Dr. Eric Millard began to study the trumpet in the fourth grade, continuing to take classes in music and perform in district and state bands throughout his youth. He initially studied music education at the University of Kentucky, wanting to follow in the steps of his former middle and high school teachers, but ultimately decided to switch to performance.
Millard has since performed with orchestras such as the Tallahassee Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Ballet Idaho, Pensacola Symphony, Sinfonia Gulf Coast, Northwest Florida Symphony, and Albany Symphony. And since arriving in Charlotte nearly six years ago, he has joined forces with the Charlotte Symphony in concert and in performances with Charlotte Ballet and Opera Carolina. As a solo performer, has won prizes at prestigious competitions such as the International Trumpet Guild (ITG) Solo Competition, NTC, Music Teachers National Association Solo Competition, and the U.S. Army Band National Collegiate Solo Competition and has won concerto competitions at both of his alma maters (University of Kentucky and Florida State University).
But through his years performing, Millard found his way back into education, rediscovering his passion for teaching as a TA in graduate school at Florida State.
“That ability to mentor students and to work with them, and not just teach them trumpet, but have time and the freedom to work on helping to craft them as human beings and help shape their career and just have a meaningful impact and strong relationship with our students,” is what drives him, he says. “We focus on a kind of family oriented environment. I think that helps everyone thrive. As a studio professor, I get to actually nurture and create that environment and that culture within, not just one student, but a whole studio of people.”
Beyond nurturing a new generation of trumpeters, Millard has also been able to grow his connections with students through the Levine Scholars summer outdoor program, run through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Each summer the Levine Scholars embark on a 25-day backpacking trip through the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. For the past four years, Millard has joined this trip, helping students learn important leadership and independence skills while adventuring through the American wilderness. It has provided Millard with some of his fondest experiences.
“Away from the structure and formalities of the classroom, I'm able to connect with the scholars at a deep personal level that is often unattainable on campus. Watching the students transform and mature before my eyes is probably the most incredible part of this trip each year. They learn so much about themselves and become an inseparable family in only a few weeks. Knowing that I played even a small role in that process is the crux of being a teacher, and I work to bring that same approach to my work on campus.”
Millard is constantly challenging his students to grow into strong and flexible musicians.
“To me, it's important to have a pretty well-balanced ability as a musician, whether they're going to be an educator or they're going to be a performer. Not one of us as musicians ever just does one thing. My main wheel house is playing with orchestras, and that's my most comfortable and probably the thing I do the most often. That gives me the experiences I want and also gives me gigs and opportunities to make money. But I also have done musicals. I did Aladdin a couple years ago when it was on tour here. And I've done some cover band work, and funk and rock. And the more diverse skill sets the students have, the more opportunities they'll get to perform.”
He is also committed to helping his students build successful lives, fostering a kind, welcoming environment that encourages personal growth and the development of kind hearted people who support their community, just as Millard supports them through their journey.
“They have so much potential. If they believe in their potential and are willing to invest the time and energy and whatever other resources it takes to - if they truly believe and commit to what they want and that dream that they have, in time, they'll find a way to make it a possibility.”
By Rayden Leeder