This is file #52, cycle 2. Today’s date is June 5, 2017. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Richard A. Miles aka RAM. He is going to talk about his music program at Indian Mountain School and describe the school as well as his music program at Salisbury School for Boys and describe that school. But first we will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
RAM:I am known as RAM. Richard A. Miles but I do by the name of RAM Miles.
JM:It has been RAM as long as I have known you.
JM:When were you born?
RAM:March 14, 1961.
JM:Where were you born?
RAM: Dallas, Texas
JM:Your parents’ names?
RAM:Charles F. Miles and Sally, she is now Sally Swanson; she was a Stahovec from Sharon, Ct. that was her maiden same.
JM:Any relation to the Miles family in Taconic?
JM: You have siblings.
RAM: Yes I do. I have Kimberly Miles. She is the oldest girl, she is my second. I have Patricia Miles and my half-brother John Swanson. I am the oldest of the four.
JM:What is your education after high school?
RAM:2 years of Berkley college of Music. (Boston, Mass. Ed.)
JM:I am going to have you talk first about Indian Mountain. When did you go to Indian Mountain?
RAM:When I started teaching there was in 1998.
JM:What is the campus like?
RAM:Now or when I started?
JM:When you were there first and then tell me how it has changed.`2.
RAM:It is totally different now. Just because of all the buildings and the school has grown in so many different ways. When I started there, the whole music department consisted of Anton Kuskin who taught classical orchestra. He still teaches music appreciation) and Joanne Seeton who teaches voice and choral. Anton is the head of the music department. He has been there for 30 some odd years. We were all in one room which we would share in the original old building on the third floor. It was where the business office now is. That’s where I started. That’s where the music program was. I was teaching guitar class. The guitar class that I started with, taking over from the prior teacher there, had 30 stu—dents in the guitar program. I soon grew it to 60 to 70 or 90 to my biggest group of kids playing guitar during one year was 104 students. That means that we had to move out of that one room because I grew out of it quickly. I moved to under, I call it the dungeon, the basket court, where the boys and girls dressing rooms are for sports. They moved me down there. Soon after that they built the music building behind the assembly hall. That is where Anton Kuskin had the second floor orchestra room and practice rooms and I had the lower floor for the guitar classes. Now we have another brand new beautiful building called the Student Center where (I have grown out of all those other rooms.) Now I am in this place call the Student Center which has a music section and an art section. The music section also has a stage so I can have my jazz bands or rock bands that I have started since I have been there. We can perform there and practice there and also for my private lessons.
JM:When do you have time for private lessons?
RAM:During the day study halls and lunches, I fit them in then. We have a recording studio that I just finished that about a month ago with the help of some parents and people that I met in the music world who have donated stuff. We have just now recorded our first song last Wednesday. So that is a really big deal. It is an original song that the kids and I wrote together. It will be on our website soon once I get all the mixing down. That is pretty cool. So we are moving on up. We have grown a lot since I have been there 10 year now.
JM:Would it be possible for me to have a copy of it for my files?
RAM: Oh of course.
JM: Oh lovely
RAM:I also coach golf there. We have a golf program now.
JM:When you started at Indian Mountain had they added the lower campus what used to be the town Hill School?
RAM:No that was still Town Hill in 1998. That was years later that they combined the two schools. (2003 Ed.)
JM:About how many staff are there now?
RAM:In the school itself? Oh boy that is a good question. Upper school is probably just the faculty member, not the support staff?
RAM:I would say probably a good 60 teachers.
JM:It has grown.
RAM:The music folk Mr. Kuskin and I are the full time guys there, but we have another 5 or 6 teachers that come in and teach there on a regular basis. There are probably 4 or 5 language teachers. It has changed. If you add it all up it might be 50 to 60 or more. Priscilla Wolf has a whole cast of people working for her in the library and also for the tutoring section.
JM:Is Priscilla Wolf head of the library? (See file #54 Priscilla Wolf)
RAM: Yes, she is and also the tutoring.
