December 10, 2004
Marcus L. Miller, born the same day as one of his heroes of the drum, Elvin jones, hails from Chesapeake, Virginia, and began his musical journey at the age of three, playing drums in his mother’s church. During his elementary school years (3rd-5th grade), Marcus studied classical harp with the principle harpist for the Norfolk Symphony. Between the years 1983-1988 he recorded on three albums with several mass choirs of the United Holy Church of America, Inc. Throughout his high school and college years, he backed bands covering rock, reggae, funk, Appalachian folk, and jazz styles. Mille recounts, “My parents recognized my musical gift from an early age and nurtured it.“ Perhaps it was his fondness for the pots and pans that led to his first drum, a pair of bongos, at the age of three. By the age of five, he was playing snare drum in his mother’s church. “My first gig was at church; Kevin Ross was my first teacher/band director; and my uncle Willie was my first inspiration.“
After a four-year study of African, European, and Latin American histories at Washington and Lee University, he headed west to continue his journey and study music. In 1993, he landed in Berkeley, CA, and began working with numerous local bands in the San Francisco Bay area. He was recognized by CNN on a spotlight of up-and-coming jazz musicians. Shortly after his rights of passage from the East coast to the West coast, he met percussionists Angel Figuerroa and Leon Mobley. Miller adds, “These two guys opened my ears to some music that I had been missing. They introduced me to Afro-Cuban and Traditional West African music, respectively, and instructed me on a wide variety of percussion instruments including the djun djun, djembe, bata, conga, bongos, bells, and shekeres.“ Before leaving the Bay area, Marcus was fortunate to study with master African drummer Moshe Milon. After relocating to Los Angeles in 1996, Miller was still seeking a formal trap set teacher. He had the honor to sit under the late Billy Higgins on several occasions and eventually met master drummer/teacher Clarence Johnston and began his study of jazz drumming.
“Currently, in the spirit of Art Blakey, Marcus is pursuing the link between traditional African drumming and the drums of the West.”
During 1995 and 1996, Marcus traveled throughout Europe, Japan, and North America touring and performing with Virgin recording artist Ben Harper. Frequent trips between Berkeley and L.A. prompted a move to Anaheim in 1996 where he began a stint at Disney. As a Disney cast member, Marcus has worked in Disneyland’s Lion King celebration (1996-1997) and appeared in Disney’s California Adventures Eureka parade (2000-2003). Marcus was a founding member of Leon Mobley & Da Lion, and has since gone on to perform with such artists as Ashanti, Sheila E., Andre Cymone, Barbara McNair, the Watts Prophets, Bennie Maupin, Vinx, Jimmy Sommers, Tony Furtado, and Ozomatli., and Soprano Rosalyn Clark. Marcus has worked with a variety of dance and theatre companies, including Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Alvin Ailey Dance Academy, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, The Margurite Donlon Dance Company, Opera Noir, and Winifred Harris’ Between Lines. He has accompanied master classes and collaborated with such choreographer/dancers as Lula Washington, Cleo Parker Robinson, Winifred Harris, Bonnie Homesy, Tony Pierce, Marguerite Conlon, Theresa Howard, and his wife, Tamica Washington-Miller.
Currently, in the spirit of Art Blakey, Marcus is pursuing the link between traditional African drumming and the drums of the West. His goal is to spread the infectious and intoxicating rhythm of the drum and to enlighten and awaken the drummer inside all of us.