Musical marvels

Nathan Mills ’13 is merging his music skills with his passion for movies and video games.

Think “Avengers: Infinity War,” “The Office” or Fortnite. He creates and performs his own classical and fingerstyle guitar arrangements of music from movies, TV shows and video games, then sells them on his YouTube channel, Beyond the Guitar. He recently started teaching others how to do it at

“I’m arranging something that’s not necessarily composed for the guitar, and I adapt it to be played on the guitar,” said Mills, who has a master’s degree in music with a concentration in classical guitar performance from ECU.

He has more than 31 million views, more than 245,000 subscribers and has created more than 50 videos. A producer with the HBO hit “Game of Thrones” tweeted him. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” shared on Instagram.

“I was always a movie buff and a gamer,” he said. “I felt I had an ability to fill this unique niche with my classical training. I thought I had something unique to offer.”

The idea came while Mills was working at a financial services company and teaching guitar lessons after hours. Using the platform Vine, he started making short music videos, themes that people would recognize in seconds. He began teaching music at a middle school part time and continued to teach guitar while starting his YouTube channel.

Reactions from his early posts convinced him to keep going. “I’m not very entrepreneurial,” he said. “I thought I would get my doctorate and teach.”

But a friend from his church worship band helped open his eyes to the possibility of a successful music business.

Graham Cochrane, who founded, helped produce an album for the band. Cochrane’s website helps people record and produce music worldwide. “It showed me the potential of making a living and making a good living,” Mills said. “It gave me that nudge. He was the first person I met and knew that was making it work and gave me hope it was possible.”

Mills first played piano, then picked up guitar in eighth grade. He didn’t start playing classical guitar until his junior year of high school. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, he enrolled in graduate school at ECU, where guitar professor Elliot Frank offered him a teaching assistantship.

Mills was one of his strongest players, Frank said.

“Since that time, he has taken a unique and innovative approach to creating a career path in music, one which I would not have foreseen, but in the process he reaches many people who would otherwise not be drawn to the classical guitar,” Frank said.

Mills, a husband and father of two young children, creates his music in a self-described “nerd shrine,” filled with movie and game memorabilia and LED panels, where he taught himself audio engineering and how to make videos.

“It’s technically my dream job. I like being home with my family, and I like being able to work from home,” Mills said. “Overall, I’m very blessed to do what I love. There are a lot of people not as fortunate. It’s a constant reminder to be grateful.”

Listen to Nathan play the “Avengers: Infinity War” theme