One of CU's most famous students never actually graduated. Alton Glenn Miller (1904-1944) was born in Clarinda, Iowa and later moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where he grew up. In 1923, he brought his trombone to Boulder and enrolled at CU. He was unsuccessful in terms of grades (he failed music theory), mainly because he spent all his time playing as many gigs as he could find, notably in the Boulder Opera house (whose facade is still visible on the Pearl Street Mall). After his first year, he left for New York, where he studied with Joseph Schillinger (who also taught George Gershwin and Benny Goodman, among many others).
From 1939 to 1942, the Glenn Miller Orchestra was the dominant sound in American popular music. In 1942 Miller joined the war effort, where formed and led the Army Air Force band. In 1944, just after D-Day, he was lost over the English Channel on his way to lead the band in newly-liberated France.
Though Miller's time at CU was short, his influence was profound. He always considered CU his academic home. After the war, students voted to name the ballroom in the newly-built Memorial Center after Miller, in honour of his military service. Later, CU alumnus Alan Cass began collecting artifacts and memorabilia related to Miller, and that eventually became the Glenn Miller Archives, which is now part of CU's American Music Research Center. Many of the significant artifacts held by the AMRC are on display in CU's Heritage Center. These include , one of Miller's trombones, a manuscript copy of his signature tune, "Moonlight Serenade," and many other historic award records. Next time you are on campus, it is definitely worth visiting the Heritage Center, on the third floor of Old Main to check out the exhibit on Glenn Miller and other notable Buffs!
This is story #96 in our series: 100 Stories for 100 Years from the Archives. The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Archives on June 6, 2018 with tours of the archives and a reception at 4 pm in Norlin Library. We hope you will join us!