A Dayton native, Fred J. Miller was drum major of the band while at Chaminade High School and at University of Dayton. He met his future wife Marlene at a summer camp for baton twirlers and drum majors. After two years in the U.S. Army, Fred became director of bands at Fairborn High School.
A master showman, Fred hosted band festivals and competitions, was co-founder and first president of the United States Twirling Association in 1958, founded the Ohio Color Guard Circuit which would later become the Mid East Performance Association, and inducted into the Winter Guard International and Music For All Hall of Fames. Fred developed the Miller’s Blackhawks Musical Corps, which evolved into the Miller’s Blackhawks, co-directed by Fred and Marlene. It entered the winter guard world to become one of the most revered groups of the 1980s and 90s.
Fred and Marlene Miller’s Fred J. Miller, Inc. is a leader in pageantry uniform design and manufacturing, outfitting many of the world’s best marching bands, drum corps and winter guards. The creation of FJM allowed Fred to apply his eye for showmanship to marching uniform design and costume production, with Marlene designing flags and color guard outfits.
For their contributions to music education, the Miller Family was recognized as the Texas Bandmasters Association 2013 Music Industry Award winner. FJM is the proven leader of the marching pageantry world, outfitting Bands of America Grand National Finalists and DCI Finalists in FJM uniforms more than any other manufacturer.
Fred and Marlene were married for 53 years. Fred was 80 when he died in 2012. FJM remains a family enterprise, Marlene is President and CEO, and twin sons Mark and Mike Miller, daughter Mary Lynn Dorow and grandson Andy Dorow are all part of the family business. The impact of the Miller Family and Fred’s legacy continues through their industry leadership, college scholarships, and their support of music education.
In the history of the Mid East Performance Association, no organization has matched the continued tradition of success of the Miamisburg Winter Guard program. One of the founding members of Winter Guard International and MEPA, the program has brought international notoriety to the entire city of Miamisburg. The reason that the guard program has been so successful has been the leadership of Cathy Barnes-Miller.
In the fall of 1980, Cathy, then a teacher at Mound Elementary, was approached by new band director Robert O’Neil to take over the color guard program at the high school. Cathy had had a storied performing career as a member of the famed Miller’s Blackhawks organization. In short time, Cathy also started the winter guard program at Miamisburg.
It did not take long for Cathy to build a guard powerhouse at Miamisburg. In her third year as director, the guard won their first of fifteen circuit championships they would win under Cathy’s tutelage. By her fifth year as director, the guard had earned a place as a Winter Guard International World Championship finalist. In her time leading the high school guard, Miamisburg would earn a place in the highest division finals fourteen times.
Cathy’s finest achievements at Miamisburg reside in the three World Championships she earned, in 1991, 1992, and 1998. The group also finished second overall an additional five times, while also consistently placing in the upper echelon each year. The 1991 show, “Candle in the Wind,” is still considered by many to be one of the best and most influential shows in the history of the activity.
Upon retiring from the high school guard in 1998, Cathy then started the Miamisburg Elementary and Junior Guards, training the next generation of Miamisburg guard students. This allowed for Miamisburg to continue its unmatched legacy of success among Ohio color guards. In addition to her duties as a Miamisburg color guard coach, she also served on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee for WGI and in a leadership role with MEPA, helping to shape the activity into what it has become.
Upon retiring from teaching, Cathy has continued to teach color guard, but now to a completely different set of students. Cathy is the creator and founder of the Miami Valley Adaptive Color Guard, teaching color guard skills to students with special needs from throughout the Dayton area. This may end up being the most enduring part of her legacy.
Cathy Barnes-Miller is revered as one the most successful directors in the history of the Mid East Performance Association. She started a program that has won 40 of the last 43 circuit championships and is a 36 time world championship finalist at the highest level of the activity.
Congratulations to Fred J. Miller and Cathy Barnes, Class of 2023 inductees of the inaugural Hall of Fame!