Aspen icon ‘Uncle Forrestt,’ dies
ASPEN Forrestt Miller will live forever in the minds of the kids of all ages who went to Miller’s unique summer concerts in Aspen.Miller was a career singer, vocal coach and one-time cantor in a New York synagogue, as well as an Aspen Music Festival & School instructor for many years. Many will remember him as much for his “Uncle Forrestt’s Children’s Concerts” as for his charismatic, cowboy flair.He died Thursday in a New York veterans hospital at age 88.Miller was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, when he was deep-sea diver. His operatic voice earned him a regular spot at the Aspen Music Festival & School in the 1960s, and he became an instructor focused on youth programs from 1975 to 1994.”Actually I’m a cowboy by choice and a musician by necessity,” Miller wrote in a 2005 letter to former Aspen mayor Bill Sterling.
Sterling remembers clowning onstage in a fireman’s hat and silly jacket to introduce Miller at the summertime concerts.”He was like a Pied Piper. All the kids in town would come to the show. He had his own little orchestra,” Sterling said. And the events, which were heralded with posters and fliers all around Aspen, were all-day affairs, including a parade and an informal concert where the audience was part of the show.”He had a way of letting the kids stomp their feet and march up and down the aisle,” said Bernard “Bernie” Young of Snowmass Village, a longtime friend of Miller’s.”He had a great love for this town and the music festival, and especially kids of all ages,” said Deborah Barnekow, director of educational outreach at the Aspen Music Festival & School.Barnekow remembers Miller’s catchphrase at the concerts: “Kids younger than 90 have to pay a quarter to get in; anyone over 90 years old gets in free.”
“He was very, very loved, and he will be missed,” Barnekow said.”I was a member of his band,” said Jon Busch, a onetime music student who today runs the film program at the Wheeler Opera House.Busch, a bassoonist, said Miller would introduce the audience to instruments and have each artist play a little number, sometimes something famous or a popular kids’ tune.And Busch remembers Miller driving around Aspen in a Cadillac that became “more than old” and said the singer had a knack for communicating with people in a genuine, folksy way.”He just loved being a cowboy. In fact he once told me he’d give up his career as a musician if he could be a cowboy,” Young said.
Miller rode a Palomino named Shotzy and collected Western paraphernalia, everything from chaps to six-shooters, Young said.”And he loved it out here,” Young said of his friend. However, after the death of his wife, Betty, Miller spent more time in Manhattan and in a rustic property in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, Young said.”He got to know so many local people because he was just this extremely outgoing fellow. And people just gravitated toward him,” Sterling said. And though Miller showed up the third week of June and stayed only through August, he was a true Aspen fixture, Sterling said.”He was just an icon here in Aspen for 40 years,” Young said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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