|Allen Miller is a recognized authority on pipe organ
design, construction, winding, and tonal finishing, especially in the high pressure and
theatre organ field. Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1941, Allen's roots connect directly
to the Ballou genealogy, early settlers of Providence (RI) Plantation.
An early interest in mechanics, electricity, and music quickly led toward the organ. By age 13, he was playing professionally, and building his first electronic organ. At age 14, the youngest member of the then ATOE , now ATOS (the American Theatre Organ Society) at the time, he began copying theatre organ arrangements from recordings, and by the age of 16, had researched and written an extensive paper on theatre organs.
It was then that he began to build his first pipe organ. While a student at East Hartford High School, this organ won recognition in the National Science Fair and attracted the interest of executives at Aeolian-Skinner and Austin Organs. This organ became the nucleus of a 3 manual theatre pipe organ now installed in his home.
While attending Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, he also worked for AEolian-Skinner, and began restoring the organ in Hartford's Allyn Theatre. This led to his forming the Connecticut Valley Theatre Organ Society. Pursuing a BS major in Interdepartmental Engineering, he set his goals toward organ building and tailored his studies to include related arts, music, and economics. Electronics interests led him to the college FM station, where he became a technician and wrote and hosted a 16 week program on the theatre organ. Forming a partnership with John L. Swope, III, the pair operated a custom recording company for several years. S&M Master Recordings became known for their state-of-the-art stereo fidelity and local stereo stores were giving away their recordings as "demos" to new stereo system buyers.
In 1962, Allen joined Austin Organs, Inc. design staff. He became involved in component and console design, pipe organ layout, research and development, purchasing, and plant operations. Serving as plant superintendent and assistant vice president, he learned every phase of the business from lumber selection to tonal finishing.
Allen's design contributions included pioneering of solid-state switching, an electric swell engine, a console with adjustable playing dimensions, a universal tremulant winding system, and use of synthetic materials. Orlon felts, silicones, Teflon, and Delrin are among those "experimental" materials which are in general use in the pipe organ industry today.
During two years of duty in the Army, Allen became recognized for his teaching and writing abilities, designed and wired two radio broadcast and recording studios, and wrote a completely new Audio Specialist Course. His technical writing abilities later were applied to a service manual for Austin and several articles for THEATRE ORGAN, CONSOLE, THE DIAPASON, and the AMICA journal. In 1977, Allen left Austin and formed Allen Miller Associates. His company has produced electronic pedal extensions, custom switching circuitry, and Wurlitzer copy pipework. He has primarily concentrated on theatre organ restoration and renovation consultation, rebuilding, and tonal finishing. Allen's work on some 20 in-theatre or performing arts installations is constantly expanding. He has also served as a Rodgers service technician in the Connecticut area.
A charter member of the American Theatre Organ Society, Allen has served on the ATOS Board of Directors for numerous terms of election and his contributions to the society include programs awarding excellence in theatre organ restoration, acknowledging accomplished theatre pipe organ technicians showing a high degree of excellence in their work, as well as honoring exemplary theatre organ restorations and installations. A National Registry of Historic and Significant Theatre Organs was started in 1997.
Allen compiled and edited "THEATRE ORGAN SHOP NOTES" a compilation of technical articles published in THEATRE ORGAN journal over a period of 40 years. This book, published by ATOS in a unique binder format, includes commentary and corrections by Allen and several other recognized pipe organ authorities. As reference material, "SHOP NOTES" has become a bible to many amateur organ builders.
Allen has conducted seminars and lectured to conventions of the ATOS and American Institute of Organbuilders.
Allen's interests also include the American Institute of Organbuilders, Audio Engineering Society, Musical Box Society, Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association, The American Guild of Organists, and the Antique Wireless Association. His restorations go well beyond theatre organs and include Hammond electric clocks, music boxes, reproducing player pianos, acoustic and early electric phonographs, radios, and antique toasters.
Allen has a special fondness and interest in Victor Electrolas, early electric phonographs dating from circa 1925, and The Capehart. The Capehart was the state-of-the-art radio/phonograph between 1936 and 1950. Besides having circuitry and high-fidelity design years ahead of its competition, The Capehart boasted an incredible phonograph mechanism which played a stack of records continuously, turning each one over so as to play both sides in succession. These interests have led into collecting and restoring juke boxes, especially Wurlitzers and Seeburgs of the 1940's and 1950's.
When not ensconced in an organ chamber, Allen can be found at the console of his own theatre organ, computing, designing electronic circuitry, or recording digital audio and video. One can easily see how those three early interests combined into a lifetime of diverse occupations and hobbies all sharing the same common thread.
Allen's interest in Hammond electric clocks has turned him toward writing a book on the subject, "SPIN TO START," named for the characteristic of these early electric clocks, which had to be manually "launched" into operation. Allen has become a recognized authority on the subject. Check out the official Hammond Clock site.