Nathan Miller: Musician and More

by Colonel Richard Munn

Nestled in the rolling hills of central Kentucky stands Asbury University, a beloved academic institution with deep Wesleyan roots and a storied association with The Salvation Army. For instance, for over 50 consecutive years the Music Department included such luminary Salvationist professors as Jim Curnow, and Bea and Ron Holz.

Today that department includes Nathan Miller, an assistant professor, musician, and local officer. Nathan is a bright, energetic person, with contagious vigor. He has the capacity to inspire others and integrate numerous roles and relationships.

The SAconnects team had a chance to catch up with Nathan recently, during a demanding academic year no less, to give you, our Good News readers, the story behind the story.

You are a graduate of Asbury University. Can you describe your student experience on that special campus?

During my time at Asbury, God worked to grow, shape, and disciple me. I was able to take classes from excellent professors who cared about what I learned, but also about me in a deep and meaningful way. This was especially true of a few Salvationists who were also professors here during my time as a student. It was a unique and meaningful experience but also just the tip of the iceberg.

While I was a student, I came to understand that God didn’t just save me from hell, but that he was inviting me to participate in His redemption and restoration of the world that He created and so loves. This helped change my worldview from one where I was at the center to one more able to see, appreciate, and love the world outside of my perspective.

My understanding of Scripture also deepened, as [did] my love for it. This happened in the university classroom and also in my Sunday school class at the Lexington Corps.

How did the journey from student to professor come about? What is your teaching assignment?

As a student, I never imagined that I would be a professor one day. I was focused on a career as a professional performing musician because I felt that God had called me to such. In retrospect, I can see how, through developing good practice habits as a performer, God grew in me the skills and discipline needed for academic work. While working as a gigging musician and taking auditions, I began to feel a holy discontent with the prospect of a career in performance. It’s not that this is not a worthy and good field, but I noticed that God had given me some other gifts and passions that I was ignoring.

Key professors spoke words into my life helping me to see that God might be able to use me in ways I had not previously imagined—that being a music professor might tie together the gifts God had given me for his Kingdom. I began my studies in musicology hoping that in the end, I might be able to get a job at a school like Asbury. Eventually, I was able to apply for a music professor position that came open at Asbury.

How do you balance and integrate your academic responsibilities, musical commitments, the Salvation Army Student Fellowship (SASF), and corps life?

Ha! The better question might be, “How do I try to balance.” I’m not sure I’m always as successful at this as I should be. However, the shortest answer might be that I don’t see them as wholly separate endeavors. A central tenet of a Christian liberal arts education is that we are whole people and that we don’t need to separate our life into disconnected departments. So, I hope that engagement with students in the Salvation Army Student Fellowship helps foster relationships that make me a better and more empathetic professor for students, not just those in the SASF music groups.

As a professor at Asbury, the university encourages me to take leadership in my church community, and the shared theology and mission of the two (AU and SA) makes it such that my work for each supports the other, and hopefully most meaningfully, the Kingdom of God.

All these responsibilities are joined with the high calling to be a husband. The reality of the situation is that to be my best at everything (the whole of my responsibilities) means I can’t give my best to every thing. Recognizing that I can’t do everything, and that I have to rest, forces me to trust that God can work when and where I don’t and can’t.

You recently served on the staff of the Star Lake Music Camp. What is your history with SLMC, and how was your experience?

I greatly enjoyed my experience. I love any opportunity to make music and engage in discipleship with others—not just me discipling students, but them me, as well. Coming from the far reaches of the territory, I’ve not had the opportunity to see how God is working in the music programs as a whole, so this has been rewarding and exciting. The diversity of the young people across the territory making music together at SLMC, to me, seems like a picture of heaven—people of every tribe and tongue, gathered together in shared community, to glorify the giver of all good things.

Do you have any concluding words of insight or encouragement for our readers?

God is inviting you to participate with Him in His redemptive work in the world. He created you just for this purpose and He has a plan to use all your strengths, and even more of your weaknesses, to accomplish it. God has given us all we need to accomplish everything He called us to do, so work and live with the confidence that God will do what He’s promised.

Thank you, Nathan, you embody so much that is near and dear to our Salvation Army mission. We are cheering you on, from the Northeast to the bluegrass of Kentucky.