Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 3, 2013

Serenade becomes memorial for Traverse City theater pro


TRAVERSE CITY — Jenn Miles was known for two decades of work in Traverse City stage productions.

So on Thursday, dozens of students, colleagues and friends organized via Facebook to come and serenade her from the parking lot outside her room. She passed away before they could, and so they sang in her memory instead, crowding into a small chapel at Munson Medical Center at 1 p.m.

"They had no idea how many people were going to show up," said Miles' mother, Susan Goodrich Miles, about how the plan went viral. "And we had kids who couldn't come, but they were going to sing: 'I'm in New York, but I'll sing at 1:00. I'm in Chicago, but I'll be singing at 1:00.'"

Miles, 42, suffered a stroke two years ago but managed, through therapy, to continue doing what she loves — participating in stage shows. Besides serving as stage manager for productions at Traverse City's high schools over the years, she did work for Old Town Playhouse as well as summer Miracle Productions performances.

"She touched a lot of people," said Ben Cockfield, a sophomore at Traverse City Central High School who worked with Miles on "Grease" and "Fiddler on the Roof." "She helped us really grow as individuals."

Most recently, Miles was directing musicals at Traverse City St. Francis High School, where rehearsals for "Anything Goes" were in full swing.

"She was still able to quite effectively sit in a chair and tell people what to do," said her mother.

A few days ago, Miles took a turn for the worse and went to the emergency room at Munson. Her mom said they still aren't sure why, but things only got worse.

Those who came to the hospital Thursday sang songs to remember Miles. The music was from stage shows and family get-togethers: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "Because I Knew You" from "Wicked," "525,600 Minutes" from "Rent" and "Amazing Grace," among others.

"This is a viral thing for all the right reasons," said Russ Larimer, director of choirs at Traverse City West High School. "The songs they chose and the joy and the fun really exemplified Jenn."