Darnell Miller is a canvas for the expression of music. A little boy who first fell in love with music while listening to his mom’s car radio, Darnell is now a seasoned artist who has traveled the world, and uses his love of music to inspire young people.
Darnell lives music in everything that he does: both work and play. Darnell describes himself as a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, educator, “somewhat of a businessman,” son, nephew, cousin at and uncle. Admittedly, he says that he is “better at some than others.”
I asked Darnell the question: What do you love? He said he loves music, his mother, his family, and social gatherings—both at church and at parties—especially parties. He told me that the older he gets, the more he “loves to learn about things.” Regarding his first love, music, Darnell said that he, “has to be where the music is, whether bad or good.”
Darnell says that music inspires, teaches, and comforts. He says music should, “teach you about life and yourself; it should help you find yourself.” “In Greek times Music were nine goddesses” Darnell says, “they were believed to inspire art, Science, and Literature.”
“Music is teaching people things… not always the right things.” Darnell states. To Darnell, many of today’s artists do not have a message. He misses the Myles Davises and Dizzy Gillepsies of the past whose music had meaning. Darnell loves Prince; he said that even though Prince talked about sex in is music, his music still had a message.
“Music comforts,” Darnell says, “It gives you what you need.” He believes that, “We are spiritual beings—that comes out in whatever we create—even if it doesn’t have words…A person is giving out what’s inside.” When a person creates music, it “moves the crowd” and “changes their emotions.”
Music seems to be essential to Darnell’s outlook on life. His first memory of consciously listening to and liking a song occurred when he was about five years old. While sitting in his moms green Hornet on Vandever Ave, just outside his aunt’s house, he heard the song, “I Love a Rainy Night,” by Eddie Rabbit. Darnell said he “zoned in” on the song. Darnell had many favorite songs after that, some of them include; “Don’t it Make Brown Eyes Blue,” by Crystal Gail, and “Waiting on a Girl like You,” by Foreigner.
Darnell’s first articles of music were turntables and two albums: “Thriller,” by Michael Jackson and “All in All,” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. He would set the speakers on the window sill in his front yard and sing. Of course, two albums was just too much of a tease for Darnell, so he would beg for money to buy more albums.
Darnell picked up the guitar when he was 12 years old. He said he, “tried every other instrument and failed.” Interestingly enough, at the time Darnell was into heavy metal, and he and his friends wanted to start a heavy metal band. Darnell got into playing guitar, and kept playing even after his friends stopped.
Fast-forward to adulthood. Getting into the “music scene” wasn’t a very difficult transition for Darnell. There were always musicians at his church who were already in the business. After he was let go from corporate 9to 5 Job, That same day, Darnell went to play at a recording session and never looked back. After that, people kept asking him to play on their tracks, co-write songs, and do vocal production. He met some pretty talented musicians in New Jersey, guys who had worked on songs with The Roots, Jill Scott, Timbaland, Faith Hill, and others. Darnell began to work and hang day and night in the studio with these guys, who just happened to be Tye Tribbett and Soundcheck. With Tribbett and the band, Darnell recorded and toured for the next 5 to 6 years.
As a musician, Darnell has been able to play for, meet, and share the stage with many different artists such as Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams, Fred Hammond, Dave Hollister, LeAnn Rimes, P.O.D. Eric Roberson and others.
Darnell stopped touring in 2012. Around that time, Raye Jones Avery of Christiana Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) asked him if he had ever thought about teaching. Darnell says that the best question she could have asked.
He has been in music education since. At CCAC, Darnell teaches guitar and voice lessons. His talents have been outsourced to Kuumba Academy, Delaware College Prep, and Prestige Academy throughout the past few years. Mr. Miller and/or Mr. Darnell teaches general music to grades K-8. In Mr. Darnell’s classes, students learn how to record, write, and play music. On the weekends, he does early childhood music lessons for infants through four-year-olds and their parents. This man lives music every day.
Darnell Miller’s experience as an educator has left him with some interesting insight. As he reflected, he said that he likes working with the K-5 students at Kuumba because, “there’s still time to instill character.” When it comes to educating our youth, it’s not just about music for Darnell. He believes in the importance of ‘keeping it real’ with his students. He says the “truth will cut you, but it will change you.”
Darnell communicates honestly with his students, and in a language they can comprehend. Mr. Miller’s students don’t forget the values he’s instilled. One of his students, who didn’t understand why he needed to learn about music, made a complete turnaround. At first, this student was resistant because he wanted to be an engineer, and not a musician. However, with the impactful teaching of Darnell in just one year, this same student became the lead in the school musical.
Darnell believes that music can transform students’ lives. He says it can, “teach them about where they come from, expose them to worlds they never knew existed,” and give them “endless possibilities.” Darnell has exposed his students to everything from Bollywood music to classical. The students are engaged, and this is exciting for Darnell, because he knows he is opening his students up to cultures and art forms they may not have been exposed to otherwise.
In all that he does, Darnell wants to show the world the value of music. He thinks that here has been a decline in the quality of mainstream music, but he knows that artists have the power to “revolutionize and take back mainstream music.” The artists who have exhibit excellent vocal ability and creativity, artists like Vann Hunt, Algebra, and Foreign Exchange, need exposure, but the mainstream does not give it to them.
Darnell still has faith that all is not lost for wide-reaching exposure to quality music. He says that “As long as there are arts educators, instrumentation, measures, and meters” all will be well. “Instruments are the heart and soul,” he added with passion. Darnell is compelled that a computer can’t do what “Rock with You” or “Don’t Stop till you Get Enough” can. He’s confident that, “As long as people keep playing songs like that, instruments will not go out of style.”
Darnell Miller and his band, the Souldaires, host an event called The Bassment on the first Wednesday of every month. The Bassment features up and coming artists “from all over” during their event. Darnell wants to make Delaware a place where up and coming artists can grow.
Darnell can be reached at: