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Student Spotlight

Educational odyssey takes lyrical twists and mechanical turns over six years

Allen Miller

E. Allen Miller came to campus fully expecting to become a music educator. He’s leaving six years later with plans to become an entrepreneur and an ambition to modernize the mellophone.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Miller grew up in Friendswood as a classical music aficionado and clarinet player. But despite his enthusiasm and best efforts, he never could rise to the coveted first chair in his high school orchestra.

“In my junior year, I switched to bass clarinet and, all of the sudden, I’m all-state,” Miller said.

The success and recognition after years of slow progress got him excited about the possibility of teaching other late bloomers how to find their way to the right instrument. His college research revealed that two of the best music education programs in the nation were in his home state.

“UH and Baylor were the only two places that I applied,” he said. “Baylor gave me $10,000 in financial aid and the total cost was about $30,000. It was an easy choice to make. UH was a great school, close to home and a lot less expensive.”

Plus, his dad was a Cougar who had studied engineering and math before graduating with a math degree from UH.

Excited about pursuing his career goals, Miller spent his first two years on campus focused completely on music and taking as many classes as he could through the Moores School of Music. But in his third year, he needed to take some core courses to stay on track to graduate in four years.

“In high school, I always enjoyed math, so when it was time to get my math core credit, I took Calculus II,” he said. “And I did well with that.”

So well, in fact, his father encouraged him to apply to the Cullen School of Engineering.

“He said to me, “You should do what I wasn’t able to afford to do and get an engineering degree,’” Miller recalls.

Miller applied to Cullen and was accepted. But he wasn’t willing to transfer.

“I don’t like quitting things that I do, so I decided to the finish out my music degree and complete an engineering degree,” he said. “That’s why it took me six years to get both degrees.”

By the time he walks across the stage in Hofheinz Pavilion on Friday, May 13 to collect his music performance degree with a focus on bass clarinet, he will have completed 214 credit hours.

“That works out to about 17 hours every semester in a six-year period,” he said. But he didn’t spread things out quite that evenly.

Allen Miller

“I was required to take nine hours in my last semester and I only had one engineering class,” he said. “So I took entrepreneurship classes.”

And that got him thinking seriously about how he was going to mesh his dual interests into a career.

As it happens, the odyssey from music education major to a double degree in mechanical engineering and music performance has not deterred Miller from pursuing more education.

He’s applied to graduate programs in architectural acoustics and acoustical engineering programs at Boston University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

He wants to use his engineering skills to better design musical instruments to produce purer sound.

And David Bertman, director of UH’s Marching Band, has made a special request of him.

“I want to redesign the mellophone for Bertman,” he said. “That’s a dream of mine. That’s what I hope to do.”

The mellophone, sometimes called a French horn, typically is played in music for marching bands and drum and bugle corps, as opposed to orchestral arrangements. Its shape and structure has evolved dramatically over the years.

Miller hopes to design the best version ever – and start a business to reap the profits.

“I’m also planning to apply to Bauer for an MBA to start my own company,” he said.

So another double degree could be in his near future.

- Shannon Buggs