When guitarist Lindsey Miller ('06) goes to work, she often gets goosebumps.
Take the time last year when she got to listen to demo tapes in a workshop for a new musical written by Dolly Parton.
"You're kind of like, 'This is her, and nobody's heard this song before,'" she says.
Miller will perform in Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol from Dec. 3 to 29 in Boston. She's turned her hobby, first started when she was a child, into a full-time career that has brought other unique experiences.
Last summer, Miller played with one of her heroes, jazz drummer Brian Blade, at a tribute to civil rights icon Ruby Bridges at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
And then she played the intricate and frequent solos from the movie Coco during the Nashville Symphony's live performance of the soundtrack earlier this year.
"The most gratifying part is knowing that you brought joy or inspiration to a listener's life," she says. "When I perform in those high-pressure situations, I try to think less about myself and more about the overall musical message that's being conveyed. I'll admit, however, that there's a huge sense of relief after executing a difficult musical passage."
Miller, who grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, got her first guitar at age 10 as a Christmas present after becoming a fan of The Beatles. She took to it quickly, progressing to her high school's jazz program. Kansas City has a strong jazz scene and some of the musicians there had attended UNT.
Once in Denton, Miller practiced three to six hours a day and worked her way to the Two O'Clock Lab Band. And it's in college where she recommends aspiring professional musicians start planning their careers -- by writing music, investing in musical instruments and learning to play several genres.
"Having a career game plan is really beneficial," she says.
After graduation, she stayed in Dallas-Fort Worth for a few years, performing in productions such as Tommy at the Dallas Theater Center. In 2012, she moved to Nashville, where she has played in recording sessions, live gigs, tours and TV shows -- and landed a spot on Christmas Carol, a 1930s Appalachian version of the Charles Dickens classic.
That opportunity led Miller to meet Parton last year.
"She's very gracious," she says. "It's like, no mistake, she is who she is."
Miller hopes for more goosebumps to come.
"Almost every style of music incorporates the guitar in some way," she says. "I'll always have endless sources of inspiration on my instrument."