students on stage

Damien Miles

Damien Miles
Major: Music Education


Roxboro, NC

High School

Roxboro Community School


Music Education

Career Plans & Goals

My plan is to continue sharing the gift of music with the world, both through performance and teaching. My goal is to teach and direct large and small ensemble(s) in high school and/or middle school, and using my free time to continue to write and perform music. In an ideal world, I see myself with a steady job teaching ensembles during the day, and spending my evenings writing, composing, and performing.


Outside of music, I enjoy anything that lets me engage my creativity or learn more about the world. I’m passionate about social and political issues, so I like to spend some of my free time learning about political theory and anything that helps me understand my fellow humans and how, together, we can make the world a better, fairer place. I also play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends on weekends, play video games, and read/write poetry or prose. I also act a bit, but it’s been sometime since I’ve been able to do that.

Why did you choose UNCG and specifically UNCG for the Arts?

UNCG was my first choice for college. One of the things that really struck me was how welcoming the campus environment was. I felt as if I would be included and cared for, and I still feel that way. I knew it had an expansive music program, and one of the most attractive prospects for me was the broad range of ensembles. I’ve participated in the string orchestra, Sinfonia, in small jazz groups, the Middle Eastern ensemble, and the Old Time ensemble: there aren’t many that would allow you to participate in such a musically diverse environment as the CVPA here. UNCG was also unique in that, with the help of the jazz and music education faculty, I was allowed to pursue the path that I wanted: participating as a member of the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program AND as a Music Education major. I believe I was only the second student to pursue this, but two of my biggest mentors, Dr. Rebecca MacLeod and Steve Haines, really made it easy for me and encouraged me every step of the way, which I am eternally grateful for.

Are you where you thought you’d be when you first came to campus?

I’m not sure, where I thought I’d be, but I’m happy with where I am. I’m learning new things, bonding with other people, actually gaining experience teaching younger students, playing music and performing with others as much as I can, and I feel that my skills as a teacher and musician are increasing with each new day. It’s been a really nice experience overall.

Peak experience?

There’s so many awesome experiences to recount, but I think one of the most memorable for me was my first time performing with a jazz combo, in the second semester of freshman year. It was my first real dive into the world of jazz music. In high school, I’d played in big band, playing written basslines and occasionally soloing, but this was so much different. Memorizing the melodies and chord changes, improvising, interacting with the other musicians in the moment, it’s such a beautiful experience, and one of the many times in my life where I felt I was falling in love with music all over again.

What surprised you?

I was surprised at how quickly I was able to adapt to college. It was a frightening experience at first, but in my first semester, I felt as if new life had been breathed into me: I was experiencing new things, and seeing all of the possibilities of the world open up before me, but I never felt too overwhelmed or second-guessed my decision to come to UNCG. And even if I struggled, I always had friends and professors I could turn to for support.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

My high school and middle school band director, Mr. Swanson. It’s fairly common for music education majors to say that one of their primary reasons for choosing this career path is that they had a music teacher who inspired them, and I’m no exception. People who participate in the arts in school spend more time with those teachers than any other, and as such, we have time to really form bonds with them. Mr. Swanson really pushed me and provided me opportunities to become a better musician and a better person, and he’s otherwise just a great person and role model. I’ll forever cherish the memories and the experiences that band gave me, because those experiences forever shaped who I am as a person in so, so many ways, and helped me to cope with the many mental health struggles that I had in my adolescence.

What do you think you will miss the most after you graduate?

Being able to dedicate so much of my time to education and learning about the things that bring me fulfillment.

Advice for the incoming class?

NEVER be afraid to ask for help. College can be stressful, and all of the faculty who I have worked with at UNCG have been nothing but understanding when I approach them with an issue I may be going through that can affect my learning, whether it be academic or personal. Remember that there are always others who can help to lighten your burden, and will be glad to do so, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a faculty member, the Counseling Center, or even just a close friend or family member if you feel overwhelmed.

Describe the moment you knew you UNCG was for you (or alternatively the moment you knew you were in the right major):

At first, I was apprehensive about a music education major, because I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to teach others, especially those younger than me. My fears about that were quelled by the sense of pride that I felt when one of my students in the Peck Alumni Leadership Program, which I help to teach on Saturdays, was asked what her favorite part of the day was, and she responded, “My lesson with Mr. Miles”. At that moment, my faith and confidence was renewed, and I knew I had the potential to be a great teacher.

Your favorite place on campus and why?

There’s a narrow footpath in Peabody Park, just by the Elizabeth Herring Garden and outside of the music building’s lower floor. It leads to a little clearing next to the stream that runs through the park, with a few large rocks that are perfect to sit on, listen to the running water, and enjoy nature. After class or rehearsal, I’ll sometimes take a few minutes to sit there and clear my head.

Your favorite professor or class and why?

My private lesson instructor and double bass/jazz studies professor Steve Haines and professor of music education Dr. Rebecca MacLeod are two people who have changed my life and guided me through my career at UNCG. Taking lessons and classes with Steve Haines and having the chance to hear his wisdom and experience first hand inspire me to strive to be the best musician, and more importantly, the best person, that I can be. Taking Dr. MacLeod’s classes, working with her for a grant project, and participate in music education programs with her have given me absolutely invaluable experience, especially this early in my career. She inspires me to be an educator who inspires others, teaches with kindness and compassion, and to try my best to be a leader among my peers. I truly could not sing their praises enough to get capture how they have shaped both my experience at UNCG, and how they’ve shaped me as a person. I can only hope that my career will be half as inspiring to others as theirs have to me.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience at UNCG and in your major that you think prospective students should know about?

I can’t think of much else to say, except that my experience at UNCG has been one of the best of my life, and I would recommend the school to anyone interested!

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