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The Miller Way

FJM is really the monogram of our founder, Fred J. Miller, a man of boundless imagination and energy. Since his passing, we continue to strive to be true to his high standards and expectations. We have included a brief memento of the man, and the history of our company.

He moves comfortably in a crowd. It’s the sign of a lifelong diplomat. And on a summer’s day he makes his way through the audience like the “Mayor of Pageantry." with a handshake here, a kind word there, a salute of recognition across the field. He’s on his way to hand out trophies, but he’s ready to share some time on the front sideline, where he seems most at ease.

“I’ve been in this activity for so many years it seems like all my life.” He confides, “And what a life it has been! Early on, I wanted to audition for Drum Major in High School. But back then, in 1947, you were expected to twirl baton! So at the age of 15, I started taking lessons with Bob Dawson, the University of Dayton’s drum major. In a little over a year, it all seemed to come naturally, and I loved the challenge. Whenever I’d go to a competition to see or learn a new trick, I realized that I could perform it almost immediately. When young twirlers started to call for help, I began to teach twirling even though I was still in high school. I’ll never forget my very first student, Mary Jo Holl, who would go on to win Grand Nationals in 1963.”

A trained musician and teacher, Fred began to develop total band shows, including brass, woodwinds, percussion, drill, colorguard, and twirlers, as the best way to reach even more students. He directed the bands for the Fairborn City Schools from 1957 to 1968, eventually serving as Music Supervisor. But he also used his theatrical skills to bring a little bit of Broadway to his student casts by directing ten of the most popular Musicals of that time.

The United States Twirling Association, Inc was founded in 1957 by Fred and a group of twirling teachers in the Midwest where he served as the first President, filling many different roles over time.

“In May of 1959, the best thing in my life happened. I married my wonderful wife and best friend, Marlene Sedgeley from Auburn, Maine.” His yellowed wallet photo shows what looks like a cheerleader and a football player, but in reality they were both twirlers on a mission, establishing Camps and Clinics. In fact, “…no other twirling teacher or strutting teacher has ever produced as many Grand National Twirling and Strutting Champions as myself and Marlene,” he says with a hint of pride. In the early years, the Blackhawks were made up of baton twirlers, flags, rifles, drums, and brass instruments. Miller’s Blackhawks Twirling Corps established a record that is unequalled in the twirling world by winning the National Championship every year from 1956 through 1968. The Junior Corps went on to win 18 titles in 21 years. The Blackhawks would later become one of the first World Class Colorguards in Winter Guard International, competing for some ten years in the upper echelons.

The Blackhawks decades flew by, Fred admits, mentioning a tragic fire, Macy’s Parade appearances, trips to Spain, and most importantly, the births of his three children. In 2008, when USTA celebrated its 50th Anniversary, 25 of his beloved Blackhawks alumnae gathered to perform “one more time” in Daytona Beach, to the kind of standing ovation that followed the group through its history.

 
There is a Difference in What We Do.
The Difference is Personal.

About FJMDeeply ingrained in the very fabric of modern pageantry, the FJM family stands as an involved, active, and creative member of the pageantry community, with strong ties and relationships. With over 55 years of Colorguard, Dance Team, Drum Major, and Band Leadership Clinics, and a team of Winter Guard International, Bands of America, and Drum Corps International Hall of Fame honorees, the very character of FJM has been forged by "leading through serving". To inspire students to grow and thrive, we are honored to sponsor and support pageantry activities, especially scholarships.

You've been telling our family for years that our service, our designs, our clinics, and our products make FJM something different, something special. In fact, our advertising slogan might be the first ever written by the customers themselves! We've become the recognized leader in the pageantry arts because of your loyalty, and your belief in the innovations and creativity we bring to every project, big or small. We know you have a choice, and we aim to earn your continued trust and goodwill with every new idea, every new design, and every new product we bring to you and your group. With so many companies trying look-alike, sound-alike strategies to gain your business, we're grateful that you know us and trust us to deliver that smarter, better, FJM "difference" in everything we do.