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Patrons & Players

Call it a portfolio of power. In a series of portraits, some of the most provocative and popular artists in Atlanta cross paths with the patrons who allow them to keep wowing us.

Carrie Kurlander

Tim Miller

Chris Carlos

Patron: Carrie Kurlander

When Carrie Kurlander and her family cleaned out her dad’s house in Alabama after his passing, they counted 78 stringed instruments. “My father was a lawyer, but his real passion and calling was music,” recalls the VP of communications for Southern Company. “He could play everything, so music was always in my home.” Kurlander admits that sadly she didn’t inherit any of her father’s skills. “You have to have performers and patrons, right? So I’ll play that role, and my dad and my husband can be the performers!” This Southern firecracker may have been born in Alabama, but has lived all over the country and moved to Atlanta with her family three years ago. “The arts is where I find my creative community in a new town. And I’ve found such a rich, cultural one full of creative expression here in Atlanta.” The philharmonic-devotee recently attended the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s A King Celebration concert, where the Spelman and Morehouse college glee clubs performed with the full orchestra, as well as Yo-Yo Ma. “There have been so many performances I’ve loved, but this one was such a privilege. Mr. Ma got up from the soloist platform during ‘We Shall Overcome’ and went and sat in the last chair in the row of cellists; it was such a moving moment.” As a top patron, she was able to go backstage and meet Ma afterwards, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “My experience of being on the receiving end of the arts has been amazing,” she says. “I can’t help myself. It’s in my DNA.”

Player: Tim Miller

Like the popular ’60s song lyrics, “The only one who could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man,” Tim Miller of the Atlanta Opera is reaching thousands with his gorgeous voice. The Augusta, Ga., native and son of a pastor grew up singing gospel and hymns in the church, before graduating to arias in Porgy & Bess and Aida. “My parents love music, and they love to come see me sing,” says Miller, “but I found opera on my own.” A dyed-in-the-wool fan of the classics, Miller admits that he models himself after Italian tenors like Enrico Caruso and Franco Corelli. “I’m a heavy lyric tenor. My voice can sound a little baritone at times, but I am still a tenor,” he asserts. “Opera is just where my voice led me.” When he’s not performing with the opera, the Morehouse College graduate is now an adjunct professor of voice at his alma mater, as well as an applied voice instructor at The Lovett School. And if he looks familiar, that may be because he performed at the 2011 Gubernatorial Inauguration Ceremony, was featured in a promo for Adult Swim and also sang “God Bless America” at all the Braves’ Sunday home games this year. If you haven’t had the chance to catch him in the act, then ’tis the season to check out his booming voice at the Atlanta Opera’s Christmas Concert on Dec. 10. He admits that he can’t wait to see the production of Carmen—what he calls a “big boy opera”—coming later this season. He believes it’s the one that will move you the most. “All the outreach we do is because we want people to feel what we feel,” he contends. “That’s the beautiful thing that we do in classical voice: When we sing, we produce vibrations, and you can feel them,” he elaborates. “It’s a very human connection.”

Patron: Chris Carlos

“It all started with Dad,” says Chris Carlos, a top-level patron of the Atlanta Ballet and executive vice president of National Distributing. “He took me to the ballet a few times—he loved it. See, Dad loved legs,” he says with a chuckle. The truth is, the Carlos family has been a stringent supporter of all the arts in Atlanta, but, a few years ago, they went above and beyond for the city’s flagship company. At that time, Barry Hughson, the then director, came to Carlos and asked for $3 million to help fund programs and performances. When Carlos put the proposal in front of his mother Thalia, he wasn’t expecting her response: “She said, ‘I like it. Let’s do it!’” About a week later, Hughson surprised everyone and left to helm the Boston Ballet. But the deed was done, and, soon, Arturo Jacobus took the helm. “Selling the ballet is easy now,” admits Carlos. “John McFall is the one who brought in Big Boi and Twyla [Tharp]. I told [McFall] he was nuts on Big, but [then] I ran to him at intermission and said, ‘You’re brilliant!’” Carlos also admits that Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin was his favorite ballet thus far and moved him to tears. “Now, whatever [McFall] says, I’m in!” he exclaims. As patrons, Carlos and his family get an insider view of ballets coming together, which is truly exciting. But it’s deeper than that. “Both my girls love to dance. They started around 2 and 3 years old,” he says. Catherine was the youngest to ever dance in The Nutcracker and Christina did it the next year. “Dancers are beautiful. They’re powerful. When you see one of these guys jump… they fly! Or when you see Tara [Lee], and she’s on pointe? Incredible! One of the best,” he enthuses. “They’re all incredible in their own ways.”

Click here to read the full article in the digital edition of The Atlantan!