‘I just felt the call’: From walking a bassline to walking the stage

Sac State musician wants to modernize music theory


Alyssa Branum

Tyler Miles strums his bass in front of a mural near Capistrano Hall Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. Miles is a seasoned musician and a graduate of Sac State’s School of Music.

Raymond Purscell

Tyler Miles held his upright bass firmly against his body as his recital began. With just himself on stage, he began to display months of hard work as a solo played into the hall.

Throughout the performance, the audience would learn about Miles as a person and a musician through listening to his original music and meeting his friends who would come to perform with him.

23-year-old Miles grew up in a musical family. He was put into piano lessons from a very young age, but when it was time for him to find his own musical path, it found him in the form of the thick, deep sounds of the electric bass. 

“One day in middle school, for no reason whatsoever, I just decided that I wanted to try to play the bass,” Miles said. “I just felt the call.”

Miles picked up a bass at 10 years old and has kept up practice since. He spent the early years of his career playing the electric bass. 

Tyler Miles performed a solo on his upright bass in Capistrano Hall on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Miles performed solo as well as with a group of his peers during his recital. (Alyssa Branum )

In high school he joined the wind ensemble, which led to his introduction to playing double bass.

During his senior year, Miles began to play jazz. He received the Louis Armstrong Award as the top jazz musician at Vanden High School in Fairfield. 

Miles, who’s graduating in spring 2023 with a master’s in bass performance with an emphasis in jazz, has already earned a bachelor’s degree in jazz bass performance.

When Miles finishes his degree, he said he hopes to teach music in a college environment. He currently teaches high school marching band percussion at Woodcreek High School in Roseville and tutors students in the Sacramento State music program.

“Seeing my kids do well is an achievement for me,” Miles said.

Music theory is a large portion of any college level music education program, Miles said, adding that the way it is taught is largely ineffective and is “ruining academic music for people.” 

“I’m hoping to climb the music theory academic ladder and then destroy it,” Miles said. “I want to change it and make it better.

— Tyler Miles

“I’m hoping to climb the music theory academic ladder and then destroy it,” Miles said. “I want to change it and make it better.”

Miles said the music theory that is being taught is outdated and unusable. He said he would like to see music theory pedagogy taught in a modernized way, citing content creators Jacob Collier, June Lee and Adam Neely as examples of people who teach music theory effectively.

“I like music theory, and I know a lot of people who do music hate music theory and they shouldn’t have to,” Miles said, adding that Sac State has a “really awesome” music faculty.

Tyler Miles performed, “Isn’t she lovely,” by Stevie Wonder as a bass solo in Capistrano Hall on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Using the pedals, Tyler was able to recreate the entire track which he then soloed over. (Alyssa Branum )

Miles said he feels respected as much as he feels supported as a bass musician in the Sacramento music scene.

He is a part of two bands: Yuppie Liberation Front and Brotherly Mud. He also does gig work for a variety of bands in the area ranging from folk to orchestral music.

“I play any genre,” Miles said. “I have to. As a bassist, there’s a bass in every style of music.”

Thomas Molina is a trumpet player, long time friend and bandmate of Miles in Yuppy Liberation Front. Molina said Miles’ playing is technical, emotive and sincere. 

“Because of his technical skills, he can fill in a lot more information than a lot of bassists can,” Molina said.

Molina also said that Miles’ technical skill sets him apart from any other bassist in the Sacramento area.

Miles describes his role as a bassist as one where he has to be responsible.If Miles trips up, it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the band since everyone is listening to him for the harmonies, he said.

“I just have to be a solid foundation for them to play over and support and guide their playing,” Miles said.

Miles is an asset to the music department, according to Gerry Pineda, Miles’ private bass instructor. 

Since Miles tutors other students in the music department, he is able to cultivate talent throughout the music department. Miles has swing in spades, Pineda said.

“Tyler is continuing to evolve as an improviser and composer,” Pineda said.

Miles’ attitude towards life and playstyle revolve around lifting up and leading those around him.

“How can I make the people around me sound better?” Miles said.