Daniel Miller enrolled at New Mexico State University to become an actor. But thanks to the hands-on, multi-disciplinary NMSU Department of Theater Arts, Miller found another passion and recently received his first award for it.
Miller, a senior theatre student, won first place in Excellence for Sound Design for his work in “The Wolves,” at the Region Six Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Abilene, TX.
“I was so excited when I found out I had won,” said Miller. “I saw that I was a finalist but I never imagined that I would win. I got great feedback from the judges during my presentation.”
Miller was eager to compete in the national festival in Washington, D.C. April 6-10 but was disappointed when he got the call that the national competition was cancelled for public health reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, the organization is looking at the possibility of smaller groups by category meeting later in the summer so that the students don’t miss out on the workshops, awards and other benefits of the national festival. Even though Miller will have graduated by then, he will still be eligible to participate. But at this point, nothing is certain.
KCACTF was created in 1967 as a way to encourage, recognize and celebrate work produced in university theater programs. Each year, regional festivals showcase the best of each region’s work and offer a variety of workshops, talks and regional-level award programs. Since its start, more than 400,000 college theater students have participated. Winners in each region move on to the national festival.
During the regional competition Miller presented his display, which included all of his sound cues and written tracks of the music from the show. He was the only winner from New Mexico in his category.
Miller designed and composed for only one other play, ‘Silent Sky,’ before ‘The Wolves,’ but has been creating music for years.
“I’ve been producing music since I was 12 years old,” Miller said. “It’s definitely different from sound design, but it’s still the same concepts.
“I got much more into sound design in college. I had already learned a lot from my last show to now. This show I didn’t have to write as much music so it was more detail-oriented and high quality. I felt much more confident.”
Miller worked closely with Nicole Hamilton, an assistant professor of theatre arts in the College of Arts and Sciences and the director of the production.
“We had a really clear line of communication,” said Miller. “I learned in my classes how important it is to communicate with the director and Nicole is just wonderful. She is very supportive but she will push you enough to excel.”
After getting more involved on the technical side of theater, Miller realized he loved using sound design as a way to enhance stories. “I came here wanting to be an actor. But, I fell in love with the power of sound after being able to learn about it. Sound is complementing what everyone else is doing on stage. It can set the scene and even the action of the show sometimes.”
As a work-study student, Miller had the opportunity to learn from Jim Wilkinson, the master electrician.
“He has taught me a lot about lighting equipment, design, and most importantly, understanding what everyone’s job is,” Miller said. “If you understand how someone else does their job you can be more helpful to them. I’m glad I’ve done a little of everything – design costumes, design lights, design sound.”
Miller hopes to work in sound or lighting design after graduation this May, to use the many tools he has gained as a student at NMSU.
“What I really like is how hands-on this program is – at a lot of other universities you would be lucky to design just one show, and here I have managed to do multiple designs in different areas. I think that’s something very strong in our program. I am so attached to this community. It’s very hard to say goodbye.”