Kiku Collins has established herself at the heights of pop, jazz and R&B. This former “Jersey Girl” followed music on a journey out of her small town to the Interlochen Center For the Arts, and from there, onto the biggest stages in the world. According to Jazz Journal International, “Ms. Collins plays trumpet and flugelhorn like a twenty-first century Miles Davis.”
Collins has performed with Beyonce, Michael Bolton, Jill Scott, Nick Lowe, Gloria Gaynor, Train, et al. She’s performed on the Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, at the White House for President Obama (twice), The Rachel Ray Show, The View, The World Music Awards, the Black Girls Rock Awards on BET many times, Ellen Degeneres, the Grammys (and many others),in addition to appearances at several international jazz festivals.
Collins boasts two recordings as a leader, to her credit. Innova Records said about her debut recording, “Here With Me” that “Kiku puts a flugelhorn to her lips and animals come to listen, it’s so sweet.” Her newest recording, “Red Light” showcases her unique abilities as composer, performer and producer and includes notable guest performances by Michael Lington and Al Chez. A third album is officially in the works.
Collins continues to keep a busy schedule as a performer and clinician for Getzen Musical Instruments and spends much of her time creating new music in her recording studio. Legendary trumpeter Mike Vax said of Ms. Collins,“Her phrasing, sound and lyricism remind me of great singers. For me, that is one of the best compliments that I could give to any trumpet player!”
Collins is also a cancer and lymphedema patient, and is actively involved with #Cancerland and other advocacy organizations. Until we have a cure, we have each other.
Brass Chicks: From working with Beyoncé to appearing on TV and in the White House, you are no stranger to high-profile gigs with and for important people. How do you manage your nerves and stay calm on stage during these performances?
Kiku Collins: I make sure that I’m prepared as much as possible. Learn the music inside and out, warm up, hydrate, and go from there. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is this – if I feel nervous, I tend to screw up. I like to use the energy in a more exciting way. I like to think of all of the people out there who are excited to hear music! And, I get to make some of it for them! What a privilege. Enjoy it and create happiness! I remember after my first White House gig, one of the band members congratulated me on one tune that I started on my own – out of the blue. He said he sat there nervously waiting for me to start, and breathed a sigh of relief when it came out right. I laughed at him and realized how funny it was that he was more nervous than I was. What I did was blow air through my flugel, which was cold at the moment, sing my first note in my head, and realize that I’d done it a handful of times during rehearsals without a problem. I was still a bit tense since I had no reference note or rhythm, only a very quick and quiet count-off, but The Obamas were sitting mere feet away from me, waiting! What an opportunity!