In Remembrance: Miles F. Hoffman ’73 Died on August 18 2023

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Miles Frederick Hoffman, 71, passed away in the aftermath of treatment for acute myeloid leukemia on August 18, 2023, in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. His wife, Susan, and daughters Eva and Jillian were by his side. 

He was born in Queens, New York, in 1952, to Joseph and Elaine Hoffman. He grew up there, attending the local public schools. He went to Yale intending to follow his father into medicine but realized that he couldn’t give up music. A violinist when he graduated with a BA in music in 1973, he switched to the viola and obtained a master of music in viola performance from the Juilliard School in 1977. 

Mike—“Miles” was reserved for his professional life—began his career traveling the world with the National Symphony Orchestra. In 1982 he left the NSO to found the Library of Congress Summer Chamber Festival, which he directed for nine years. He was also the founder, artistic director, and violist of the American Chamber Players and, later, the Kreeger Museum’s June Chamber Festival. He was a frequent soloist with orchestras around the country and abroad. He was in demand as a lecturer and speaker for music festivals and as a leader of workshops and master classes. 

Mike’s formidable career as a violist was only one expression of his prodigious talents. He spoke flawless French and could converse in Italian, Hebrew, and Yiddish. He also spoke flawless British, Irish, and South Asian English, along with Appalachian, Bostonian, Texan, and Valley Girl American, and could switch among them from one sentence to the next. He is probably the only concert violist who could as easily have been a successful stand-up comedian. He could (and did) discuss Nietzsche with philosophy professors, Judaism with rabbis, statistics with social scientists, and bones with paleontologists. He was also a helluva softball player. 

He was so good at so many things. Yet music remained Mike’s passion, and, for him, music’s magic was rooted in beauty. Even when first learning a piece, he told his students, play musically and take pleasure in the music. Mike’s technique was impeccable, but it is the beauty of his sound that can overwhelm the listener. 

Mike shared his passion, reflections, and deep knowledge of music history for 13 years in his weekly commentary, “Coming to Terms,” on NPR’s Performance Today and was subsequently classical music commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition. When he moved to South Carolina, his “Minutes with Miles” became a much-loved feature on South Carolina Public Radio. Many of these “Minutes” were published in book form, Inside the World of Classical Music: 205 Illuminating Mini-Essays (2019). His book The NPR Classical Music Companion: An Essential Guide for Enlightened Listening (2005) is in its tenth edition, and his articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wilson Quarterly. As a teacher at the Petrie School of Music and the Schwob School of Music, he managed the trick of being both demanding and empathetic, and in doing so changed the lives of many of his students. 

Mike was a husband who was dazzled by Susan Boykin from the first day he met her and never stopped adoring her; a father who never missed a daughter’s recital or school performance and always had time to listen; a friend whose loyalty was unshakeable; and a guy who happily spent hours playing fetch with his dogs. The passing of this kind and joyful man has left an unfillable hole in the lives of his family and of his countless colleagues and friends. 

In addition to his wife and daughters, Mike is survived by his son-in-law, Bhart-Anjan Bhullar; his sister, Elisabeth Reading; his sister- and brother-in-law, Lisa and Reggie Batts; and two generations of nieces, nephews, and cousins.

—Submitted by the family.

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