Denton Preciado, 21, is now a sophomore at Santa Monica College majoring in cello performance. But in 2004 to 2008 he was a student in orchestra taught by Vance Miller, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse.
At the time, Preciado noticed that his music teacher was closer to the male students than the females, but he never gave it much thought.
"I guess with his female students it was just in the classroom, he was very nice and whatnot," Preciado said. "But with the guy students it was more of a one-to-one basis, 'hey, what are you doing this weekend,' 'do you wanna go workout,' 'do you wanna go to the opera?'"
Preciado said he learned of the allegations against Miller after an attorney sent a letter to a group of former students a couple weeks ago asking if any of them had had sexual encounters with the award-winning educator. Students started talking about it via email and in smaller groups with each other.
"I was shocked, to be honest, Miller has always been a great teacher, and these kind of allegations are coming out of the blue," Preciado said. "I never experienced anything like that or known anyone that dealt with anything like that. He was a very friendly teacher, and I guess some people took that as a sign of, I don't know. I can't explain it. This does not seem like something Vance Miller would do."
Many students of Miller were similarly hurt, shocked and bewildered as they learned about the news.
Preciado said he is still in touch with Miller and got closer to the teacher after graduation. He has been to the teacher's house and is now greeted with a friendly hug and kiss on the cheek. As a student, Preciado went to the opera with the teacher sometimes, and he said one of his close friends went to the gym and still does to this day.
"It's pretty much two friends, two guys going to work out," Preciado explained.
Around New Years, Preciado invited Miller to have lunch with him.
"I knew he was gone from Hamilton for over a year now, I was trying to figure out what was going on," Preciado said. "He didn't really want to tell me...I started with 'hey are you teaching again?' He's like, 'no.' I was like, 'Are you okay? What's going on?' He told me he'd tell me later. I guess he didn't think I was ready."
Miller told Preciado he's been spending more time going to concerts with his wife and other former students since he's not teaching at the moment. Miller also invited Preciado to another opera.