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Former student says Hamilton music teacher once showered with him and other students at a local gym

Hamilton High School
Hamilton High School
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Hamilton High School
Hamilton High from above.
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Hamilton High School
Vance Miller, 59, taught at Hamilton Music Academy Magnet for 17 years and has taught for LAUSD for more than 35 years since his start as a substitute teacher in 1975.
Hamilton Music Academy Magnet website

Aldo Scamardella, a former Hamilton High student, said Friday that he once showered naked with the music teacher who is being sued for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old boy.

However, Scamardella, 21, believes his former teacher, Vance Miller, did nothing wrong.

Miller, the 2010 Southern California Outstanding Music Educator of the Year, was a Hamilton music magnet teacher for 17 years. Recently he was accused of sexually abusing at least four students in the mid-1990s through 2010.

Scamardella played violin in the orchestra from 2005 to 2009 and spent many occasions alone with Miller after class and at the teacher's home, even going to the gym and showering naked with him once. He said the incidents were never sexual and the teacher was "fatherly" to him.

Scamardella learned about allegations against Miller nearly a year ago when Los Angeles Police Department detectives were interviewing students and faculty on campus during the spring of 2011.

Miller, 59,  taught for more than 35 years in the LAUSD school system. He was removed from the classroom by the district in September 2010, the same year he won the music educator of the year award. No explanations were given to parents and students, and rumors ran rampant.

"It was a complete shock to me, because he was just a very caring teacher. I didn't really believe it," Scamardella said.

Miller is scheduled to go to the board for dismissal proceedings on Feb. 7, said LAUSD spokesman Tom Waldman.

Scamardella said Friday he was upset by the details of the allegations against Miller, but believes Miller is innocent.

The two met when Scamardella was in eight grade and Miller was a conductor for the L.A. Unified Middle School Honors orchestra.

"From the very beginning he was always just very kind, caring," Scamardella said. "And honestly, I probably, I can understand maybe why people might take some of his mannerisms in a wrong way. I mean, I'm not going to lie, he would hug us, and give us a kiss on the cheek. And I'm sure that's strange, because you're not used to teachers doing that.  You're not used to building that kind of relationship, so to say, with a teacher, they're sort of becoming a friend...but after a while it was 'whatever' to me."

A lawsuit against Miller and the district states that the teacher regularly kissed other students on the lips in class, rubbed up against them, took students individually with him to a local gym and showered naked with them.

Scamardella said Miller was more friendly with male students than females. Scamardella said he would hang out at Miller's home and help select songs for the orchestra or go to the library with him to pick up music.

When he was 17-year-old high school junior he went to the gym with Miller and a couple other students once and showered naked with the teacher and classmates after a swim.

"I'll go to the gym on my own, and there's a bunch of naked guys around me," Scamardella said. "Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable, in a sense, because it was two of my classmates and my teacher."

Scamardella said he has met with Miller twice since the allegations surfaced, most recently a couple months ago and prior to that had lunch with the teacher in March or April. Miller asked Scamardella if he had heard anything about him from other students. Scamardella said he knew Miller wasn't teaching at Hamilton any more.

"That's when he told me that it was something we'll discuss when I was older," Scamardella said. "He told me there were some allegations made toward him, but didn't specify what type of allegations those where, and [he said] that there were investigations, that basically he was asked to leave the school."

Miller seemed sad and said his wife and son were being supportive, Scamardella explained. 

"I told him, 'I have your back. I support you. And if you need anything I'm here as a friend,'" Scamardella said.

Miller has helped Scamardella and other former students gain professional performance experience. Scamardella got a job playing violin in two episodes of "Glee" because of Miller.

"He would always strive to give us the best opportunitites in what we did," Scamardella said.

"...I can honestly tell you that nothing ever happened," Scamardella said. "He had the moments if he wanted to...but never once did he lay a finger on me. In a way, I almost saw it as just a fatherly type of manner. The way he treated me. I don't think it was any different than the way he would treat a son."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@LATams).