The Power Of Live Music As Therapy

Pianist Ivo Monroe Miller says music is the sound of healing, whether you’re critically ill or just having a bad day

Ivo Monroe Miller has been tickling the ivories since he was 5 years old. The piano-playing singer continues to delight audiences to this day, sharing his talent at various venues across the island.

“We need more live music on Kaua’i,” he says during an interview conducted at Kaua’i Hospice, where his wife Lori Miller (his No. 1 fan) serves as executive director. “Live music is the best.”

Live music is therapy for Miller, and he believes that music, in all its forms, offers healing properties. This was especially made clear to him when he used to play regularly at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

“You could hear it all over that hospital,” he says of the keyboard he played three times a week.

Patients, along with their friends and family members, would gather around Miller to soak in his soothing melodies.

“That was the most rewarding experience,” he says.

Many rewarding experiences have come about for Miller over the course of his musical life on-island, including playing at the hospital’s dedication ceremony for The Infusion Center.

“That’s what aloha is, giving and sharing, and it all comes back tenfold,” he says.

Someone else who knows exactly how to share aloha is Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., according to Miller. That’s why the musician recently dedicated his song Come to Kaua’i to the mayor.

“He is so musical and has a tremendous voice,” says Miller of Carvalho. “He’s also a great community leader, and he puts his money where his mouth is.”

Miller originally wrote the song in 1999.

“It describes the beauty of the island – it’s like an advertisement for the island,” he says.

The song was played by Miller Jan. 1 during a 93.5, KQNG FM broadcast. He also sang with Carvalho July 4 last year during Kaua’i Hospice’s Concert in the Sky.

“He’s everywhere – I don’t know what the guy has for breakfast,” jokes Miller about the mayor.

It is Miller’s hope that everyone will learn his fun, simple song so that one day people can collectively sing along.

“I think I’m going to be famous after I’ve passed away,” jokes Miller. “I’m being realistic.”

Though his name may not be recognized by everyone, that doesn’t stop Miller from playing his eclectic mix of tunes, which include jazz, Broadway, Latin and Hawaiian.

He always has preferred listening to and playing a variety of music. But the piano has been his instrument of choice since he was a child.

“I was always drawn to it because it was so easy,” he says.

Miller says he studied with some great teachers, including Harold Cadek of the Cadek Conservatory of Music. The Tennessee native also majored in piano and voice at the University of Miami. Prior to graduating from college, however, Miller’s skills landed him the winning spot during a March of Dimes’ talent show. His son, Jordan, was a poster child for the March of Dimes when he was born prematurely 11 years ago.

Miller believes the healing properties of music contributed to his son’s recovery.

“I played music for him while he was in the incubator,” he explains. “He’s our miracle boy.”

Other musical phenomena that have occurred in Miller’s life include learning a Rita Hayworth song, Blue Pacific Blues from the movie Miss Sadie Thompson, at the age of 13.

“That song was just haunting,” he says.

Little did Miller know he would end up on the island on which the movie was partly filmed decades later playing the same piece.

Other pleasantly surprising events in Miller’s life include playing for the opening of a Wyndham resort in Florida with Bob Hope and a 28-piece orchestra, as well as playing on various cruise ships for five years.

Nonetheless, Miller is grateful he ultimately ended up on Kaua’i.

“I hung up my sea legs for Lori,” he says regarding his wife’s decision to move to the Garden Isle.

One of his favorite local influences since coming to the Islands in the mid-1990s is singer/songwriter Eddie Bush, with whom Miller learned what he deems as the “oldie goldie” Hawaii tunes about Hanalei and Waikiki.

“He gave me a real heads up,” he says.

Miller hopes to continue sharing what he has learned as well as introduce new compositions to as many people around the island as possible.

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