Tara Miller, director of the Michigan City Senior Center, is watering the roots she planted years ago. Born and raised in Michigan City, Miller attended Rogers High School, now known as Michigan City High School, where she kept busy with after school activities, a part time job, and important roles in school organizations. “My mother would say I did too much,” Miller joked. “I was a cheerleader all four years, a gymnast one year, the President of the French Club and Secretary of the Pep Club. I was the lead in a musical, copy editor and typist for the school newspaper and I had a part time job at WIMF radio station.”
After graduating in 1984, Miller enrolled at Ball State University for two years. There, she changed her major multiple times and after deciding to take a break and think about what she wanted to do, Miller enlisted in the Air Force.
“I actually met my husband while I was in the Air Force and he was in the Marine Corps,” Miller explained. “We got married, had our daughter and moved to Hawaii for some time while my husband was still a Marine.”
But home never stops being home. After time away from Michigan City, Miller and her family moved back to the Lake Michigan adjacent city.
“My favorite thing about Northwest Indiana is Lake Michigan and the beach,” Miller said fondly. “I’m such a beach girl. I wish there were more hot days during the year so I can enjoy our beautiful lake!”
She went back to school, completing her Associate’s Degree in Business Management at Indiana University, South Bend in 1996. From there, she worked as an Overseas Brand Manager for Jaymar-Ruby, a national company that supplied Sansabelt Slacks for Johnny Carson of The Tonight Show.
“I was actually working at Jaymar-Ruby when I heard from a friend about the opening for a new Senior Center Director,” Miller said. “At first, I wasn’t interested, so I decided not to apply.”
Instead, another woman was hired, but within a week she left, opening the opportunity up for a rewarding career once again to a passionate and hard-working individual. Miller’s friend approached her about the job again. This time, she applied and of course, she got the job.
“Even though I had never worked in Geriatrics and all my experience had been in business, I learned quickly in the interview process what the job actually entails,” Miller explained. “It isn’t like working in a nursing home. Instead, we provide educational, recreational and social services, and opportunities for seniors.”
She has been continuing to do such since she got the job 15 years ago. Miller and her team host events like the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Luncheon or the Trash and Treasure garage sale for people over the age of 55.
“My first week as Director, someone asked me, ‘What do you know about seniors?’” Miller explained. “And I said, ‘Well I know that they’re people, and I’m pretty good with people.’”
When Miller isn’t busy putting together social and educational events for seniors or attending board meetings for MC Senior Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises money for these beneficial events for the community, she can be found selling Avon products, spending time with her family, and also rocking out a few times a week with her two bands, On The Rocks and Smarty Pants.
“I’ve been in bands for almost 20 years,” Miller said. “I’ve been the lead singer in classic rock bands, acoustic bands and hip hop/R&B bands. It’s pretty crazy, but it’s so much fun.”
Miller’s first band, Tribe, formed in 1998. A few years later, her classic rock band Spellbound was formed, which lasted for 15 years until about four years ago, an unfortunate accident left her drummer with a shattered leg and countless surgeries. “It took us about two years to finally get all of the right players and chemistry,” Miller explained. “You want chemistry in a band and sometimes that’s hard to find.”
But eventually everything and everyone came together. Now, Smarty Pants is a little over a year old and rocking out harder than ever.
“We’re really starting to gather a name for ourselves now,” Miller said proudly. “There aren’t any other bands like us in Northwest Indiana, so we’re pretty unique. If there are, we haven’t heard them yet!”
You can find Miller’s bands performing between up to four times a week throughout Northwest Indiana, from South Bend to Highland, and down to Crown Point and Lake of the Four Seasons.
“There is a lot of work, time, and money that goes into being in a band,” Miller said. “You have to go two to three hours before a gig to set up and do sound check, then there’s the actual performance, then tear down, and then driving home when everything’s done. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding and to me it’s worth it.”
Between working hard for the seniors of Michigan City and rocking out with her bands, Miller is never bored. Just like in high school, she’s doing everything and even though it’s a lot of work, it’s all worth it in the end.
For more information on the Michigan City Senior Center and upcoming events like the Saint Patrick’s Day Luncheon and the Trash and Treasure Sale, go to www.michigancityparks.com.