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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Physicians Involved in the Arts

Dr. Calvin Miller is a singer, needleworker and motorcycle enthusiast. (Photo by Rebecca Harrington)
Dr. Calvin Miller is a singer, needleworker and motorcycle enthusiast. (Photo by Rebecca Harrington)

Dr. Calvin Miller: Needles, Music & Motorcycles

By Angela Wampler | A! Magazine for the Arts | October 26, 2011

Dr. Calvin Miller is an ophthalmologist who began his medical career in Wise, Va. He moved to Abingdon in 1978 and founded Eye Physicians of Southwest Virginia in 1989. He sold that practice five years ago to work in Memphis. He now works four days a week in the Bristol office of the Johnson City Eye Clinic.

In the arts community, Dr. Miller is perhaps best known for singing with Voices of the Mountains and the former Bristol Concert Choir; chairing the Photography Committee for the Virginia Highlands Festival; and establishing a music scholarship fund in memory of his daughter Patty, who played in the band at Abingdon High School and died of leukemia when she was a high school junior. The scholarship fund started with $5,000 in the 1990s and invested in the stock market for a 10-year period. Summer study scholarships totaling nearly $15,000 were awarded. When the scholarship fund ended, $20,000 was donated to the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy.

Over the years, Dr. Miller sang with high school and college choirs; and during medical school he sang with the University Singers in Charlottesville. When he worked in Memphis, he sang with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra Choir. "I'm not a trained musician," he says. "I grew up singing a cappella, singing intervals and using a pitch pipe — kind of like shape note singing."

One of his hobbies is photography. He began by taking pictures for his high school annual and taught himself how to develop photos in a darkroom. He chaired the Festival Photography Committee in the "pre-digital era." Afterwards, he entered the juried competition as an amateur photographer. "I never had an image that won, but was happy that most years some were selected to hang in the juried exhibition," he recalls. "I'm still taking pictures, but not pursuing it as an art form."

His current passions are riding a new BMW motorcycle and — knitting. So, does he whip out his knitting needles around his biker friends? "No," he admits, "but my wife and I do carry our knitting with us when she rides with me." Dr. Miller does knit while playing poker with friends. And he knits while watching basketball games on television.

For years Dr. Miller's wife Jean knitted clothes for their daughters. "When we took a trip abroad, we knew it was going to be a long plane ride, so Jean brought extra needles and yarn and taught me how to knit on the plane. She's a better knitter than I am — more imaginative," he admits.

"Needlework is not a very manly art, but I enjoy it," he chuckles. "I do some cross-stitch and I knit a fair amount. I've made a dozen sweaters for myself and my grandchildren. I have a knitting project going most of the time. It justifies watching basketball on TV. However, if I'm knitting a complicated pattern, I might make a mistake and have to tear part of it out."


- Dr. Keith Kramer