This refurbished 1935 performance hall in Durham’s historic Murphey School will host a variety show this weekend that will benefit local charities.
This refurbished 1935 performance hall in Durham’s historic Murphey School will host a variety show this weekend that will benefit local charities.

A bi-annual variety show benefitting Triangle area charities is the brainchild of a Duke grad who has applied his entrepreneurial talents to nonprofit work.

Jay Miller, Trinity ’80, established the Shared Visions Foundation in 2002, after selling his chain of local music stores to focus on his passion for helping others. Shared Visions serves as a resource for local nonprofits by providing monetary grants and hosting events—including the Murphey School Radio Show, an old-time variety show-style performance, which Shared Visions will host for the fifth time this Saturday.

“The twist on the show is the fact that we actually use the entertainment to raise funds for the local community,” Miller said.

The show, which will take place at the Shared Visions Retreat Center, will benefit two local organizations—SEEDS, an educational community garden, and Book Harvest, which gives books to underprivileged children. The performance will feature local actors and musicians.

In 2007, Miller purchased Durham’s historic Murphey School, which was built in 1923 but had since fallen into disrepair. Miller saw a chance to help the community and restore a piece of history to its former glory. After two years of renovations, the school became the Shared Visions Retreat Center. The center now serves as a home for several nonprofit organizations as well as a venue for charitable events.

The auditorium, which was added to school in 1935, inspired the show, Miller said.

“When you’re in that space, you start thinking about what people did for entertainment in 1935,” Miller said. “And it was radio.”

Although much of the show centers on the entertainment, the focus will remain on the charities, Miller said.

“We’re thrilled to be participating,” said Ginger Young, Book Harvest executive director. “We’re so proud of Murphey School. Everyone there is just dynamite.”

Miller had his sights set on law school after graduating Duke as a history major within three years. After taking what was intended to be a temporary job at the Music Loft, a local music store off of Ninth Street, Miller realized he would rather pursue music. Choosing to stay in Durham, Miller bought the Music Loft and several other music shops. He sold his music store chain, but still draws upon his experience as a musical entrepreneur to lead Shared Visions.

“He has the talent and soul of a musician, but also the knowledge that comes from being a successful business person,” said Peter Kramer, Trinity ’73 and a foundation volunteer. “He’s taken his talents and used them really well to help all these nonprofits.”

In order to gain better logistical knowledge of charitable work, Miller returned to Duke in 2003 to earn a certificate in nonprofit management. Since Shared Visions started, it has been successful in helping charities throughout the Triangle area.

“I was only 42, not ready to quit working… but in a position where I really didn’t have to work anymore,” Miller said. “I knew I wanted to do charity work.”

Two performances of the Murphey School Radio Show will be held on Saturday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.