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Saturday, June 25, 2022

A Legacy to Remember
A Longtime Band Director Closes his Morgan State University Music Chapter

After 49 years of leading the Morgan State University (MSU) musically, Melvin N. Miles, Jr., Director of University Bands and Instructor of Music at Morgan State University, retired. According to information provided online by MSU, the native Baltimorean—who is also a Morgan College alumnus— reportedly served on the Morgan State University faculty since 1973. Instructing and directing a range of students who were a part of the high-energy Morgan State University Marching Band called “The Magnificent Marching Machine” to the MSU Symphonic Winds, and various ensembles, and even a pep band, were among his professional contributions.

Despite Miles’ retirement, the value of his musical training and personal development in students, cements his legacy. Justin Fabiyi-King—a recent graduate of Morgan State University who majored in Information Systems—has known Miles since 2016. Miles has been his band director throughout his college career. The saxophonist who began playing the instrument in the fifth grade appreciates Miles’ effective training and the wisdom that he imparted.

“Mr. Miles has made a tremendous impact on my musical knowledge. I’ve grown year after year getting not only better with my instrument, but also becoming well versed in music theory while being under Mr. Miles’ direction,” Fabiyi-King said.  “Over my time of knowing Mr. Miles, I got to participate in three of his ensembles, which included marching band, jazz band, and wind ensemble.”

Fabiyi-King remarked that people he met, and relationships that he built, occurred because of music. His reverence for Miles extends beyond instrumental mastery.

“I’m going to miss everything from seeing him on the podium directing, to our personal conversations in his office. Mr. Miles has done nothing but help mold me into the man I am today,” Fabiyi-King said. “It’s never been a time when I’ve finished a conversation with him and didn’t have something to think about after. He’s the definition of hard working, and when he needs something done, he’ll get it done no matter what.”

Fabiyi-King added that he is “locked in for life” with Miles. He plans on having future conversations with his former director who also sounds like a mentor. Miles’ love of teaching, in addition to experience, have been impactful qualities. In Miles’ interview with The MSU Spokesman student newspaper, it was mentioned that after completing his Bachelor of Science in music education in 1973 at MSU, an immediate offer to work as the band director followed. Although Miles earned leadership highlights, including “meeting Barack and Michelle Obama,” he seemed to remain focused on student development.

 “If you make it about the students and the things they need to do, then everything works out. Never make it about yourself,” Miles said, according to The Spokesman.

For Arté Warren—a MSU student who aspires to become a full-time musician—Miles’ student-focused approach is already influencing his career plans. The senior who also plans to stay in touch with Miles is dually enrolled in a master’s program. Producing music, audio engineering, and performing as a flutist or pianist crossed his mind. The native Baltimorean has been a MSU marching band and symphonic band member, under Miles’ leadership, while playing flute and piccolo.  

“He completely cares about his students, making sure that they get the resources that they need to be able to succeed in higher education,” Warren said. 

In addition to recalling Miles’ direction of encouraging developing musicians to practice, Warren mentioned an academic angle. When he was having a rough time as a student in 2019, Miles reportedly had a talk with Warren about focusing and doing better to overcome an academic rough patch. After their heartfelt meeting, a turning point took place.

“I went on to get four straight semesters of Dean’s List after that,” Warren said.

Before Miles closed a long MSU musical chapter, Warren was among students who performed at the Black-Eyed Susan event in May. It was a part of the Preakness Stakes that was held at Pimlico Race Course. Warren said that the marching band performed “Master Blaster” by Stevie Wonder.

 Melvin N. Miles, Jr. led MSU’s marching band on Friday, May 20, 2022 at the Black Eyed Susan Race, which was the opening of Preakness 2022.  It was a first-time experience for MSU.
All photos courtesy of Morgan State University

“It was interesting. It was new. We hadn’t done anything like that before,” Warren said.

One last hurrah was performing at MSU’s commencement ceremonies. Band members were able to play songs that Miles instilled into the musical culture.

“It was great to be able to be a part of that one last time,” Warren said.

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