While the Phantom lurks beneath an opera house, organist Aaron David Miller will be in plain sight playing Northop’s historic Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892 pipe organ when he provides the soundtrack for a screening of this 1925 adventure-filled horror film. Miller has gained a reputation for his "vivid musical imagination" and improvisation style (NPR) which includes recognizable melodies of the era. In his most famous role, Lon Chaney stars as the infamous Phantom who causes mayhem in an attempt to make the woman he loves a star. 


“Courageous improvisations with flair.” —Pipe Dreams, MPR

“Aaron possesses a composer’s insight to understanding music.” —The American Organist Magazine

“Aaron turned the organ into an audible color wheel as he improvised.” —Los Angeles Times

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Learn More - Explore These Themes

The content below derives from the Northrop Across Campus Program that supports Northrop's mission towards intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come.

Find ways to make thematic connections to these suggested topics:

  • Musical Theatre
  • Sound Design
  • Organ Studies
  • Music Theory
  • Music: Classical, Contemporary Classical
  • Improvisation
  • Cinema & Media Culture
  • Silent Cinema

Start a conversation about the performance, or encourage reflection, using these questions as inspiration.

The Phantom of the Opera is a 1925 American silent horror film adaptation of Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney in the title role of the deformed Phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House. The story explores themes including love, jealousy, revenge, and redemption, and is also Broadway’s longest running show and musical. 

  • What makes a story like The Phantom of the Opera relevant to contemporary audiences?
  • Why are some stories adapted into different forms, while some remain only in their original form? What can modern adaptations reveal about a story that perhaps the original work of art did not?
  • What differences in storytelling do you expect between a novel, a silent film, a modern film, and a musical?

Aaron David Miller is noted for a highly imaginative and creative style, found in his performances, improvisations, and compositions. His improvisations will accompany the 1925 silent film, The Phantom of the Opera, on Northrop’s recently restored Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ—one of the last remaining concert hall pipe organs in the United States.

  • How does improvisation as an art form allow artists to breathe new life into existing works of art?
  • Do you believe collaboration among different art forms is important? What opportunities present themselves within these collaborations? 
  • In what ways can musical accompaniment reveal themes present within film or live performance?

When asked about his composition process, Aaron David Miller shared in an interview, “I tend to write fairly quickly, but then set [the score] aside for a couple weeks and then go back and start to revise. I treat [revision] something like sculpting.”

  • Why do you think Miller uses sculpting as a metaphor for his creative process? What other metaphors come to mind when you think about your own creative process? 
  • What role do you think revision plays in the artistic process?


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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.