Feature – Dr Jo Miller

How do you describe yourself and your work?  

Scholar, singer, fiddler, community musician

What’s important to you about the work you produce or the way you make it? 

Aspects of my work which are important to me include collaboration, building consensus, empowering all ages and abilities to access music making, and the use of music as a powerful tool for the health of individuals and groups.

What do you enjoy about sharing your work?  

I enjoy sharing the freedom of expression music allows, especially – but not only – in unaccompanied singing.

What does making new work mean to you? 

Making new work takes me forward as a person, challenges me, gets me excited, and usually involves getting to know new colleagues.

Who or what inspired/inspires you to commit to your creative work and how?  

Inspirations for creativity are many, and include Galloway in SW Scotland, where I mostly grew up, and still feel close to. Also literature, the scholarship and writing of those who’ve gone before, Scottish literature in general, and all poetry in particular. At different stages in my life other women have been role models and sources of enouragement:

  • My mother Kathleen Miller – campaigner, thinker, teacher
  • Jean Redpath – for blazing a trail as a professional performer of Scots song
  • Rita McAllister – first female director of the (then) RSAMD – for early opportunities to teach and research in an institutional context
  • Alison McMorland – in combining community arts with performing and publication

What’s the next big challenge for you creatively/artistically and/or in business? 

Next big challenge is to write, and do further research in the field of traditional music and learning.

What skills have been essential in your work so far? 

Essential skills required so far have been organisational nous, communication, planning, making time to think, and seeing the bigger picture in relation to smaller projects.

What makes you feel determined to produce great work/music/art/projects?

What makes me determined in my work is the benefit I see for others in what we do together; I’m constantly moved by what music brings to people’s lives. I also want to celebrate the richness and diversity of Scottish culture, and feel passionately that this should be accessible to all.

Any idea, approach or message you want to share?

What I’d like to share from my own experience is – it’s fine to start small when trying something new, build a good network of colleagues, make time for reflection, seek support and recharge regularly, stay interested in everything!

What would make your creative/working life better and/or fairer? 

Things which would make my working life better still include all the things in the previous statement! Also, while staying interested in the big picture, being selective in what I choose to spend time and effort on.

Do you have advice for female and/or LGBTQ2 musicians/artists who might be struggling or experiencing invisible barriers (perhaps that they’re not yet aware of)?  

Advice for artists experiencing barriers would be to draw strength from those who’ve gone before you, and seek community with like-minded folk. Have courage and patience; things do change.

Work that I’m proud of..

I’m proud of the range of things I’ve worked on, and different spheres in which I’ve been active. Over time these have knitted together into a career of sorts! It’s allowed me to make connections and relationships with wonderful people from local musicians to school teachers to academics to professional performers to parents and students of all ages.

Work that inspires and encourages..

Work which continues to inspire and encourage me includes live music making of all kinds, and the creative lives of other women, past and present.

My site..

www.jomiller.scot