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A Rare Violin in Honor of a Rare Woman


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    In the prodigious hands of Frost School of Music violin student Miclen LaiPang, a 300-year-old Guarneri violin makes its University of Miami debut while honoring community leader, philanthropist, and education advocate Sue Miller.

    UM News

    With the Miller siblings, Jeffrey, Leslie, and Stuart, and Dean Shelly Berg behind him, senior Miclen LaiPang plays the Sue Miller Viloin, a 1714 Guarneri.  

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 31, 2017)—The moon was rising over Miami Beach on a recent Friday night as friends and family arrived at the Miller family home to pay tribute to a beloved community jewel, the late Sue Miller, who passed away in November 2016.

    The highlight of the evening was the debut of a rare 1714 Giuseppe Guarneri ‘filius Andreae’ violin, purchased recently by the Frost School of Music through a major donation from the Miller family in honor of their matriarch, an avid music lover and tireless community supporter. Now called the Sue Miller Violin, the instrument will be loaned to a talented Frost School violin student each year upon the recommendation of the string faculty.

    During the evening, Frost senior Miclen LaiPang played one of the most daunting pieces in the violin repertoire, Paganini’s Nel cor più non mi sento (variations on a theme from the opera La Molinara by Paisiello) on the Guarneri violin. Next, Frost faculty violin artist Charles Castleman, playing his Stradivarius, joined LaiPang on the outdoor stage. Accompanied on the piano by Wideman Piano Competition winner Asiya Korepanova, D.M.A. ’16, they performed the beautiful slow movement of J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto.

    “This Guarneri has silvery timbre in its high register that is so characteristic of a Stradivarius,” Castleman says. “But it also has the ability to ‘dig in’ and have a nice ‘growl’ in its low register, which devotees of Guarneri violins love. It’s got the best of both worlds in one instrument. I’m incredibly pleased that Miclen and other students of the Frost School will have such a fine instrument to help launch their careers.”

    Sue Miller’s husband, the late Leonard M. Miller, who founded Lennar Homes, was a longtime member of UM’s Board of Trustees and served as its chair in the 1990s. Their three children, Stuart Miller, J.D. ’82, who also chaired the Board of Trustees; Jeffrey Miller, A.B. ’84, and Leslie Miller Saiontz, hosted the Guarneri’s unveiling, an event filled with music, laughter, and joyous reminiscing—“definitely the way our parents loved to entertain,” Jeffrey Miller said.

    The Guarnari’s debut also launched the Miller Instrument Collection campaign to raise additional funds to purchase two dozen other high-end instruments for the Frost School. Before the tribute performance started, over $40,000 already had been donated or pledged for additional string, brass, and woodwind instruments.

    Comedian Alonzo Bodden, who was introduced as an eminent musicologist and shared the Guarneri’s pedigree and design features with the audience, switched the rare instrument off stage with an inexpensive violin. He then proceeded to drop the instrument while handing it to Stuart Miller, who was on stage with his siblings for a close-up viewing. The move elicited big gasps and cries until his siblings revealed their ruse.

    “It’s hard to pull anything over on Stuart,” said sister Leslie. Added Jeffrey, “He’s such a practical joker, the look on his face was priceless. I think it’s going to be pay-back time, big-time; I’d better be on my toes!”

    Frost School of Music Dean Shelton Berg expressed his gratitude. “Thanks to a magnificent gift from the Miller family, Frost School of Music students will be privileged to play a 300-year-old masterpiece violin from one of the greatest of the Italian makers, dedicated to the memory of one of Miami’s most significant philanthropists, Sue Miller. Nothing could make me more proud.”

    The Miller family’s generosity has left an indelible mark on the University of Miami, particularly its Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, with gifts totaling over $200 million since 2004, including $6 million to the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music.

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