Know what a marimba is? This Gardens teen crushed it on NPR program


Griffin Miller, a junior at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, is on an episode of “From the Top.”

He started playing the piano when he was 3 years old.

A teenage musician from Palm Beach Gardens is getting airtime on NPR.

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Griffin Miller, 16, plays the marimba on this week’s episode of “From the Top.” The show hosted by Christopher O’Riley is online now and will air 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on SiriusXM radio. WLRN, the local NPR affiliate, doesn’t carry the show.

Griffin played a lively, 6-minute piece called “Scirocco” — meaning “hot, desert wind” — in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno, Nev., for the taping Sept. 10. The song is a crowd-pleaser because it’s very fast and whimsical, Griffin said.

The show featured five high school-aged musicians. Griffin, a junior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, was the only marimba player. The marimba is an instrument similar to the xylophone. It’s made of wooden bars with tubes underneath to make the sound resonate.

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“Because the marimba is so unique, and I’m sure many people in the audience hadn’t heard the marimba, they were intrigued by my playing,” he said.

Griffin picked up the marimba in 6th grade at Bak Middle School of the Arts. Before that, he tried to play just about every wind instrument but “just couldn’t make noise out of them.” Now he plays just about every percussion instrument.

He snagged a spot in the “From the Top” line-up through a summer orchestra program, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. His teachers picked two out of 11 percussion students to audition for “From the Top” — and there were no guarantees either would make the cut, Griffin said.

LISTEN: Hear Griffin Miller’s performance and interview online here.

Two days after his live audition, he got a phone call: He was in.

After a live performance in a packed concert hall, Griffin walked across the stage to O’Riley for the interview. He explained some of his habits, such as sitting on the floor and hitting with his mallets to build up his muscles, and how he start making music at the age of 3.

No, really.

Turns out Griffin was a bit of a troublemaker in preschool. He memorized the songs on the Baby Einstein CD his teacher at The Weiss School would play during nap time and hummed them, keeping the other students awake, dad David Miller said.

His teachers suggested his parents sign him up for piano lessons. He was so young, his piano teacher had to write the notes on his fingers with a Magic Marker.

Griffin’s mom sings and plays the guitar, and his dad used to manage actors for Broadway, film and television. They met as theater majors at New York University, but neither has the musical chops Griffin does, David Miller said. They run Camp Starlight, a summer camp in Pennsylvania 2 1/2 hours northwest of New York City.

Music has defined the young man Griffin has become, his dad said. The family has an 8-foot-long marimba in their living room.

“There’s music in my house every night. I never have to tell him to practice,” David Miller said. “It’s been pretty cool watching the music sort of help identify who he is.”

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