JM:I am going to talk just about upper campus. About how many students are in upper campus?
RAM:There are probably about 140.
JM:I am assuming that your music program is primarily upper campus?
RAM:Yes, I teach upper campus.7th, 8th and 9th graders enjoy my guitar class, rock band and jazz band. They have these opportunities to participate.
JM:Is jazz band separate from rock band?
RAM:Yes it is.
JM:How many in your jazz section?
RAM:There are probably 15 kids playing in the jazz band and about 12 in the rock and roll band. Some play both. I have some students who do both which is really a nice thing for them because they get to have a lot music during the school year.
JM:What do you like best about what you are doing at Indian Mountain?
RAM:I like that I get to do what I love to do and teach the kids what I have been taught. It is my own curriculum. I don’t have anybody telling me what to do or forcing curriculum on me from the administration like in a public school. They have no idea what music is all about but they give the music teacher the curriculum that they are supposed to use which doesn’t make any sense. It is nice that I have the freedom to teach the class my way which I think is best. Obviously my program has grown
since I have been there to have a jazz band and a rock band which they did not have when I started. Being able to be free to be able to express and teach to kids that way it is supposed to be taught, the way a music teacher would teach. I have played professionally music all over the world so I think my knowledge is better than someone that does not have a clue, telling me how to run my program. I think that is why it has grown so much. There have been two buildings built since I have been there as I have outgrown them. A lot of people give me credit because of the way Anton Kuskin and me have such a strong and powerful program.
JM:It is a strong program as it should be.
RAM: I am glad that the school is, a lot of school sweep music programs under the rug, willing to let the music program be a selling point of the school. I have heard that by many people.
JM:Good, I am so proud of you.
RAM:It is a nice feeling that people say that it is the heart and soul of the school.
JM:They are not going to say it unless they mean it.
RAM: Yeah I have been told this by faculty members, parents and students and Head of Schools there before. It is a good feeling. It makes you want to work harder and make it even better. Between Anton Kuskin and me, we are always trying to raise the bar. How far can we take our kids in the short amount of time that they have to practice because they have academic priorities for the school? By the time they get a chance to practice their musical instruments, there is not much time left in the day between their sports and the academics. To get what we get out of our kids with the little time that they have to do what they do.
JM:They really have to be dedicated.
RAM:Yes, exactly and they love it.
JM:They should be challenged.
RAM:They should be challenged every day and that is why I love doing what I am doing. The kids love that. They learn how to be creative, spontaneous, and work as a team. Everything that I do in my class is you teach history, science, math, English, language and sports. You have to understand the musical language, the musical vocabulary, and pretty much about music is so much about math. It is so heavily into math and people don’t realize that.
JM:I am assuming that you do both boys and girls.
RAM:I do. I have a good combination of both in all my classes. It is not 90% boys and 10% girls; it is pretty much like 60-40 which is great. Even in my guitar classes I have a lot of girls playing guitar. It is
fun. I like it when they are singing and playing. They are doing just as well as the boys. It is awesome to have that and not just a guy thing. It is a music thing. That is what it is all about.
JM:You coach too don’t you?
RAM:Yeah. The first 9 years at Indian Mountain School I coached football. Then I took a little break and then about 4 years ago, we had some parents or grandparents donated or asked the school to put in a synthetic golf green in the back of our school. So now we have a golf program and that is where we practice. Then we use the Hotchkiss School facility to play games and compete.
JM:I used to play at Hotchkiss. I played with Matt Torrey and he made me play off the men’s tees.
RAM: Oh that was not very nice. That is a long ways! This year I have my rock and jazz bands perform at the Stage Coach Restaurant to a packed house. The rock band performed at the White Hart Inn for the school’s live auction. That went over really well. It is great as it gives them exposure. The parents get to see their kids play in a different environment. Now we are playing this coming Sunday June 11th, 2017, at the Millerton Spring for sound which is the 7th annual. They close the streets off and there are 50 bands playing from 11 o’clock until midnight. Our rock and roll band is playing at 5:00 PM. That is going to be another great experience for these guys to play there.
