On Friday, January 23, 2015, Dr. Brady Millican gave his last piano recital to eager audiences at ENC, where he has been teaching for thirty-six years. This past year (Fall 2014 to present) has seen him as ENC’s very own artist-in-residence, and this May, Dr. Millican plans to retire.
Millican attended Eastman School of Music, a conservatory in Rochester, N.Y., where he studied with famed pianist Eugene List, then earned his Associate’s degree from the Royal College of Music in London. He went on to the New England Conservatory of Music for his Master’s and after studying under Leonard Shure, earned his Doctorate from Boston University.
Millican had served as an adjunct professor at both Gordon College and Wellesley College. On April 27th of 1979, though, he was goaded into playing in Cove Auditorium by some friends and graduates from ENC. Olive Marple, the piano teacher at the time, and then-Music Department Head Bob Howard both heard Millican play and offered him the job after the recital, which Millican accepted a week later by way of a call to Howard.
Along with teaching piano, he took on the position of professor for History of Music, and in his third year of teaching, he took on the general education course, Arts and Music, the first year being a sort of “trial run,” according to Millican. The next year, his success in the class landed him in the professorial position for the class until Spring 2014. Liberal arts was not a part of his educational background, providing Millican with a “really cool intellectual challenge” in teaching at ENC.
Choral Union has also been a yearly pursuit for this professor extraordinaire his entire career at ENC, and on the first day of performance of his last round with Handel’s Messiah last December, he was presented with an award of distinction for his years of service.
The current head of the music department, Dr. Kevin Smith, and one of Millican’s students, senior vocal-performance major Elizabeth Blanchette, conspired together in the conception of the laser-etched crystal testament to Millican’s achievement.
“I felt it was only right that we express our gratitude,” Blanchette said. “We chose to honor Dr. Millican for his years of service, his enduring commitment to the Choral Union, and his ingenious musicianship that he’s offered.”
Blanchette has taken lessons from Millican for all four years of her student career at ENC, and notes that “he inspires his students; he not only teaches them, he inspires them to become more than they are.”
Colleague and longtime close friend of Millican, Professor Lambert Brandes attended the first recital Millican ever gave at Cove, which turned out to be the future professor’s audition. According to Brandes, Millican’s “ability to memorize music is astounding,” as displayed in the memorization of a massive Bartók piece three months before Millican played with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
“[Millican] is a brilliant man with the finest education,” Brandes commented. “Of all keyboard players, he represents the most outstanding. [His] playing combines superb technique and optimum musical expression.”
Such a high bar for quality, however, has not put a damper on his reception to students of any level at all. Millican’s students have reached levels of expertise that have earned them full scholarships to universities such as Boston Conservatory, Hartt School of Music, Boston University, and University of Florida. ENC alumni Sarah Troxler and Jodie Nhi Huynh are among the lucky pupils to carry his spark of inspiration and musical bestowment into the next generation of performance.
Dr. Millican has played all over the United States, including in Los Angeles, Calif., at Alice Tully Hall in N.Y., multiple times at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and in his home state of Texas. He also toured numerous places in Europe, including Germany, London, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Holland, with other tours in Venezuela and Iceland, which was one of his favorite stops due to “the lovely people.” Along with his impressive overseas résumé, Dr. Millican has played twice at the White House, once under the Carter administration and again under the second Bush administration.
With a smile, Millican commented, “They throw great parties at the White House,” and that “making music anywhere is a special event.”
While bittersweet, Dr. Millican’s last recital here at Cove Auditorium proved to be spectacular and profound at once, the pieces he played being Beethoven’s “Eroica” Variations, Opus 35 as well as Chopin’s Sonata in B Minor, Opus 58, the very piece with which he auditioned for a hired position here on campus. During the resounding standing ovation, Millican’s wife Barbara came out on stage, handing him a bouquet of roses, and after everything wound down, Millican graciously met and talked with people in the lobby of Cove.
However, his retirement from a career in academia does not mean he plans to stop teaching. Other projects lay within this artist’s reach. Adult education at his home church is a one big item on his agenda.
“[Teaching] is a life sentence,” Dr. Millican said, a scarf and coat wrapping him up against the cold, “You never retire from music. [It’s] its own language, like a conversation.”
Whatever lay on his horizons, this world-class musician can rest assured knowing that ENC will miss him, his elegant, expertly-wrought conversations, and his unforgettable piano-playing.