For Gina Miller, music and medicine have been constants in her life.
From the time she was a young girl growing up in Lancaster, PA, Miller dabbled in music, first singing at weddings, funerals, parades, etc., then taking on more professional gigs such as those for the National EMS Memorial Service and various services for fallen EMS heroes. Over time, she took to songwriting and eventually recorded her first country/gospel CD titled Faded Footprints.
"I collected lyrics from the time I was little and I hid them in a box," she says. "I never told anyone about them. No one knew they existed."
Today, she more openly organizes her musical inspirations in binders--more than 900 by her own estimate.
Her connection to medicine dates back to childhood, too, and a life filled with doctors and nurses who cared for her father who struggled with congestive heart failure. At age 13, she became a candy striper and at 16 she joined the local fire-rescue department. Later she became an EMT--who by her own admission was certified in practically everything--and volunteered for 10 years before health issues compromised her ability to physically do the job. Eventually she became a nurse.
"I have a deep, deep bond with EMS," she says, "one that will likely never go away. I've always wanted to help people. My dad was always so sick, and I saw how people helped him."
Miller's father has been an inspiration her entire life, and even though he's passed, she still looks to him for guidance.
"He's my angelic inspiration," she says. "He was my everything. I remember discussions we had right before he died. He always liked my singing. He wanted me to continue with my music and to follow my dream."
As if on cue, the first song Miller wrote was a tribute song to her dad. That song, titled "Faded Footprints," can be found on the CD. "The lyrics just came to me the week he died," she says. "It was the first song I ever wrote."
In recent years, Miller found a way to combine her love of music and medicine. About three years ago she was asked by a former board member of the National EMS Memorial Service to write a tribute song for EMS heroes who have died in the line of duty. That song, "Tree of Life," can also be found on the CD.
"The song is dedicated to those who work within the EMS circle," she says. "It is truly written from my heart. I've lost friends in the line of duty. It's difficult because they become family."
Her association with the song has also changed her life. She has met one of her best friends, John Stoecker, a Nashville producer who co-wrote "Tree of Life" with her. "He has become such a dear friend," she says. "The first time I met him I was praying for help in writing the song. I felt I couldn't do it by myself. I was sitting in a music seminar class and he asked to sit next to me. He introduced himself as John. Although my dad's given name wasn't John, that's what he went by. I knew we were going to be friends.
"He took me under his wing," she continues. "He wrote the music and I worked on the lyrics. It took us six months to finish. It was difficult to write because we wanted it to end on an upbeat note. We wanted the song to be one of celebration and praise for a hero, who although has died, will never be forgotten. It's not necessarily a happy song, but it takes an upbeat twist at the end you don't necessarily expect."
Nashville's Movers and Shakers
Over the past several years, Miller has also had the opportunity to meet many of Nashville's top movers and shakers, including Linda Davis, a Grammy Award winner who has worked with some of country music's greatest stars, including Reba McEntire. She is also the mother of Lady Antebellum co-lead singer, Hillary Scott. "She has really helped me come out of my shell," Miller says. "She encourages me to not give up, to sing with my heart and to tell my story."