JM:The more experience they have the better it is. It expands their horizons.
RAM:Oh yeah in so many different ways, not just music. It is the whole confidence thing and anything you can think of. It’s great for everybody’s moral, leadership, the whole 9 yards. They are doing great.
JM:Now Salisbury School is all boys. That is a different level. That is high school.
RAM: Yes, all boys at high school level.
JM:Tell me a little bit about the campus at Salisbury School. Now you have been there how many years?
RAM:I have been there for 15 years. When I started there, there was no music program. I would give guitar lessons in the evenings, during study halls. There would be a couple of other teachers there doing the same. Donald Sosin was teaching the boys’ choir; then Michael Brown took over and he did a gospel choir, acapella. That was all that was there for many years. There was no jazz band, rock band, no orchestra, no music technology classes. About 10 year ago after a lot of hounding the Head of Schools, I said, “When is there going to be a music program here?” A lot of parents have asked me to show them the music department. We would have to tell them that there is no music department. If you son is a musician and he wants to go to school with music, I wouldn’t go here. It does not make any sense. I am not going to teach your son guitar because in reality there is no music department. So after hounding the administration and parents asking about it, we finally had a music program. The Head of School asked me to organize and hire music teachers to get the ball rolling. I hired some musicians I perform
and teach with. Now we have a music department. We have a music history class, jazz history class, a technology class with computer skills and learn how to use all those tools to write music. It is really great. We have the jazz ensemble; we have the rock band which I teach. I have private lessons and everything you can think of from flute to trombone to guitar to piano. Mr. Kuskin is teaching over there too doing the orchestra, the classical ensemble. So now there is actually a music department. It is not huge but it is something.
JM:Now with Salisbury School the staff would be small?
RAM:Yeah there probably not as many, of for the whole school? I would say more because there is actually 350 students at the school. So it is a bigger school. So more faculty than there are at Indian Mountain.
JM:They are 9 through 12 grades and all boys?
RAM:Yes. It is very sports oriented. Salisbury is known for the sports, not for anything else.
JM:But the very fact that you have pushed for a music department is an asset.
RAM:It feels good. Even so I think the school is very unbalanced. You look at the pie chart and half of it is sports. For a school, a sports school or a music school of course it would be that way, but if it is just a regular school, it should be better balanced. It should be spread out evenly or at least closer than I think it is.
JM:I imagine you are going to grow your department as large as you can in in as many ways as you can.
RAM:Right we are allowed what is best to do and to make it go as much as we possibly can.
JM:Do you have the same kind of freedom at Salisbury as at Indian Mountain as far as your own curriculum?
RAM:Yes I do. I teach rock band and I teach the kids. I have the kids choose the songs that they like to play.
JM:Oh that is interesting.
RAM:It makes more sense. I am not going to pour something down their throats. That way they get the real deal, to play something they like to play. Once you get them hooked, guess what? Once they are hooked, they will play anything you want. It is so much fun.
JM:Do you do any coaching at Salisbury?
RAM:No I do not.
JM: How do you manage to work the two schools?7.
RAM:During my free periods at Indian Mountain, I go to Salisbury and do a couple of classes and then come back to Indian Mountain.
JM:Your schedule must be really tight.
RAM: It is crazy. I coach at Indian Mountain both spring and fall. I do all my shows all over the town so I am busy and I also perform a lot.
JM:You said that you have performed worldwide. Where have you been?
RAM:I have been in many parts of the United States, Europe, India and all those places.
JM:Wonderful! What is your performing instrument?
RAM: I am a basest. I play the electric base and the upright base; the double bases they call it.
JM:Before we close is there anything you would like to add to this?
RAM: No I like it just the way it is. I think it is fine.
JM:Great! Thank you so much.
RAM: Thank you Jean.