Miller, Elma. Composer, clarinetist, pianist, writer, b Toronto 6 Aug 1954, B MUS (Toronto) 1977, M MUS (Toronto) 1979. She studied composition with Walter Buczynski, John Beckwith, Lothar Klein, and John Weinzweig, and electronic and computer music with Gustav Ciamaga and William Buxton. The composer Udo Kasemets (a fellow-Estonian-Canadian) and the communications theorist Marshall McLuhan (with whom she studied) have also influenced her music. In 1978 she took studies in computer music at Stanford with John Chowning and Leland Smith. She was a private student of the Polish composer Boguslaw Schaffer at a workshop at York University (England) in the summer of 1980.
Miller moved to Hamilton, Ont, in 1979 where, in addition to composing, she has worked as a copyist and artistic director of the contemporary chamber music series Music Here & Now.
In 1980 Miller won the Els Kaljot-Vaarman Prize (Sweden) for chamber music and, a year later, CAPAC's Sir Ernest MacMillan Award (bronze) for her orchestral work Genesis. She has been commissioned by a number of performers and groups, notably, the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, the Northdale Concert Band, and the pianist Elaine Keillor. The Hamilton Philharmonic has performed or premiered several of her orchestral works, including Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (1987).
Critic Hugh (critic) Fraser has written: 'Her music can be described as expressionist with an inventive and well-constructed use of colour and rhythm. Even her atonal works are listenable; a robust and wild humour, an utter lack of academic dryness, and a profound sense of integrity characterize her mature works' (CMCentre Directory of Associate Composers, 1991 supplement).
Inspired by political changes in Estonia, Miller has incorporated facets of her Estonian heritage in her music. Works such as Processional (1986) for concert band, Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, and especially ... to light one candle... (1989) for accordion and strings have either used Estonian musical materials or been stimulated by literary texts. Among her other works are Striding Folly (1983) for orchestra, Incidental Music to McClure (1986) for solo cello, Syneidesis IV (1987) for electric bassoon, The Baker's Tale (1987) for voice and piano, Syneidesis IX (1988) for violin and piano, Syneidesis XII (1988) for piano duet, Pierced Ear (1988) for accordion, tape, and graphics, and Cantata: The Transfiguration (1989) for children's chorus, mixed chorus, clarinet, and organ.