News Article Details

Miltich to present special performance of ?The Improvised Life'

Grand Rapids Herald-Review - 5/5/2018

Local jazz guitarist Sam Miltich, a long-time fixture on the Minnesota jazz scene, was the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board 2018 Arts Tour Minnesota Grant for his proposal to highlight the cultural contributions of famous artists with mental illness. With a program titled "The Improvised Life: Exploring Intersections of Mental Health and Creativity through Jazz," Miltich seeks to inspire hope through his own story and original compositions.

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, on Wednesday, May 9, Miltich will present a special performance of his latest project, sponsored by the Grand Rapids chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), at the Reif Center.Miltich's dialogue will explore intersections of mental health and the creative process and his pursuit of well-being amidst the daily challenges of living with a serious mental illness. He will also describe his definition of recovery and the sense of purpose he cultivates through quality engagement in career and family life.The performance will highlight the "significant contributions that some jazz musicians, specifically [Thelonious] Monk, have brought to the world, proving a point that people with mental illness can have a significant influence on the world in a very positive way," explained Miltich in an interview earlier this year."My hope is by helping to recognize these contributions, I can help reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and bring greater awareness to the general public about this issue," said Miltich.In turn, he hopes to inspire advocacy for services for people with mental illness, as well as to encourage individuals living with mental illness to "know that recovery is possible, even if it may feel it isn't.""Not only can you have recovery in your life, but you can thrive, in spite of the challenges a major mental illness poses," said Miltich. "The ultimate goal [of the program] is to help bring recovery to those who suffer."Wednesday's performance, according to Miltich, will incorporate both a musical component as well as a narrative, the former focused on the music of Thelonious Monk as well as Miltich's own compositions, "many of which have been written in a style similar to some of Monk's.""The narrative will highlight how I have used my art, as an improvising jazz musician, as a means towards my personal recovery," explained Miltich, who experienced his first psychotic break at the age of 22. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Miltich said he feels "an obligation to change" the injustices suffered by a population that he said, "for too many years has been ignored." He hopes to accomplish this feat by "putting a human story to an issue that so many people don't know about or understand.""I have a unique position as someone who has a major mental illness, and as someone who has a public platform to speak from as a performing artist to really be of service to others," continued Miltich. "I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to not only play music, but use my art as a tool for social justice. I hope that my story will help people to see that schizophrenia is not something to be feared."

Miltich is a self-taught jazz guitarist who calls the woods of Northern Minnesota home. He burst on the scene in his teens as a young lion of gypsy jazz, joining Paul Mehling's Hot Club of San Francisco and touring internationally with the world-renowned Robin Nolan Trio.

Miltich's fluid and instinctive sound has graced hundreds of stages, from small towns on the Iron Range to New York'sLincoln Center. In addition to fronting his own band, the Clearwater Hot Club, Miltich records and performs extensively with Minneapolis-based jazz singers Connie Evingson and Charmin Michelle; legendary Twin Cities saxophonist Dave Karr; and Dutch swing violin maestro, Tim Kliphuis. In addition to a busy touring schedule, Miltich also hosts a weekly Jazz at the VFW night in his hometown of Grand Rapids.Admission to this special performance at the Reif is a suggested $10 donation. For tickets, visit


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