Get our newsletters

Solebury School’s “Young Artist” primed to go the distance


What better way to honor singer/songwriter Callie Miles' milestone achievements than with an evening devoted to dulcet Miles tones?

The Solebury School has made her its sole choice for honors at its Young Artists Concert, Sept. 29, singling out this incredibly gifted Solebury student/demi-celebrity with an evening devoted to her catalog of croon-worthy crafted songs that dance on the precipice of full blown stardom.

"It's all-Callie, all the time," she kibbitzes of the evening's theme song.

Her work, however, is no joke for those who know this teen teeming with talent, a multi-instrumentalist with an abundance of love for music, noteworthy accomplishments and accolades already cramming her credit-filled bio.

Name that tune on Sept. 29, and it will be the 18-year-old Solebury senior's number.

"Part of me wanted to throw together the biggest band possible," she says of choosing backup performers for the event. "But then I decided I would create a more intimate concert."

In concert with that decision is the choice to include one of her closest friends to join and jazz with her onstage.

"We met in second grade at River Valley Waldorf School in Upper Black Eddy," she says of Maia Jarrett, jazz great Keith Jarrett's granddaughter.

Indeed, she has sweet-sounding memories of those toddler times, when her attraction to an artful life was in its infancy. River Valley, she intones, "was a very special school," she recalls of those elementary days and the incipient influences that challenged and charged her talent.

"I got to be artistic all the time,” she said. “It gave me confidence in my ability."

Of which there was much. If she feels jazzed by those early recollections, it's because jazz has always been a musical mainstay in her life.

"The jazz influence on my work is crucial," she acknowledges. "I love so many kinds of music, but...I never want to get away from that. It's like a higher power."

What empowers her? Two major influences, she says, giving a hats off to Cathy Block, Solebury's band aid of musical inspiration — she is head of its music department, and leads the jazz and rock ensembles.

Blocks and Miles: An ingenious journey of walking the walk. Indeed, Block is her rock, avows the teen who is also her intern, a major musical honor accorded to a topnotch talent at Solebury. What Miles has learned as a student and intern is to internalize Block's teachings, that heart and soul is not just a work by Hoagy Carmichael but what is needed to be filled with a sense of life and sharing.

"She really taught me how to lead with kindness and to take what I do seriously,” Miles said. “What she teaches me shows up in my performances. She is so honest: She keeps me grounded and hungry to know more."

Helping her to feel satiated, too, is the school itself.

"Solebury has always made me feel supported," with the administration and faculty letting her know "that if something is important to me, it's important to them."

And import is a key word in understanding the parental influence this dynamic non-diva has at home: Dad Jonathan is a bold-faced name novelist, and Mom Catherine is a wine importer.

"They are both wonderful, huge supporters of what I do," she said.

Her folks will undoubtedly be there on Sept. 29 to hear their daughter's "folkie" concert. But they are attuned to the sound of music making its way through their home; Callie's brother, Sloan, 16, often tag-teams with his sister for in-home bandstands, with him gigging on guitar. "I think he's a better musician than I am," she says of Sloan, also a student at Solebury.

How best to measure the meaning and mindfulness this young female metronome brings to music? Disney has dibs on "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," but this super Callie is no fragile phenom protected from the rigors and pleasures of performing professionally. Winner last year of the Solebury music department's highly competitive Song Craft Award, Miles hasn't far to walk to get a gig.

Her schedule has been crowded with exceptional experiences and some, making meal money: teaching piano, "taking hard classes" to challenge herself and finding time to wait tables.

When it's pointed out that she's been working hard since she was 11, Miles doesn't miss a beat, responding with a sense of humor heightened by a lack of hubris. Showing one more time her indefatigable tireless sense of timing, the intrepid teen quips, "No wonder I'm so tired."

Michael Elkin is a playwright, theater critic and novelist who lives in Abington. He writes occasional columns about theater and the arts.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.