Mr. Millar: Abroad in Italy while on Sabbatical


Sophia Dongaris, Sports Editor

The beloved THS music teacher, Mr. Jim Millar, has been on sabbatical for the past five months. Having gone on the Spring Break trip to Italy, I got an inside look at what he has been up to for all that time.

Originally, Millar was supposed to be in Siena, Italy for six months—from January to June—and act as the music director and accompanist of the spring semester opera—L’Isola Disabitata, or the Deserted Island, by Haydn—at L’Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali “Rinaldo Franci,” the conservatory in Siena, a public, college-level music school. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and Millar wasn’t able to obtain a work visa, so he could only go for two months and the conservatory had to scramble to find a replacement for him.

Mr. Millar with the ten students on the Italy trip in front of the University of Strangers.

Before he left for Italy, Millar used his sabbatical to observe classes and rehearsals at the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Great Neck South High School in Long Island, Montclair State University, the Metropolitan Opera, New Jersey City University, Hunter College, and the Juilliard School. While in Siena, he observed classes in chamber music, piano, and opera, attended concerts, and accompanied Luciano Tristaino, the director of the school and an accomplished flautist. When asked what the biggest takeaway of his sabbatical was, Millar responded, “The most rewarding experience of the trip, aside from traveling around with Mrs. Millar, Signora PM, and ten students from Tenafly was that I had a ‘home’ at the conservatory. They were very welcoming and made me feel like I belonged there. I made some new friendships and my Italian language skills are much improved.”

Millar has been traveling to Italy every summer since 2012 for various music programs, including his own. In 2017, a friend who graduated from the conservatory introduced Millar to Professor Tristaino. Millar mentioned that he would be interested in taking a sabbatical and coming as a visiting professor. Professor Tristaino was enthusiastic about the idea, and plans were then made. “I am very grateful to be in a school district that offers paid sabbaticals, and I wanted to be able to take advantage of it, especially if I could live in Italy while doing so,” said Millar

Usually, when one goes on sabbatical, it is for the benefit of the teachers’ current and future students. The benefits for Millar’s students, and the Italian students at THS, will include his sharing what he’s learned about music and Italian culture and an open invitation from the conservatory and the University for Foreigners to Tenafly students to visit, stay for a few weeks or months, or even earn a degree in Siena. “It is a fascinating place with a proud tradition, and I hope that future students can take advantage of the doors that were opened by my being there,” said Millar.

In September, Mr. Millar will return to THS, where he will share his sabbatical experience with his new and future classes and with his colleagues.