Meet: Darnell Miller

Darnell Miller IN Wilmington

This post appears courtesy of New Market Wilm, who features a new blog about Downtown Wilmington each and every Wednesday! View the original post here

Darnell Miller spent years on the road touring and playing on Grammy-winning records before returning to Market – “through the divine movement of Raye Jones” – and the Christina Cultural Arts Center. He still plays around town with The Souldaires, but during the week, he’s in the classroom with kids, teaching the basics of guitar, vocals, and who Madonna is to the next generation of Wilmington musicians:

“I was born in New Castle, but my family roots are deep, deep southern. I’m the only one in my family who was actually born in Delaware. I grew up in a kind of religious house, so I was in church every Sunday and Wednesday and sometimes other days during the week.”

“I came to Christina Cultural Arts Center as a vocal student. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a band called The Collingwood? Chris Malinowski was my very first guitar teacher.”

“Later, I linked up with a brother from Camden, Tye Tribbert, a gospel artist who had just got signed by Sony.  I went on tour with him for a good number of years. Cut three albums. One was nominated for a Grammy. Even though we were gospel, we were getting a lot of attention. To this day, I run into people – well-known musicians – who say, ‘Oh my god, you played on that record?’”

“But, you know, one day, as a musician, it just stops.”

“It was weird for a good minute. And I was like OK, what do I do now?”

“I remember distinctly getting an email from Raye Jones. I was still teaching here part time, even when I was gigging. She said, you know what, I was thinking and I wanted to ask if you’ve ever thought about bringing that experience into a classroom. I was like ‘With kids? No. No!’ She said think about it. And I was thinking, could this be what I’m supposed to do next? Because I believe in all that. I believe the universe is going to push you toward where you need to be for a time. “

“I hate to say this, but before, I was thinking I don’t want to be bothered by children. I don’t want any kids, I don’t want to be bothered by kids. But what’s changed is that you come across some kids who just really need people. They don’t know anything. They don’t know anything. You’re there to help them and shape their character. And it’s like they’re sponges. Even on my worst days, you’ll come across this kid who’s amazing, and you see the talent. You want to nurture it and make it grow.”

“Kids today, they hear a little bit of everything. Mostly, they’re going to listen to what’s in their environment, which is rap and R&B, and surprisingly a lot of old school. It’s amazing how kids today know every Michael Jackson song. But I have black kids in my school who listen to dubstep. It’s all over the map, which I think is cool. It’s not as big of a world as we thought it was, because they just click on the phone or the computer and they can have any kind of music they want. They get into everything. Except country. I haven’t heard any county yet. I do like Little Big Town, but I don’t play it for them.”

“Being around kids actually keeps you young too, keeps you energized, keeps you relevant. Although they’re not doing anything new. Even with their music. I’m like, Lady Gaga? That’s Madonna. ‘Who’s Madonna?’ Then you go through a whole … well, y’know.”