Travellin’ Light

Allison Miller
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Allison Miller                                                                                                        (Courtesy of Allison Miller)

Allison Miller is a Brooklyn-based drummer, composer and bandleader. Miller works with an impressive range of artists, including such jazz luminaries as Marty Ehrlich and Dr. Lonnie Smith, and singer-songwriters like Ani DiFranco. She leads Boom Tic Boom, a quartet including Myra Melford, Jenny Scheinman and Todd Sickafoose; she co-leads Emma with Erin McKeown, Honey Ear Trio with Rene Hart and Erik Lawrence, and a trio with Erik Deutsch and Ellery Eskelin. Miller is active in education and audience outreach. In addition to teaching at Kutztown University and giving master classes to high school and university students, she founded the Walter Saub Memorial Musical Scholarship Foundation to provide student financial support, produced the National Parent Award-winning children’s album, Ask the Planet, and served as a US State Department Jazz Ambassador, travelling to East Asia, Eurasia and Southeast Asia. Miller’s summer itinerary includes a residency at Jazz Camp West in LaHonda, California, a tour with Brandi Carlile supporting the release of Live at Benaroya Hall with the Seattle Symphony, and a European tour with Boom Tic Boom. BTB will also tour the West Coast this fall and it will perform at the 2012 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. For more information about Allison Miller, consult: or

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What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

American Airlines

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

American Airlines

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

London, Heathrow

What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

Cymbals … Oops!

What is your worst lost baggage story?

Once when flying to Brugge, Belgium with Marty Ehrlich, my cymbals decided to take a little detour. They went to Bucharest, Romania. Luckily I got them back about an hour before our first show. Another time I flew to Seattle to perform at the Earshot Jazz Festival with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Fred Wesley. Our flight was delayed and my luggage was lost. We barely made the concert and I had to borrow a festival tee shirt to perform in. It was hilarious because they only had a XL! I am a XS! I looked like a teenage girl in my nightgown.

What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

Crossing the border into Canada is the worst. Canadian officials enjoy giving musicians a hard time and love to ask a bunch of useless questions. They also love to bring police dogs onto the bus to sniff around for drugs. They seem to think all musicians are constantly delving into debauchery!

Which city has the worst cab drivers?


What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

I am a fan of the Hotel Monaco in Seattle and Portland, the Taj Mahal in Mumbai, India, Mandarin Oriental Hotel in DC, and Hotel Teatro in Denver.

Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

I travel with a laptop and an iPhone. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I check my email very often, probably 20 to 30 times a day. It is just too convenient with the iPhone.

Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?

I do listen to music on the road. I listen to mp3s on my iPhone or laptop. I don’t think mp3s sound good but they are the most convenient. At least I listen with great headphones (Sony Studio Phones). This narrows the gap between crunchy, over compressed mp3s and my much preferred analog system in my apartment; professional quality record player through my nice home system.

Do you do your own laundry on the road?

I mostly do my own laundry on the road. Most venues have nice laundry machines. In fact I have been known to change my laundry during intermission or breaks during the set.

What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

Wow. Difficult question. I have had a few sound checks that have lasted over 2 hours. I would say these were definitely nightmarish. I have no patience for wasted time on stage.

What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

About 15 years ago, in Ufa Russia, I requested a vegetarian meal. I was brought frozen pizza with canned peas and carrots on top.

What are your three favorite venues?

I have to divide this answer between Theaters and Clubs.

Theaters: Radio City Music Hall, Portsmouth Music Hall, Chautauqua Amphitheater, Rialto Theatre.

Clubs: Jazz Standard (the old), Blues Alley (the old), An Die Musik, Barbes.

Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

Tokyo, New York City, Rome, Paris, Brussels, San Francisco, Beijing

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

New York City, Tokyo, Chicago, New Orleans

What is the best city that closes down too early?

I love London but it closes down too early. Pubs close by 11pm and restaurants usually close even earlier.

What is the best locale to have a day off?

Home! Brooklyn, NY. This is my favorite place on earth.

What is your cure for jet lag?

I immediately jump into the time zone of the destination city. I take a long walk in the sun, eat lunch and dinner at the appropriate time, and try to stay up as late as possible. By the time I fall asleep I am so exhausted that I usually end up getting 8-9 hours and wake up at my normal morning time in the new time zone. Napping during the middle of the day is a bad idea!

What is your best tip for the novice?


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