Fred J. Miller with wife Marlene and DCI Executive Director
Dan Acheson at the 2005 DCI World Championships.
Fred J. Miller, longtime supporter of all the marching arts and founder of FJM, Inc., passed away today at the age of 80. Many first became aware of Miller through his directorship of Miller's Blackhawks of Dayton, Ohio, one of the top Winter Guard International (WGI) guards for many years. But even before that, his drum major academy and educational marching band clinics introduced his techniques to thousands, methods that he developed and used as a band director. He was a champion baton twirler and as a young man invented a non-roll baton that became a standard in the industry. He then went on to found the United States Twirling Association. Four decades ago, Miller began producing uniforms and flags for marching ensembles around the world and his company Fred J. Miller, Inc. quickly became a massive enterprise, really taking off with the Cesario Collection that popularized tailored washable performance wear. Among the many honors Miller and his wife Marlene have received was induction into the WGI Hall of Fame. Drum corps fans perhaps knew him best by all the corps that wore FJM designed costumes and uniforms. Phantom Regiment and Colts were two of the many corps that wear FJM designs. Rick Valenzuela, Phantom Regiment's Executive Director, reflected, "Fred was a pillar in the performing arts. He was perhaps the most pleasant person in the activity to talk with and we will sorely miss him." Greg Orwoll, Executive Director of Colts, said, "I found Fred to be continually supportive of the kids. He always wanted to know how they were doing and asked if they felt comfortable and proud in his uniforms. He was incredibly generous with all the marching arts. The man found his life calling and lived it." DCI Executive Director Dan Acheson remembered Miller with the following: "I have considered Fred a mentor and a friend for 30 years. As giants go in the marching arts activity there have been few as influential and as giving as Fred. Fred, you will be missed, for that we are sad but we are grateful to God that he gave us all the opportunity to share the activity with a man as amazing as you. Rest in peace!" Lee Carlson, DCI adjudicator, says, "There will never be another. He was always generous to all the activities he supported." DCI staff writer Michael Boo comments, "I first met Fred in 1980 and have cherished knowing him and Marlene. It was always a joy to run into him and his big smile. He had a warm embrace for all his acquaintances. I have about a dozen of his flags hanging as decorations in my house and it will be hard to look at them without thinking of everything he did for the marching arts. Love you, Fred." Jamey Thomson, longtime family friend and Phantom Regiment visual designer, said, "Fred's generosity and his creative contributions to the activity are unparalleled. He's absolutely one of a kind and has touched every activity whether with uniforms and flags or just with his smile. He was a brilliant man on every level, and he will be missed greatly by many people." DCI Hall of Fame member Dennis DeLucia added, "Fred Miller was one of the most influential, important and iconic figures in the growth of the winter guard movement, of the marching band movement, and of the drum corps movement. He was a music educator first, and a uniform provider, designer and manufacturer second. But to me, most importantly, he was a wonderful human being who was warm, generous and gracious to all, and I'll always remember him for that." DCI Artistic Director Michael Cesario sums it up for everyone with, "We've lost a true innovator, a self-made original. He was a great and generous man."