Humming her life's soundtrack - Freshman Jasmine Miller

by Lingbo Li

J.Y. Miller - known to her friends as Jasmine Miller - has a Nancy Wilson jazz recording of "Never Will I Marry" stuck in her head. She's been playing it over, and over. And over. For the past 24 hours, the tune has been on loop, lurking at the back of Miller's mind.

"I often hum to myself, at random times," she admits. "I try to not to do it too much. If I sing in the shower, everyone can hear me. My roommates are like, 'Jasmine, we're trying to sleep!'"

Miller, a freshman in Pennypacker, has been writing songs since high school and released an album - Color Me - last year, which is available on iTunes. Along the way, she's picked up a few honors, like winning Harvard's freshman talent show and being profiled in a student publication.

The songwriter, a classically trained pianist, stopped between class and Freshman Musical rehearsals to explain how music and sound has interwoven itself into her daily life. Much of her time is taken up by University Choir - in between pit rehearsal for the Freshman Musical and tutoring.

Despite her inability to sing in the shower (which she still does at home), music permeates her non-academic existence. Some people wish for a soundtrack to their lives, but Miller has it built in. "I am constantly humming things," she says. "That's my soundtrack."

And just as songs are "an encapsulation of emotion," other sounds are equally evocative. Walking through Harvard Yard, she often hears Cantonese, bringing up associations of her family in California. Other sounds and songs even more familiar: when she heard singer/songwriter Regina Spektor, she thought of her own music. The similarities in voice and playful lyricism between Miller and Spektor are striking, although Miller had never heard of the artist before a friend introduced her.

And if Miller isn't not humming, she'll be singing in her head - while washing the dishes, brushing her teeth, and of course, while composing.

But she doesn't believe in being entirely wrapped up by music - Miller nixed the idea of walking to class with her iPod earbuds in.

"I prefer to be able to see people and interact with people," she says. "Sometimes, if you're really plugged in, you miss stuff."

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