By Linh Bui

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Melvin Miles is an institution at Morgan State University.

After enrolling as a student in 1970, Miles eventually became director of university bands, leading the marching band, symphonia band, jazz ensemble, and more.

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But it’s a bittersweet time on campus, as Miles prepares for his final performance. He is retiring after spending nearly 50 years at Morgan State.

“This job takes a lot from you. You work a lot of hours a day. And during football season, almost seven days a week,” Miles said. “You think about how much time you’ve lived and how much time you think you have left. And I just thought this would be a good time to stop and begin to live a little longer with my family and friends.”

Reflecting on his storied career and many achievements, Miles recalled performing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and for a Sunday Night Football game between the Ravens and Patriots.

“For the students to be in the stadium and have Tom Brady and the Ravens walk past them was a big thrill,” Miles recalled.

The band also played for President Barack Obama, an experience Miles remembers well.

“He hung out with the students for a few minutes and took a great picture, so that was a big, big thing,” he said.

Miles also met President Bill Clinton.

“He actually send someone to come get me so we could take a picture together, which is a cool thing,” Miles said.

But for Miles, who always wanted to be a music teacher, his most significant and rewarding work happened every day—in the classroom.

“Part of my job is to help people grow and help to build good people,” he said. “To be a part of the shaping of a human being, I think it’s a really important job.”

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He will miss his students, who have taught him many lessons over the years.

“They keep me humble,” he said. “They’ve taught me how to care, be on time, to pay attention to the whole person. I learn from them every day. I really do.”

And they will miss him.

“I would consider him one of the faces of Morgan,” trumpet player Brian Moten said of Miles.

“It’s sad. It’s time to pass the torch. We’re really going to miss him though,” added percussionist Travis Jones.

“Mr. Miles is definitely the father figure type teacher. He gives advice. He keeps it real,” trumpet player Caleb Barnes said.

While Miles is stepping away from the classroom, he’s not going far. He’ll continue raising money for the band through his endowment fund. He’s also doing archival work, documenting the Morgan band history by going through film and digitizing his arrangements.

Besides that, Miles also plans to write books, travel and spend time with his loved ones.

“It’s going to be difficult for me to just walk away and leave it behind me,” he said. “Morgan is a great place. I’ve been here all my life. It is the best decision I’ve ever made.”

His final advice for his students: make every day a joyful day.

“Don’t be afraid of success, and always want to be the best you can be. Dream hard, dream big and follow your dream,” he said. “When you think of this day, this time, this moment that we’re in, it’s a joyous memory. And when you think about it, you’ll be able to smile.”

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Linh Bui