Cam Millar aspires to provide "edutainment" through events at Flying Camel Cafe
Cam Millar earned a degree in trombone performance from the University of British Columbia at Vancouver. He went on to receive a masters of music degree from State University of New York at Purchase in studio composition, then to work as a composer and arranger in formats from jazz and big band to classical chamber ensembles. His collaborations include projects with filmmakers, modern dance choreographers and multi-media artists across genres.
His next goal is to be a part of energizing the live music scene in downtown Hagerstown. Toward that end, Millar is working with Julie Castillo, owner of The Flying Camel Cafe & Piano Bar on South Potomac Street. Millar will be performing along with other musicians at the venue every second and fourth Saturday of the month. The second Saturday will feature a short lecture and discussion on jazz topics, then a performance of traditional jazz with some originals. The fourth Saturday, he will play groove and Latin music with African native and percussionist Haroun Hallack.
“(The Flying Camel Cafe) is a special place for music,” Millar said. “It has a wonderful ambience, great cocktails, and the opportunity to perform with some of the finest musicians in the area.”
Millar, who was born in Manitoba, Canada, met his wife, Kitty Clark, while living in New York. Clark’s grandmother lived in Hagerstown, so the couple sometimes would visit, and during 2000 moved to nearby Shepherdstown, W.Va. A project composing music for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair equestrian event in Toronto, Canada took Millar back to his native country for three years.
When he returned to the area last year taking up residency in Hagerstown, he learned that Castillo was opening The Flying Camel as a venue for jazz and “edutainment,” meaning entertainment that inspires curiosity and learning along with social interactions.
Millar said he spoke with Castillo about “some things I’d done and some things I’d really love to do.” With his background as a musician and as a teacher, Castillo and Millar have common goals.
“I believe people are really trying to make things happen here and it’s the same with us,” Millar said. “Living here, I really want to be a part of trying to make things happen for this community. There are some great people in the area and Hagerstown has so much potential to revive itself.”
Millar’s family moved around a lot when he was a child, he said. His mother was a piano player, teacher and accompanist for vocalists including many at the University of Calgary.
He began playing trombone in grade seven because he was “last in line” when instruments were being passed out.
“I had my heart set on playing the trumpet. That’s what I really wanted to play, but I was a kind of shy, quiet guy and I was standing in the back of the line. (My teacher) said, ‘Here. You get the trombone,’” Millar said. “I had no clue, really, what a trombone was. I was always listening to trumpet music.”
Today, he is glad things worked out as they did. Trombone is making a comeback of sorts, he said, with the popularity of artist Troy Andrews, known as “Trombone Shorty,” and the return of horns to many rock, pop and R&B bands.
“It used to be like there were no horns,” Millar said. “Then there was only sax for a while. Now trombone is becoming a little more cool again. It’s kind of nice.”
Millar, who has taught music appreciation, is excited about second Saturday lectures and discussions, he said.
“At 6 p.m., we’ll have people come in and sit down, have a drink and talk about some aspect of jazz. Maybe New Orleans, Louie Armstrong, Miles Davis, how to listen to jazz, or some aspect of something we’ll play later in the evening. Hopefully people will stick around and listen,” he said.
Fourth Saturday music, Millar said, will be “a little more funky, with sambas and an afro beat. Kind of a more groovy time,” he said.
Later in March, he plans to start playing additional performances with a group of three to six other musicians.
“It will be more of a world beat, funky fusion music. I want to find more multicultural musicians from the area and get them in too. So that’s another plan in the works,” he said.
The good thing about having many aspirations at this point in his life, Millar said, is that “musicians, especially brass players, tend to get better as they get older.”
“I can’t really think of quitting,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just starting to get better.”
Top photo: Trombonist, composer, and arranger Cam Millar will perform the second and fourth Saturdays of each month at The Flying Camel Cafe & Piano Bar in Hagerstown. (Submitted photo)