I’ve shared this information with the people at the Metropolitan Opera, and they’re very impressed.”
Miller, who is managing partner of Morris and McVeigh, one of the oldest law firms in New York state, has a long history of performing and working for arts organizations in New York. A graduate of Williams College, he “did everything at Williams musically, except major in music,” he says. As a lawyer he has represented the New York City Opera and done pro bono work for numerous music festivals.
“I became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Guild in 1986,” he says. “After accepting a summer job from Alton Peters [president of the Metropolitan Opera Guild from 1986 to 1999], I was fortunate to learn more about the guild and the critical work we do with the Metropolitan Opera and educational institutions to build audiences and foster this great lyric art form.”
Because of his full-time job, Miller’s opportunities to perform come primarily through oratorio and operettas. He has been a member of the Blue Hill Troupe since 1992, performing in all 14 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. His most recent role was that of Earl Tolloller in Iolanthe. He also performed for several years with the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England, and was named “Best Male Voice” at the festival in 2003.
“Our children, Lauren and George, also appeared in many of the performances,” he says. “It was great fun for all of us as well as a terrific learning opportunity.”
Robinson, who was known as “Mr. Metropolitan,” died in 1980 before Miller’s association with the opera company. “There’s the old connection with the Met through Frances Robinson,” Miller says. “It’s nice to continue that link.”