A singer, songwriter, and founding member of BACA (Boston Association of Cabaret Artists), Will McMillan has soloed with pops orchestras, rock bands, and a cappella groups. For many years he hosted Will & Company a series highlighting local singers and songwriters at the Blacksmith House in Harvard Square and earned a 2002 IRNE award from the Independent Reviewers of New England for Best Cabaret Show in a small venue.
In October 2015 he released a nine-song CD of original songs by jazz pianist, composer, and songwriter Steve Sweeting called Blame Those Gershwins. To read an interview with Steve and Will, you are welcome to click here. To hear songs from Blame Those Gershwins, you can click here.
After taking a class called "Ukulele for the Almost Musical" in 2010, Will began writing songs in earnest using Apple's GarageBand software and his trusty laptop.
In December 2015 he debuted a program featuring twenty one of these songs called "The Beauty All Around" — with Doug Hammer at the piano and special guest vocalist Jinny Sagorin — which sold out a month in advance.
To read Will's blog and hear lots of music, please click here.
After being laid off from his day job as assistant director at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in 2012, Will trained to become a Music Together teacher and now leads classes three mornings a week in Arlington Heights.
He also performs one-hour programs of music by (and stories about) Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers, Jule Styne, Hoagy Carmichael, and Jerome Kern in retirement communities and libraries around Massachussetts with jazz pianist Joe Reid.
In addition to his solo projects, Will performs with singer Bobbi Carrey in shows about Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers (with Hart and Hammerstein), Broadway, Love, Business, Harmony, and Oscar-winning songs. For more details please click here. Their sold out performance at Scullers, If I Loved You, "transported listeners into a daydream, blurring the lines between romance, wit and melancholy." — Boston Herald
Acclaimed radio and TV host Ron Della Chiesa says, "They will melt your heart with their wonderful interpretations of the Great American Songbook."
"Bobbi Carrey and Will McMillan are hip to love in all its deliciously dark glory." — Boston Globe
"Will McMillan and Bobbi Carrey were fabulous — I was riveted. Clearly a cult has started and is growing." — WATD-FM 95.9 FM
"Bobbi Carrey and Will McMillan show off their attractive pipes and musical control, but also the literate sensitivity that’s so important to the Great American Songbook classics they extol." — Boston Phoenix
For four years Will was part of the quartet At The Movies, which won a 2003 IRNE for Best Cabaret Group Performance and released a CD, Reel One . He also performs with Lillian Rozin in The Will & Lil Show, an ongoing musical frolic of a serious nature.In 1999 Will was one of thirty seven performers chosen nationally to be a Fellow at the O'Neill Theater Center's 10th Cabaret Symposium and attended the first year of the Cabaret Conference at Yale in 2003. He has also performed in the several Boston Cabaret Festivals.
Will has produced seven recordings Blame Those Gershwins (with jazz pianist and songwriter Steve Sweeting); If I
Loved You (with singer Bobbi Carrey and pianist Doug Hammer); Reel One (with pianist/arranger/singer Brian Patton and singers Nina Vansuch and Michael Ricca);
Simple (with guitarist/songwriter Jonathan Keezing); and
Whimsy: The Allston Years, Will Sings Sondheim, and Sketchbook #1 with pianist/composer Steve Sweeting.
Will has performed at Scullers Jazz Club, Sanders Theatre, the John F. Kennedy Library, the Middleast Cafe,
TT the Bear's, Arlington Street Church, the Blacksmith House,
Diamond Jim's, Johnny D's, Jacques, the Ocean's Inn (Provincetown, MA), the Hi-Hat Club (Providence, RI), The Inn on Newfound Lake (Bridgewater, NH), Spring Island (off the coast of SC), Star Island (off the coast of NH), and the Westbeth Performance Center (NYC).
The Living Room Lab
The Living Room Lab is an intimate adventure consisting of a pianist, an upright piano, me and anywhere from 4-6 singers which happens in my living room in Arlington, MA.
Each singer has 25 minutes to work on a song or song(s), digging into the lyrics to build their own subtext, connections and interpretation.
They can get as much or as little feedback as they want.
I act as the leader/facilitator/director/coach.
We draw on ideas from the O'Neill Cabaret Symposium and the Yale Cabaret Conference as well as my own observations and discoveries about authenticity, trust, biology, and communication.
Depending upon how many singers RSVP for a given evening, a Lab runs from 7:00pm until 10:00pm or so.
