The executive director of the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra sang in a local band
The new executive director of the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra has a long history in Polk County. But only longtime locals might remember when Ashley Metts Miller first stepped into the spotlight.
His father, Willie Metts, was the lead singer of a popular rock and roll group known as The Canadian Rogues. The band has performed at many of Lakeland’s major festivals and fundraisers with a rousing mix of rock, soul and blues.
When Willie Metts died in 1996, Ashley, then a teenager, took over her role on the microphone.
“I grew up going to his performances. When he passed away, I took his place in the band and was their lead singer for a while,” she said.
Miller, 40, is the new executive director of the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra. She has a wide range of marketing and nonprofit experience, as well as a local face for the role.
“This opportunity embraces my passions, which are people, giving back to our community and to music,” she said. “When this opportunity came up, it really felt like a dream job that I couldn’t ignore. It brings me back into the nonprofit world, which is an amazing place to be in our community because we have such a generous community. And combining that with arts, culture and music seems to be a perfect fit with my passions and abilities.”
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Miller fills a role previously held by Amy Wiggins, who accepted the position of president of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.
Lori Powell, president of the orchestra’s board of directors, said Miller was the perfect storm.
“She had a combination of all the qualifications we needed. She had nonprofit experience and fundraising experience. She’s from Polk County, so she had a lot of connections, family and friends. Which makes this job so much easier,” Powell said. “She was with VISTE for a long time. She came with excellent references. You know, everyone knows her and everyone loves her. And she’s a musician.”
Miller said she hopes to expand the reach of the symphony orchestra.
“The orchestra has been around for over 55 years and I’m still shocked to hear that people in our community don’t know we have a professional symphony orchestra. My long-term goal would be to make the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra a household name,” Miller said.
Miller wants to continue to build on the foundations and traditions of the orchestra.
“I also want everyone in our community to know that this is for everyone. Music is for everyone,” she said. “One of the goals I would look to is to extend the reach of the symphony orchestra even further so that those who haven’t had the opportunity to experience it have the chance to experience it.
Mark Thielen, the orchestra’s conductor, said Miller was friendly and enjoyed getting to know her during the interview.
“I think the one thing I like in between is that she grew up in this community, so she knows that very well. She knows how people are and probably where to go when she needs some things for the organization,” Thielen said.
Miller is a classically trained pianist and played oboe from middle school through high school. She was raised in a family of musicians, singing being her first love.
Miller was an account executive at MADE for three years prior to her new role. Prior to that, she worked with the Seniors Service Volunteers for 11 years.
Miller graduated from Lake Gibson High School in 2000. She and her husband, Josh, have a 7-year-old son. Miller will begin her new role on July 11 and looks forward to bringing the community together through music.
“I sincerely believe in the healing power of music and the power of music to inspire and bring people together.
Breanna A. Rittman writes stories for The Ledger. Send your feature ideas to BRittman@gannett.com.