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Musical move: Couple's upcoming move to Minneapolis will leave 'void' in F-M's concert scene

MOORHEAD-Diane Miller and Tom Johnson have a simple goal for their last month in town: Relax and enjoy it. That's harder than it sounds for the musical couple of seven years who seem to always have an upcoming gig through their dozen or so bands ...

Diane Miller, editor of the High Plains Reader, and her fiance Tom Johnson, seen Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Fargo, are moving to the Cities at the end of the summer. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Diane Miller, editor of the High Plains Reader, and her fiance Tom Johnson, seen Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Fargo, are moving to the Cities at the end of the summer. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MOORHEAD-Diane Miller and Tom Johnson have a simple goal for their last month in town: Relax and enjoy it.

That's harder than it sounds for the musical couple of seven years who seem to always have an upcoming gig through their dozen or so bands and side projects. They got engaged in June but haven't had a chance to start planning a wedding yet.

Before they move to Minneapolis in late August, Miller will oversee several more issues of the alternative newspaper, High Plains Reader, in her role as editor.

Johnson, a longtime employee at the now-closed Marguerite's Music in Moorhead, recently wrapped up a teaching gig at the International Music Camp near Dunseith, N.D.

The two will perform together Aug. 15 in hip-hop group D Mills & The Thrills at the Aquarium and again on Aug. 27 in alternative folk group Diane Miller and the Silver Daggers at the Hotel Donaldson. One of Johnson's bands, gypsy jazz group The Carluster Crumplebee Orchestra, is set to play Aug. 6 at the Red River Zoo in Fargo as part of The Arts Partnership's ChalkFest 2015.

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But they might get a chance to rein in their busyness after they move.

"Part of me wants to just really be able to focus on less and then get better at less things, rather than just spreading myself so thin," Miller said.

Moving motivation

Johnson and Miller are ready for a change of scenery.

"As great as this town has been to us-we just feel so fortunate about this town-we also want to try to swim in a little bigger moving body of water," he said. "It's harder to leave because this town is becoming progressively hipper."

Johnson's going back to school, and he'll start working in early September toward a master's degree in guitar pedagogy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

It's also a chance to dive into the Minneapolis music scene that they've started to break into through past gigs with their Fargo bands.

After living in a couple of small Minnesota cities, Hawaii and Alaska, Miller moved to Fargo at the age of 12. She's long "adored" Minneapolis because of its music, opportunities and proximity to Fargo.

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"If there was one place that made sense for us to move, it would be Minneapolis," the 29-year-old said.

Johnson, 32, was born and raised in Pierre, S.D., and moved to Moorhead in 2002.

"One thing a teacher always said to me is don't stay in a place too long," Johnson said. "As a musician, as an artist, you have to be put out of your comfort zone."

Journalism journey

Johnson was an established performer with bluegrass group Johnson Family Band by the time he met Miller in a Western traditions class at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Miller was a quiet classmate who recognized Johnson from his band's shows in town. He made it a mission to get Miller to laugh, and it worked.

"I still do," he said. "It gets harder after seven years, but I still can make her laugh."

Over the years, Miller overcame her stage fright and became a fearless singer and rapper who constantly performs.

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She's also made a splash in journalism, a field she never expected to pursue, since she was tapped to serve as the High Plains Reader's editor in March 2012.

"I've met some of the most interesting people in the community because of the High Plains Reader, and I get to talk about what they're passionate about," Miller said.

It's also allowed her to interview some of her favorite musicians, meet new people and express herself creatively.

"In so many ways, it was the best thing that could've happened to me ever to get that job," she said.

Publisher Raul Gomez said Miller's ties to the local music scene has been an invaluable asset for the paper. But he's confident the next editor, North Dakota artist Sabrina Hornung, will be able to bring her own strengths to the job and continue the work Miller is now known for.

"Nobody's going to be able to replace Diane Miller, because nobody can be Diane Miller," Gomez said. "But I think that Sabrina will be Sabrina and she'll be amazing at it."

Music opportunities

With Johnson and Miller, it's easier to ask what local bands don't include one or both as members-they seem to be connected to just about every musician and group here.

"You could probably do six degrees of separation with Tom and Diane," joked Chris Hennen, associate editor for the High Plains Reader who also books concerts at the Aquarium.

Their departure will create a musical "void" here, Hennen said, but it also offers opportunities for the next wave of musicians and bands.

"A lot of people are just going to have to step up and take their mantle and what they did, which is create groups that a lot of people really dig and really brought a lot of energy to the scene," he said.

Still, they're not vanishing from the local scene entirely after their move. D Mills & The Thrills will continue to play gigs here from time to time, and Johnson will continue some projects that will bring him to Fargo-Moorhead stages whenever possible.

"I hope people will remember us and not forget us after a couple weeks," Johnson joked. "But the thing is, music always just keeps going on, whether you're part of it or not."

Related Topics: MUSICMOORHEAD
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