Samuel A. Miller was known to legions of choreographers, dancers, and other artists as just “Sam”—a remarkably influential and innovative force in the performing arts field for more than 35 years, including a critically-important decade at Jacob’s Pillow. He was born into the theater, as his parents were both employed by Providence’s Trinity Repertory Company during his formative years, and he played the role of Tiny Tim in Trinity Rep’s production of A Christmas Carol
. After graduating from Wesleyan with a B.A. in Theater, he worked for Pennsylvania Ballet and eventually found his way to Pilobolus where he was Managing Director in the early 1980s.
He first worked under the same title at the Pillow beginning in 1986, serving as a crucial administrative partner to Executive Director Liz Thompson for five years and then succeeding her in the lead role from 1990 to 1994. His achievements on behalf of the Pillow during that decade are still evident today, including the launching of a Master Plan for the campus, the construction of the Doris Duke Theatre, a major reconfiguration of the Ted Shawn Theatre, the establishment of Blake’s Barn, and the purchase of the adjoining Derby property as artists’ housing. He spearheaded a performance event to commemorate Ted Shawn’s centennial in 1991, including a week at New York’s Joyce Theater and both domestic and international tours, and it was his idea to expand MASS MoCA’s vision to encompass the performing arts, a shift which helped this venture open its doors and set the stage for cooperative efforts between the Pillow and MASS MoCA that continue to this day.
Miller left the Pillow to become Executive Director at the New England Foundation for the Arts, where his transformative efforts included founding the National Dance Project, a vital force in the field that continues to support dance across the U.S. After NEFA, he served as President of Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a ten-year initiative to improve conditions for individual artists, then directed the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council where he produced the River to River Festival. In 2014, he returned to Wesleyan as Co-Founder/Director of the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP), where his chief collaborator was Pillow Director Pamela Tatge.
Although he sustained a remarkable seven-year remission after treatment for multiple myeloma, Miller died in May 2018 at the age of 67. In recognition of his lasting ties to Jacob’s Pillow, a memorial event was held on the Pillow grounds during the 2018 season and a tree was planted in his memory near the Duke Theatre, ensuring that even more tangible evidence remains from his lifetime of visionary leadership.
Source of Biography
Written by Norton Owen for Jacob's Pillow Remembers.