Alton Glenn Miller (1 March 1904, Clarinda, Iowa – 15 December 1944, English Channel) was an American big band founder, owner, conductor, composer, arranger, trombone player, and recording artist.
During his senior year of high school in Fort Morgan, Colo., Miller became so interested in dance band music that he formed a band with some classmates. By the time he graduated in 1921, he had decided to become a professional musician. In 1923, Miller entered the University of Colorado at Boulder, but he spent most of his time away from school, attending auditions and playing any gigs he could get, and eventually dropped out.
Moving to New York, starting in 1926 Miller played with and arranged for a number of big bands. He also studied the Schillinger system with Joseph Schillinger, under whose tutelage he composed "Miller's Tune". Miller arranged that tune for big band and renamed it, and it eventually became his signature theme, Moonlight Serenade.
After a varied big band career, Miller formed Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, a swing dance band, in 1938. The group got its big break when it was chosen to play the summer season at the prestigious Glen Island Casino on the north shore of Long Island Sound. Due to the band's exposure on radio, its popular grew quickly, becoming the best-selling recording band from 1939 to 1942. It did not have a string section, but did have a slap bass in the rhythm section. It was also a touring band that played multiple radio broadcasts nearly every day. The band became the most popular and commercially successful dance orchestra of the swing era and one of the greatest singles charting acts of the 20th century.
At the peak of his civilian career in 1942, Miller decided to join the armed forces. On 7 October, he reported to the Seventh Service Command at Omaha as a captain in the Army Specialist Corps, later the Army Air Force. In 1943 he became director of bands of the Army Air Force Technical Training Command, in which position he recruited many other professional musicians into the military. He also formed and directed the Second AAF Radio Production Unit and Orchestra, successfully fusing jazz, popular music and light classics, including strings, which was an evolutionary step beyond his civilian band; there was also a marching band and a jazz band. On the eve of D-day, General Dwight Eisenhower specifically requested Miller and his band come to England as a morale booster. Miller has eventually become considered to be the father of the modern U.S. military bands.
Miller went missing in action on December 15, 1944, on a flight over the English Channel. In keeping with standard operating procedure for the US military services, Miller was officially declared dead a year and a day later.
Glenn Miller's name is associated with a number of compositions -- Little Brown Jug, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, In the Mood, etc. -- but Moonlight Serenade is the only work that he is specifically listed as having composed.
Works for Winds
- Moonlight Serenade (arr. Bocci) (1939/2009)
- Moonlight Serenade (arr. Hautvast) (1939/)
- Moonlight Serenade (arr. Thomas) (1939/1998)