If you’re an Atlanta Braves fan, or even if you’re not, perhaps you’ve seen him. The charismatic man in the tuxedo who sings “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch on Sundays and holidays.
His name is Timothy Miller, and I have seen him at least a hundred times over the past ten years. In about two minutes, he warms the heart, and brings tears to the eyes. It is an impressive display of patriotism, each more moving than the last. Here is one of his performances:
Maybe you are like me, and you have questions: Is he married? Does he have children? Does he enjoy getting dressed up for a 95-degree baseball game, and singing for 40,000 people (plus few million more watching at home)? Does he know the ballplayers, and do they appreciate what he does?
The answer to all those questions is “yes.”
He calls himself an unlikely celebrity, but not an accidental one. He is well trained, and well prepared for his moment in the sun.
His voice, he says, is God-given. He is a modest man, and is flattered to hear that people stop what they are doing when he is on television. Yes, he sees the reaction from the fans in the stands at SunTrust Park. What he can’t see are fans in the concourse who pause for a couple of minutes to salute before they order their hot dogs. He hears the stories of veterans, some of whom struggle to walk, carefully rising from their living room chair when he begins to sing.
His journey to the baseball diamond began a quarter-century ago in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia. He was “discovered” at the age of ten in church. “I come from a singing family. My mom (Ann Miller) was one of twelve children, and my dad (Rev. Dr. Woodrow Miller Jr.) was one of fourteen. Any time our family (including his sister, Telisha Miller) got together, there was music.” He continued, “One day at church, I was singing up front, and the pianist had her back to me. When the song was over, she turned around, looked at me, and then looked at my mom.” After church, the pianist said to his mom, “Do you know your son has a voice?” His mom took note, and encouraged him to study music.
In high school (Academy of Richmond County, GA), he did well in biology and math, and played alto sax in the band. But he never forgot about that gift: his voice. He took voice lessons at Augusta State University, and continued singing in church. From Paine College, he moved on to Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he sang in the Glee Club. He was in awe of the talent that surrounded him, asking himself, “How can people make these sounds?”
For the first time, he was singing alongside equally talented students who specialized in operatic and classical music. He felt challenged to step up his game. “I had grown up with, and always loved gospel music and hymns. Now it was time for formal training.”
After graduating from college, he performed with the Atlanta Symphony, Atlanta Opera, and the Georgia Symphony. By 2008, the Braves had followed the lead of several teams in the post-9/11 era, featuring “God Bless America” at home games. The team held an audition for a permanent singer, inviting eight singers for a tryout. Miller was number eight. “The entertainment director later told me that after the seventh guy sang, they felt like they had found their man. They only let me sing because they had promised me a tryout. Somehow I convinced them to change their mind, and I am forever thankful.”
So are Braves fans, and the Braves players. “They’re just people, like us,” he said. “They have good days, and bad days, but they always give me a high five, or a thumbs up. When (former Braves manager) Fredi Gonzalez was in town a few weeks ago, he came up behind me and gave me a big hug. So did (former Braves player) Martin Prado. That really meant a lot to me.”
Miller says he never gets tired of singing “God Bless America” at the games. “It is always an honor. I know that every time I sing it, someone is hearing me for the very first time. I love the pride it gives people, and the way it makes them feel. We honor veterans at the games, and they are especially touched by the song. I never had the honor of serving, but my dad was a twenty-year military man. This is my way of serving.”
He and his wife Iuyana have two children, daughter Morgan (10) and son Matthew (8), both of whom are accustomed to having a father who is a familiar face. “People stop and want a selfie, or to thank me for inspiring their children to take voice lessons. I encourage them to further their education. It is an attainable goal.”
What is something we don’t know about the iconic singer? He is a lifelong Braves fan, having grown up cheering for Otis, Deion, Andruw, and Chipper. He shared his musical gifts during a European tour, and performed at the Georgia governor’s inauguration. His “day job” is adjunct professor of music and voice at Morehouse. He can sing in German, French, Italian and Latin. He loves musical theater and the swing sound of “Sir Duke” Ellington. He wants to share more of his repertoire, and is open to scheduling public performances, which could soon include a Christmas recital. He said he has made some mistakes while singing at Braves games, but if so, he sure fooled me. As you can see from the picture below, he has a sense of humor, too.
He and his family enjoy visiting Chattanooga, enjoying the Scenic City’s attractions. People do not usually recognize him when he is not attired in his trademark tuxedo. “There was this one time,” he said. “I was in the supermarket, trying to decide which eggs to buy. A man came up, tapped me on the shoulder, and said ‘I appreciate what you do.’ That is all he needed to say.”
In addition to his family, Timothy Miller lists the following people as major inspirations in his life:
“My mother took me to see the legendary soprano Jessye Norman while in high school and her voice has been an inspiration for me! She is also from Augusta.
My high school choral director, Molly Baldwin.
The Creative Impressions, an audition-only group of high school students. Evelyn Ellis is director.
Dr. David Morrow, director of the Morehouse College Glee Club.
Dr. Uzee Brown, chairman of the music department at Morehouse and undergraduate voice teacher.
And I was honored to be inducted into my high school Hall of Fame in October 2017.”