Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic



My new book


Sue Miller is an academic, writer and also a flute player and musical director of Charanga del Norte. Sue received a PhD in Cuban flute improvisation in charanga performance at the University of Leeds in early 2011 and studied previously at the Universities of Leeds and York.  After six years teaching on the BA in Popular and World Music at Leeds University Sue became Senior Lecturer in Music and Course leader for the BA in Popular Music at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge in 2012 before taking up a senior lecturing post in music at Leeds Beckett University in 2015 teaching on the BA in Production and Performance and the MA in Popular Music and Culture. A qualified teacher Sue is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Specialising in improvisation, Cuban music and culture and music analysis, her book Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation was published by Scarecrow Press in 2014.

Reviews of Cuban Flute Style:

Sue Miller’s monograph on Cuban flute style will be of interest to ethnomusicologists and flautists alike. It is a clearly written, highly musical book that serves as both a guide to performance practice and an academic text. Miller brings together performance as a research technique, interviews with musicians, lessons with renowned flautists, and detailed and extensive transcription and analysis of recordings to create a ‘musical archaeology’ (246) of creative processes, interpretation and improvisation in Cuban charanga flute performance. 

Dr Hettie Malcomson

British Forum for Ethnomusicology Journal 2015

Let me begin by saying that Sue Miller’s Cuban Flute Style is an extraordinarily comprehensive oeuvre, with respect to both the history and the technique of charanga flute playing.  In addition, her book is realized with a broad as well as a thoughtful understanding of the entire tradition on which this style of music is based.

Bill McBirnie

PAN 2014.

‘[F]or all the academic and anthropological research work done in the past 60+ years in the Latin Music field, very few have been successful in conveying the essence of their subject matter. Sue Miller’s remarkable book does not only succeed in its comprehensive approach to introduce and educate both performing flutists and academicians to this wonderful music and its history, she captivates the reader through her passion, love and commitment to the genre. . . .Sue Miller deserves the highest praise for a work of the highest caliber. . . .I declare that Cuban Flute Style is brilliant and without precedent. The research work is thorough and meticulous. The historical narrative of the flute styles and its protagonists is comprehensive, consistent and most importantly, respectful of the music’s tradition and filled with palpable affection. Her improvisation transcriptions and music samples from a wide selection of recordings (most of them commercially released) are accurate and accessible. . . .Sue Miller has created a work that celebrates and guarantees the perpetuation of Charanga and its Cuban Flute Style Tradition for many generations to come. Its historical, cultural, and pedagogical value cannot be overstated.’

Nestor Torres (ARSC Journal) 2015

In her introduction, Miller makes the important point that although flute improvisation is at the core of popular Cuban dance music, there have been few academic studies on the subject of Cuban music that look at improvisation or ethnomusicology. Amongst many studies that deal with other aspects of the music, analysis of the music itself is the elephant in the room, says Miller. This, then, is a pioneering study.

John Robert Brown

Jazz Journal 2014

Other publications include articles written on popular music education for Bloomsbury Press (2015) and articles written for the British Flute Society journal on the Cuban charanga and the Cuban flute style of improvisation, including interviews with veteran Cuban flute players such as Richard Egües, Polo Tamayo and Melquiades Fundora (December 2000, 2001, March 2003  and June 2008 editions). Her next book Improvising Sabor: Afro-Cuban Dance Music in New York  is due for publication in 2018 by the University Press of Mississippi.Sue has also reviewed books and CDs for the journals Cultural Politics (July 2007) and The World of Music (2006). Articles on ‘Cuban Son’ and ‘Música Guajira’ were published by Bloomsbury Press  in 2014 in The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (EPMOW): Part 3 Genres (Caribbean and Latin American genres).

Previously Sue Miller completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Jazz, Contemporary and Popular Music at Leeds College of Music in 1994 where she studied classical flute with Lis Parry, jazz improvisation with Bill Kinghorn, Indian music with Dharambir Singh and jazz piano with Nikki Iles. Inspired by Orquesta Aragón’s flute player Richard Egües, Sue set up the UK’s only full charanga orquesta ‘Charanga del Norte’ in 1998 and has performed with the band across the UK, including  several Arts Council of England UK tours and performances at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, London’s Barbican Centre, Paradise Gardens and the Lakes Alive Festival. In April 2000 and 2001 Sue went to Cuba to study with her idol, Richard Egües in Havana and in 2006, 2007 and 2009  returned to Havana to further her research and to perform with veteran charanga musicians there. Currently researching Cuban music in the USA Sue has guested with Charanga Soleil, Charansalsa and Orquesta Broadway in New York. Charanga del Norte continue to perform and recent performances in 2016 include The Big Weekend in Cambridge and the Cambridge Jazz Festival.

Sue has written many arrangements and compositions for Charanga del Norte and for the Cuban Music Big Band line-up.

Skills and Expertise

I have  written over 60 arrangements of Cuban dance music covering a variety of styles including danzón, son, mambo, chachachá, pachanga, bolero and big band salsa.

Band Direction
Over 18 years experience directing Charanga del Norte and Cuban Music Big Bands.

Translation from French and Spanish to English on Cuban music related topics (MA in Applied Translation completed at Leeds University in 2003).

Special Study Programmes
Cuban music modules and lectures delivered to suit requirements with the option of including a Charanga del Norte performance and/or student performances following a series of workshops. Available for radio and tv documentaries and multimedia projects.

Academic CV

Provided on request

Performance CV

Available on request