Last Saturday, Penn Yan native Cindy Miller wowed the audience at the Gap Mangione concert with his New Big Band at Keuka College. Her remarkable voice paired with her accomplished musicianship and complete connection to the band made it impossible not to be impressed.
Cindy is the daughter of Marion and Chris Miller, and has fond memories of growing up on Court Street and East Lake Road. “I’m always thrilled to come home and sing here in Penn Yan.” Her very first solo was singing “White Christmas” at the Penn Yan Junior High School Christmas concert in the 7th grade, and she still remembers being inspired there by teachers like Lee Jerome and Jeannine Clark. She was a great fan of the folk, country, and pop music of the early 1960s, but then the phenomenons of the “Sound of Music” and Julie Andrews hit the movie screen, and Cindy’s love affair with musical theatre began. “I imitated her,” says Miller, “and Julie Andrews was a great voice teacher because she sang right!” Miller would tape herself on her dad’s reel-to-reel machine with two and even three tracks, allowing her to harmonize with herself and giving her a deep awareness of how to manage her sound.
Her education took her to Rochester, where she earned a degree from Nazareth College and a Master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music. She taught music and voice for 16 years at the Harley School and at East Rochester. But that drive to perform still kept her on stage and expanding her repertoire. Between teaching and her gigs, she became part of the vibrant Rochester music scene; as were the Mangione brothers, Chuck and Gap. Far too shy to call Gap herself, it fell to Gap to call her: “Hi Cindy. I think we should know each other,” he said. And that was the beginning of a beautiful 26-year friendship.
“I had always admired the Mangiones and all they did for the music scene in Rochester and beyond, so it was a dream come true when I started working with Gap. It’s an honor to be associated with him and the other wonderful musicians that comprise the big band. Gap exudes such a special joy when he plays and it’s infectious... his players reflect that spirit too and his music makes people happy.”
Beyond her singing with Gap, Cindy also works throughout the U.S. with author and lecturer Michael Lesser, singing selections for the American Songbook at museums and cultural centers. She also performs her one-woman shows, “I’ve Got The Music In Me,” “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!” and “Here’s To The Ladies.” The Democrat & Chronicle praises her performances at the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, saying, “Cindy is a dynamic performer who packs an incredible amount of energy into her one-woman show.” Dancing across the stage and flirting with her audience, Cindy sings in a rich voice that’s alternately lush, plaintive, sultry, strong, and wistful, but always absolutely on pitch. She can belt, scat, and croon with the best of them.”
She has two albums of her own, “Love You Madly” and “I’ve Got The Music In Me,” and is featured on Gap Mangione’s albums, “Planet Gap,” “Stolen Moments,” and “Family Holidays.”
Looking both back and forward over her career, Cindy says, “I’m so thankful to my parents for instilling such a love for music in me, and for living in Penn Yan during my childhood. That kind of beauty never leaves you. You carry it with you throughout your life. I’m a very blessed and lucky person.”