Bearing witness to each other's work is a crucial part of the process. Much learning can happen while watching one's peers explore and experiment.
Over time a shared sense of trust/history builds among the singers,pianist and me.
Some participants are working on material for an upcoming performance. Some are looking for a springboard back into singing. Others attend so that they can keep some music alive in their busy lives. And a few brave souls who have never before sung in front of others arrive and take their first steps...
Musings on Singing and Cabaret
I am excited by the authenticity, spontaneity, and connectedness which can happen between a singer and audience in any genre of music: rock, jazz, cabaret, theater, folk, country, opera, etc.
Cabaret in particular is an art form that honors the unique gifts of each individual performer. At its best, an intimacy and trust can develop between the audience, performer, and accompanying musicians that allow for all sorts of thoughts and feelings to be communicated.
Cabaret can re-connect us with how we used to live before electricity entered our lives and brought radio, TV, sound recordings, the movies, and the internet.
A cabaret performance taps into the archetype of everyone gathering around a fire at the end of the day for stories and songs.
Cabaret is all about making connections the performer building rapport with the audience; the performer and musician(s) being in synch with each other; the performer finding her own unique connection to (and "take" on) the song; and the performer sharing stories/songs that allow the audience to know the performer better AND to know themselves better.
Cabaret is music for grownups, where we can explore a rich emotional palette.
Cabaret honors authenticity songs are illuminated with a spirit of compassionate generosity that draws everyone into the present moment.
Cabaret can be a celebration of each of our unique lives the performer's life, the people who wrote the songs's lives, the lives of the characters in a particular song, and the members of the audience's lives.
I also believe that cabaret can create a safe/sacred space where we can all performer, accompanist, audience wrestle with human issues that are too intense to deal with in our day-to-day ("denial is not just a river in Egypt") lives.
Topics including interdependence, feedback loops, chaos, the weather, pollution, Afghanistan, love, hate, fear, joy, children, parents, racism, homophobia, grief, despair, fury, overconsumption, extinction, hope, faith, patience, violence, loss, and persistence have all appeared in my shows.
Cabaret is when an audience leans in to catch the performer's every single word, breath, hiccup, tear, fear, insight and laugh. Cabaret is when the performer is listening to the audience (and accompanist) and responding in the moment.
Cabaret touches our souls without assaulting our eardrums.
I know my goals may be more spiritual and less commercial than some of my peers, who are often guided by the star of "entertainment."
I am ambivalent about the word "entertainment." Too often "entertainment" seems to be about denial/escape and does not provide the kind of nourishment I am truly hungry for...
Yet sometimes a great show tune, a cocktail and a laugh can be just what the doctor ordered.
There is room for LOTS of comedy in cabaret performances, but I am not interested in mockery, teasing, or self-deprecation as a form of humor.
It goes without saying that for me cabaret includes respect. Respect for my fellow performers, collaborators, audience, self, etc.
I often liken cabaret to candlelight just as it takes a while
for our eyes to adjust to candlelight, so, too, it can take a while
for us to open up our senses/soul to a genuine, human cabaret experience.
Very Sporadic Journal Entries
October 28, 2007
An extraordinary fall day. The Red Sox have won the first three games in the World Series. Hard to believe there are wars and shootings and torture and famine unfolding on others parts of planet earth (much less other parts of the greater Boston area.)
Sigh of gratitude for blessings of gunshot-free neighborhood, roof over my head, beloved life partner, food, clothing, computer, electricity, employment, family, health. The list goes on.
"Oh, I am a lucky man" song starts playing in my brain.
Wave of doubt that music means anything, accomplishes anything, helps anything.
I do know that music connects people in a wash of harmonic and melodic and rhythmic vibrations. I do know that music re-awakens in me a strong emotional sense of unity and one-ness.
Ahh, the head/heart challenge.
Music is a tool to bridge head and heart, to yoke thinking and feeling.
Thinking (head) involves seeing distinctions, making judgements, analyzing spreadsheets, and "thing-ifying" the world. Too much thinking is what leads us to forget that pigs and chickens and cows — as well as migrant laborers, assembly line workers, lab technicians, customer service representatives, custodial staff, etc. — are sentient beings. They are not just statistics in a business plan, not just anonymous casualties in an ongoing war, not just a leg of lamb or chicken thigh or salmon filet. We are all part of a fascinating, miraculous, still-being-discovered web of life and death.
