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Tuesday, December 1 Living

From the garage to Beyoncé’s stage: CT native Patty Anne Miller’s drums never miss a beat

What do you do for an encore after appearing with Beyoncé during Super Bowl 50’s halftime show? That’s the one where she and Bruno Mars “crashed” Coldplay’s headlining gig at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2016.

If you’re drummer Patty Anne Miller, you land a role in the movie “Bill and Ted Face the Music,” starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, out now in theaters and streaming on-demand. And in between, you tour the world, drumming for music stars like CeeLo Green and Quinn XCII. In fact, when we recently caught up with Miller, the former Manchester resident was about to appear with the pop-indie artist Quinn XCII in Charlotte, N.C.

“This is our first concert of the year, since the touring has been canceled because of COVID,” said Miller, just a few hours before hitting the stage. “We are trying this new drive-in show. It’s at this amazing speedway track, and it’s huge. The screen, itself, is about 16,000 feet, and there are going to be cars, all parked. So this is going to be cool.”

The seasoned musician wasn’t experiencing any pre-performance jitters, either. “I think it’s beyond that. If anything, I may get this rush and say, ‘OK, let’s go, let’s go. It’s going to be a great show,’” she said. “And as soon as I sit on the drum kit, it is over.”

Miller now resides in Los Angeles, but she was born and raised in Connecticut. She lived and attended schools in Manchester, and started playing drums in fifth grade while attending Waddell Elementary School. She performed in the concert bands at Illing Middle School and Manchester High School. After graduating from high school, she attended the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, where she was a member of the jazz ensemble that won the prestigious high school jazz band competition award sponsored by Berklee College of Music.

“I loved music, and my parents noticed that I was always tapping on something, making a beat. The drums were supplied at the school, and when I sat on the drum kit, I did not have to think about it. I just played, and it just came very easy for me. So that’s how I knew it was a gift. And my parents, God bless them, they have nurtured my gifts throughout, over the years, and I just kept up with it.”

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They also put up with the noise. “I started in the garage and then moved into the basement. And then I moved into the living room. My parents just let me play. I just loved them so much, because drums are so loud. They said, ‘She’s doing what she loves,’ and they let me play. I was practicing for hours, hours and hours every day.”

All that practice led to an audition to attend Berklee College of Music. Miller was working at a music store in Manchester and was playing drums there one day, when a customer who heard her was so impressed, he suggested she apply to the school, and even helped arrange an interview. She did the audition, and three weeks later, Berklee awarded her a full tuition scholarship. She graduated from there in 2010.

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Miller’s drumming career expanded to her starring in national television commercials for big name clients like McDonalds and Chobani yogurt. She made a number of live television appearances, including “The Tonight Show,” drumming for Swedish star Zara Larsson, on her U.S. television debut tour, and she backed Leslie Odom, Jr. on NBC’s 2019 New Year’s Eve telecast.

She also decided to pursue one of her other talents — dancing. Miller was a featured contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance” during the show’s 11th season. “Ever since I was young, I was always dancing, and it’s always been in me. I wanted to just try it. Why not?”

She wowed the panel and made it to the second round, before exiting the competition. “I just had fun up there,” Miller said. “I just love being myself and being free and being able to express myself in different ways. I gained a lot of fans, a lot of beautiful messages. A lot of people were tapped into my energy.”

She still “fools around” with dancing, but her career path is leading her in other directions. “I’m more focused on drumming, making commercials and moving more into doing TV and film.”

In the latest “Bill and Ted” installment, Miller plays a cavewoman drummer named Grom, who joins a superstar time-travelling band. “I had to play on some turtle shells and lambskin,” she said. “And I actually made it work.”

And what was performing at the Super Bowl like? “That was a whole different type of feeling. We were rehearsing with Beyoncé and the whole production for about three weeks, and we got everything down,” said Miller, who played snare drum in a marching band uniform during Beyoncé’s entrance. “And when we got to the Super Bowl, you could just tell this was going to be huge. It’s just one of those surreal moments where you’re lost for words.”

The drummer, actress, TV and screen star is happy with how her career is evolving. “I’m climbing and climbing, and I’m enjoying the journey for sure.”

Mike Horyczun is a freelance writer.

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