Red-headed Tegan Miller looks striking in her 50’s-vibe magenta dress and bedazzled cat-eye glasses. But what makes that makes this vibrant young woman truly striking is her passion and empathy for others!
As Miller says, “You sometimes can’t verbalize the magic of choir, but you know exactly how it makes you feel to sing in community with others! The empathetic parts of our brain light up and it makes us all feel connected.” Miller’s philosophy as a voice teacher and educator is that everyone can sing. “Does it take some people more time to work on skills? Of course. Every rehearsal starts with a thirty-minute voice lesson, and we work a lot on release of air flow and on strengthen the muscles to sing in our ‘head voice.’”
Miller grew up in Kentucky, earning her undergraduate degree in Music Education from the University of Kentucky. She recounts how she joyfully taught middle school choir for three years before a major life change prompted the brave decision to follow her dream of living and performing in New York. The hustle of auditions and side gigs, including a stint at an Apple store, soon led the multi-genre soprano and musical theater performer to roles in Off-Broadway and national touring shows, and to jobs in music direction. (She met her Grammy-nominated composer, orchestrator/arranger, and pianist husband Assaf Gleizner through directing some of the shows he had written.)
Miller says that because the world of music direction can be very male-dominated and toxic, she began teaching voice lessons and ultimately opened her own voice studio, MTC Vocal Academy. She and Gleizner visited Savannah every year for the American Traditions Vocal Collection competition in which she eventually competed, becoming a semi-finalist and winner of the People’s Choice Award in February of 2020. Due to that wonderful experience and to the wonderful (compared to New York!) weather, they relocated to Savannah during the pandemic, and Miller now operates her Vocal Academy out of their downtown home. Meanwhile, husband Gleizner has two of his shows on tour, works on musical projects with the Savannah Philharmonic and local theaters, contracts with SCAD, and creates Isreally Hummus out of the Kosher commercial rental kitchen he established off Eisenhower and Waters Avenue.
Last year, Miller attained her Masters in Choral Conducting from Iowa’s Simpson College, and it was during those studies that it really hit home to her how female, Black, indigenous and other composers of color were underrepresented in academia. “In choral literature class you work historically and learn what has influenced us. But where do I see myself in all of this? I knew there were more vocal colors out there! For example, the choirs that inspire me most are a Bulgarian women’s chorus and the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers [the founder of the Aeolians at Oakwood University, the first Historically Black College/University], all people of color who sing everything from Bach to Gospel.”
Miller goes on, “I’ve always been a person who, if I see a need, I want to fill it, and I’ve always been inspired by justice and equality and fairness. Founding Spectra Choir is close to my heart because of who I am as a person…I love singing musical theater, I love singing jazz, I love teaching voice, but when I’m on a podium in front of a group of singers, I feel at home. I am a choral person through and through!” Her passion shines brightly; she feels everything she’s experienced has led her to this point….opening her business, working with her husband on the hummus company, performing with him in jazz cabarets or in her swing band Tegan and The Turnarounds, and even working in the Apple store. She credits this last experience with strengthening her people skills, telling me that in her three-week Apple training, only one of the days focused on product knowledge. The other days concentrated on how to better help customers and problem-solve together.
Under Miller’s ardent leadership, the choir is steadily growing. At the first concert a year ago there were 13 singers, at the spring concert there were 20, and today there are 30 members. “But the more, the merrier! My college women’s choir had 100 voices!” she laughs. “It’s very important to me that anyone who is interested in joining is made to feel encouraged. The choir is open to any singer who has a treble [soprano or alto] voice and non-binary and trans singers are welcome - that’s why I call it a treble choir and not a women’s choir.” Miller continues, “There is no experience necessary. There is no audition. Everyone gets a thirty-minute voice lesson with me instead, and everyone can learn to read music. I help in as many ways as I can.”
But back to the Dec. 16 concert… Miller has entitled it “A Love Letter to Our Younger Selves” and describes it as “a celebration of empowerment, resilience, and the light that shines within each of us. Our love letter is a reminder that we should never let others dim our light, keep us small, or define who we are.” The program features percussionists, a cello and piano duet, and a banjo solo, while highlighting music from female, BIPOC, and immigrant composers. The hour-long concert, which also includes the world premiere of a piece by husband Assaf Gleizner, will be followed by a reception and silent auction.
In speaking about the repertoire for the performance Miller says, “We already have enough adversity in our world. When I first moved here, I met so many singers who felt discarded in their lives. I wanted to create a space where women could come and really shine their light and love themselves. It all starts when we are little girls. If we could just change that messaging.”
To that end, Miller gave journals to each of her singers, and several will read the messages they have written to their younger selves. “We have shed some tears during rehearsal!” she says, and indeed, she tears up as she relates how one choir member had an emotionally cathartic and healing experience by sharing her letter with her children. Fittingly, Miller includes younger singers in the concert with choir member Rebecca Flaherty bringing students from her Marshpoint Elementary School choir to participate.
Come, open your ears and open your heart, as you experience the healing power of voice!
Spectra Choir’s “A Love Letter to our Younger Selves” will be performed on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 3pm at Asbury Memorial Church, 1008 E. Henry Street. $20 and $25 tickets are available at the door, but attendees are encouraged to purchase ahead via Eventbrite. Find out more about joining the choir at spectrachoir.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @spectrachoir.