Feeling (heart) involves connections. Love, empathy, sympathy, passion, compassion, altruism, heroism all involve our hearts. When I am feeling discouraged and stuck and angry and scared, music is what heals me.
A woman named Hazel Luther, born December 11, 1889, was recently featured in an article about longevity. She had a long career teaching music and kept a diary in which she copied down ideas that she used to guide her life. My favorite was this:
"Music loosens a heart that care has bound."
September 9, 2006
Ahh, so many hats to wear...both actual and metaphorical. I patiently hike up my Dreamweaver (web design) learning curve so that I can update my site without bothering my partner, while listening to possible songs for a small performance I agreed to do for the Retired Person's Association on 9/11 at CCAE, while burning CDs to send to family and friends. Multitasking. I just added info about The Living Room Lab to the site. Hurrah for the intrepid group of curious singers who began meeting at my house once or twice a month on Tuesday nights in the summer of 2002 with Michael Larson at the piano to explore song interpretation! I am looking forward to resuming the Labs this fall. Now it's time to go to the gym to see if I can remain healthy as various co-workers are felled by late summer cold/flu/allergies.
February, 27, 2006
What is it about the late winter that brings me back to the computer? TWO years have passed between today and my previous journal entry. Since then Bobbi Carrey and I have produced a CD, If I Loved You (based on our show of the same name) and have also put together a show about business called In Good Company. I recently agreed to become assistant director at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, continuing my surprising rise through the ranks of this vital cultural organization in the heart of Harvard Square. I've been working at CCAE for almost a decade, and I certainly never imagined that this would happen.
All the way along I've been clear that we needed to have a win-win for both CCAE and for my music-making and that if either one started to suffer, then my boss and I would renegotiate. So far my musical and CCAE lives continue synergistically to intertwine...
March 14, 2004
Yikes. Four years is a long time to go between journal entries. We've all had a lot of living to do in the past four years a pivotal presidential election, the tragedy of 9/11/01, our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a struggling economy...the list goes on and on.
Right now I feel deeply grateful.
Grateful to the folks who are fighting overseas, grateful that I remain employed, grateful to have so much music in my life, and grateful that I continue to be in a committed relationship with a loving, ever-evolving and supportive life partner.
Music is a crucial and ongoing gift in my life, reconnecting me with emotions and ideas and people when I might otherwise harden into an angry mass of fear and grief.
Today I began the long overdue process of updating this web site. After 3 hours in front of the computer, it's time for me to head to the piano and start learning a new song...
Thanks for reading this far, whoever you are!
May 29, 2000
Thanks for visiting this web site. May has been an odd month, full of unanticipated challenges and opportunities. Not only did we launch this site (after LOTS of hard work by my partner, graphic designer Steve Fischer), but I also became the Director of Public Relations at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
I came to CCAE five years ago, volunteering to help with a cabaret performance series that I had heard about on the local grapevine (while attending the monthly meetings that gave birth to BACA the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists.)
I had outgrown my previous job, and had taken the entire summer off with no new job lined up for the fall. Over the summer my offer to volunteer somehow morphed into a part-time job offer: would I like to stagemanage the performances of the new jazz and cabaret series?
For the first year I had no office, carrying all my stuff from one (temporarily) empty desk to another in a cardboard box. The second year I converted an unused closet into a cozy work space. Over the years, I began to acquire skills and responsibilities beyond setting up chairs in neat rows and welcoming the performers.
I learned to make up promotional post cards, write press releases, compose contracts, schmooze the media, and book performers. I helped install a new sound system. I covered our dowdy burlap screens with black duvateen.
And the Cabaret Connection began to become an established entity. We began to get articles about performers and reviews of performances. The Boston Globe Calendar section did a cover story about the local cabaret scene which featured a photo taken in our performance space, the Spiegel Auditorium. Performances began to sell out more frequently.
My job title expanded. I got paid for five more hours a week. I got health insurance. I inherited other musical events at CCAE as part of my responsibilities. I started to do freelance PR for a couple of people. I helped to organize CCAE's annual Arts & the Media conference, which meant that I developed relationships with even more local media people.
And all the while I continued to perform.
I arranged to have the O'Neill Theater Center's annual Cabaret Symposium hold auditions at CCAE. The second year I dared to audition myself (having once auditioned many years before in NYC and been rejected...) and was accepted! My nine days at the Symposium were very close to heaven on earth and led me to a new level of cabaret schmoozing.
Which has somehow led me to becoming CCAE's Director of Public Relations.