Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic


Sue Miller is a Professor of Music at Leeds Beckett University and is also a professional flute player and bandleader of Charanga del Norte.  Sue obtained a PhD in Cuban flute improvisation in charanga performance at the University of Leeds in 2011 having 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, Course Director for 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  Performance and Production and the MA in Popular Music and Culture.  A qualified teacher (PGCE) since 1990, Sue is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Her research specialises in improvisation, Cuban music and music analysis, and her first book Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation was published by Scarecrow Press in 2014. Her second book for the University Press of Mississippi (2021) Improvising Sabor: Cuban Dance Music in New York is “the first thorough exploration of the innovative, flute-driven Cuban dance music of New York – charanga.” Sue teaches performance, improvisation, music history, and music analysis at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and her PhD supervisions are undertaken within the fields of music performance, (ethno)musicology, music analysis and popular music studies.

Prior to her career in academia 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 November 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, and London’s Barbican Centre. In April 2000 and 2001 Sue went to Cuba to study with her idol, Richard Egües in Havana and in 2006, 2007 and 2009 she returned to Havana to further her research and to perform with veteran charanga musicians there (Orquesta Sublime, Estrellas Cubanas, Orquesta Barbarito Diez). In the USA Sue has guested with Charanga Soleil, Charansalsa and Orquesta Broadway in New York. An experienced professional arranger and musical director Sue has written  large-scale arrangements and compositions for Charanga del Norte and for the Cuban Music Big Band line-up. Charanga del Norte continue to perform and have released a new album online and on vinyl entitled Pachanga Time.

Reviews of  ‘Improvising Sabor – Cuban Dance Music in New York’:

‘Improvising Sabor is a truly erudite and serious work of music scholarship. The meticulous annotated musical transcriptions, together with the two albums created as companions to the book, constitute an exceptional master class on charanga, flute improvisation and a musical understanding of the concepts of sabor and cubanía, a multi-disciplinary work equally accessible to musicians, historians, and aficionados.’
Professor Raúl Fernández (University of California, Irvine, (Department of Chicano/Latino Studies) 

World of Music

‘Improvising Sabor is a great example of how to approach a study of musical transformation and identity in a manner which engages both academics and practitioners. Miller has put aside commonly held opinions about performance aesthetic in New York and, from the perspective of the flute within the charanga tradition she has considered the wider world of Cuban music and transformation in New York.
Sara McGuinness
London College of Music, University of West London, UK

Ethnomusicology Forum

Reviews of  ‘Cuban Flute Style’:

      Nestor Torres (ARSC Journal) 2015

‘[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.’


British Forum for Ethnomusicology Journal 2015

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 (University of Southampton)


Bill McBirnie

British Flute Society Journal PAN 2014.

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.