Music Maker

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BURLINGTON — As her fingers danced over the keys, Barbara Miller seemed to radiate a serenity as the regular chorus at the Sybene Senior Center sang out old-time hymns.

For the past nine years, Miller, of Chesapeake, has volunteered each Monday to accompany the weekly group of singers who come to the center to sing praises to God and enjoy the fellowship.

Miller started taking private piano lessons as a child and studied for almost a decade. Now she willingly shares her gift with others.

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As the weekly singing session broke up, Miller stopped to talk about her volunteer work at the center, in between the hugs she kept getting from the singers as they left for the day.

“I love to play the piano,” she said. “I dedicated my hands to God many years ago.”

Besides playing at the Sybene center, Miller right now plays for Burlington Baptist Church. But in the past she has also been pianist for Sybene Baptist, Baptist Temple and Getaway Methodist.

She describes playing the piano as a deeply felt and personal experience.

“It is such a blessing,” she said. “It’s me and piano. It is just between me and God.”

Miller would come to the Sybene center with a friend for an exercise class when there was an opening for a pianist for the weekly sing-a-long.

Miller delights in her work as much as the singers enjoy her musicianship.

“It is the most wonderful thing there ever was,” she said. “You should watch their faces. The joy they feel.”

Sharing the joy of music has been a mission of Miller for the past 44 years as she kept until recently a weekly roster of 52 students.

Miller, with her husband Curt, brought up six children and now are the proud grandparents of 17. As far as any other really serious musicians in the family, Miller is the only one. But she insisted all her children have some experience trying to master a musical instrument.

“All my children had to play for nine months before I’d let them go into the sports,” she said. “Piano teaches discipline.”