Q&A with Tim McMillin

Name: Tim McMillin
Position at DMMO: Director of Development

What do you remember about your first summer at DMMO as an administrative intern?
I remember being in complete and utter awe (much as I still am after all these years) at the dedication, commitment, skill, talent, and utter grit it takes to produce this art form. From the glamorous patrons to the awe-inspiring artists and the diverse and utterly committed production staff, I was wide-eyed and thrilled just to be a small part of something so amazing and meaningful.

My first summer with DMMO officially came with the title of “House Staff.”  However, like everyone at DMMO, no one played just one part. It was the summer of 1994. Michael Patterson and Michael Egel were on the team even then (as well as Jeri Mace and far too many others to recount here). In addition to serving on the house staff, Michael and I were part of the auxiliary chorus in Carmen starring Gwen Jones that summer. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Although my pale, blond and blue complexion presented challenges for the wig and makeup departments, I was thrilled. The trick was to get in and out of costume, hair and makeup in enough time to be in the lobby to serve concessions and greet the public before and after the act! We always made it, but with no time to spare. That was the Robert Larsen way – just MAKE IT HAPPEN, and we always somehow did.

Tim barbequing for a DMMO event during his intern years. You can also spot Dr. Larsen and Michael Egel in the background!

As an aside, Michael Egel and I lived together in the Kresge dormitory that summer before it was air conditioned. On particularly hot nights, we used to hide away in the theatre (which was air conditioned), pushing benches together to sleep on, and set alarms to ensure we would wake up before the maintenance crew would find us. It almost always worked.

Favorite DMMO production or memory?
There are far too many to choose a favorite. However, highlights would have to include attending my very first live opera in the 1992 season. It was Lucia di Lammermoor with none other than Diva de la Rosa in the title character.

Perhaps a rite of passage for those of us who ever survived it – I was on stage in 1996 as a waiter in act two of La Bohème. The musical timing involved in providing just the right choreography for the act and Musetta’s confounding live dog that always made things more difficult in a Dr. Larsen production of the work made it all quite harrowing, but an absolute joy.

Tim (left waiter) in DMMO’s 1996 production of La Bohème.

Getting to play the role of Njegus in the company’s 1998 mainstage production of Lehar’s The Merry Widow with a cast that included so many marvelous friends including Rich Richards, David Small, Nancy Hill, and my Simpson College classmates who were apprentice artists that year including Joe Perniciaro, Kimberly Roberts, Nicole Proctor, Justin Peterson and so many others was another highlight. That same summer offered the opportunity for me to serve as Assistant Stage Manager for Beethoven’s Fidelio with the remarkable Caroline Whisnant as Leonore. In fact, 1998 was a good year for happy DMMO memories.  I also was stunned and humbled to have been asked to prepare the auxiliary chorus for the Civic Center production of Tosca. What an honor and what fun!

I could go on and on about favorite productions. Recently, I am so proud of our company.  Undertaking Wozzeck and mounting one of the most stunningly cast and sung productions of La Bohème I’ve heard in my life are signs of the inspirational trajectory the company is on!

Outside of the office, what are a few of your favorite pastimes?
By training, I am a choral conductor, singer and pianist. With a doctoral degree in choral conducting, I remain involved in the “choral scene” by serving as Artistic Director and Conductor for the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble (DMVAE). I also served as the Director of Choral Studies at Simpson College for 14 years. I remain involved on its faculty in the recently-launched Master of Music program in choral conducting that I co-founded, teaching coursework and conducting concerts as part of the Des Moines Choral Festival in cooperation with the CORO Professional Vocal Artists.

Outside of music, my partner Seth and I love to travel. While (like everyone) we’ve had to cancel some exciting trips recently, we hope to reinitiate our adventures soon. We love traveling annually with friends to Puerto Vallarta. Recently, we’ve enjoyed Scandinavia, France, Croatia, and he even joined me for a few weeks in Italy while I was taking part in an immersive Italian language study. I remember no Italian, but I do recall some beautiful countryside and great wine.

Perhaps counterbalancing one another, I love to cook and cycle.  So, when the 8-course creation is finished in the kitchen, the sin of gluttony is somewhat absolved with a bike trip!  In April, Seth and I also bought a house in the Westwood neighborhood. We had been living in a loft that we really loved in the Western Gateway downtown, but it was time for a change. So, a pastime has, of course, also become home projects. It is a good thing we enjoy painting, decorating, and spending some time exploring new landscaping tools. Home Depot has become a favorite pastime – who knew there were so many cool must-have machines operated by lithium batteries that make your life so much easier!?

What is your earliest musical memory?
I’m the son of an ELCA pastor. So, my earliest musical memories all stem from the church.  While sitting still, tall, and quietly in the front pew with my mother every Sunday (as was expected in small town Iowa), I was mystified by the pianists, singers and organists I observed.  I started piano lessons as soon as I could. My piano teacher had a rule about 2nd graders being as young as she’d go, but made an exception in my case, and we started a few months early. Before long, I was playing preludes in church (mostly to get out of the pew) and eventually singing in and directing choirs in various churches.

Along the way, I picked up a few other instruments like playing the trumpet and a miserably failed attempt at playing the guitar. But, playing piano recitals and singing are my earliest and most pervasive memories of my musical involvement.

Fast Facts!
We say Elkader, IA (NE Iowa). That is where I graduated high school. I was born in Waverly and lived in Dows (the home of the bar in which the toast to the beginning of DMMO happened in 1973) and Fontanelle (SW Iowa) along the way.

Partner: Seth Robb, PA-C at Heartland Dermatology in Clive
Mother: Eunice McMillin, Elkader, IA, retired pharmacy technician
Father: Harold McMillin, Guttenberg, IA, retired Lutheran pastor and his wife, Linda McMillin
Sister: Denise Shaffer, Ham Lake, MN  with husband Kyle and 3 children Zach (freshman at Bemidji State), Nate, and Kayla

Favorite composer: Impossible to answer, but on any given day, it might be Brahms (choral works), Mozart (opera works), Chopin or Liszt (piano works)

Favorite book: Cook books of all sorts, but especially ones that include planned menus on opera themes or favorite recipes by famous conductors.

Favorite food: I love to cook with a French theme (but really need more training). Also love to bake, but wish I understood more of the chemistry.

Favorite local business: All Spice

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Power to be invisible

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