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An Interview with Kiku Collins

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We continue our “ChopSaver Users are Just Plain Cool” series with trumpeter Kiku Collins! While her early training emphasized classical music, Kiku (http://www.kikucollins.com/) has branched out into the New York jazz and pop music scene. She has performed and toured with Beyoncé, Michael Bolton, Jill Scott, Nick Lowe, Gloria Gaynor, and Train, among others.

kiku-collins
Photo: Lynn Redmile

DG – When did you first think you might want to be a professional musician?

Kiku – It was the only thing I thought I did well as a kid besides gymnastics. I had always pictured myself playing in some orchestra for a living, but I guess the universe had other plans for me!

DG – What do you see yourself doing 5 years from now?

Kiku – Breathing and smiling.

Photo: Lynn Redmile

DG – You travel and perform a lot – do you have a workout regimen?

Kiku – I work out as much as I can. The first question I usually have for the front desk upon check in is “where is the gym and what are the hours?” Before my music career took off, I spent a few years as a personal trainer. For the periods in my life that exercise has lapsed, I’ve felt completely off! I need to move!

DG – Your job looks very glamorous and exciting – tell us about the not-so glamorous side of it!

Kiku – The one or two hours of the show always look glamorous! I’ve been in horrible dressing rooms (or none at all!) shady hotels, I’ve had the flu on tour, and I once had to go to the hospital in China for an infection from a bug bite that blew my arm up to twice its size hours from the show. When I got back I was completely nauseous and had to hold it together through 3 encores on top of the regular show! I’ve been rushed through makeup and hair – and one time in Japan I was on TV with only one false eyelash on.

Another time my microphone flew off of my bell on a live show and I just kept playing and dancing and, well, hopefully not too many folks noticed that the trumpet suddenly dropped out and the microphone was swinging around! I was also stripped out of one costume and into another in London, literally 20 seconds before air time. There are also lots of situations where you’re just running around and exhausted with no time to relax or sleep. A long flight followed by a long bus ride straight to the venue, soundcheck right into show, then back on a plane headed somewhere else to do the same! But, it’s what we do.

DG – What is your favorite/coolest venue you have ever played in? 

Kiku – The White House a few months ago! That was ridiculous.

Performing at The White House with James Taylor and Billy Joel honoring Carol King.
Performing at The White House with James Taylor and Billy Joel honoring Carol King.

DG – What sort of things do you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

Kiku – I’m not sure. I’ve done so much more than I’d ever dreamed already. I think I’m doing well to let the Universe guide that path for me.

DG – For the trumpet players out there, what is a typical practice session like?

Kiku – I generally wake up around 6am and warm up before I wake my daughter up for school, and practice while she’s having breakfast etc. That’s generally about an hour or an hour and a half (thank goodness for my soundproof studio!) I return to practice usually in the afternoon. I do a lot of fundamentals, unless I need to practice actual music. Lip bends, flexibilities, buzzing, all the awful sounding stuff that makes the other stuff come out right.

DG – Who is the most influential musician you have studied or worked with?

Kiku – Mel Broiles (legendary Principal Trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera from 1958 – 2001)

DG – And the most influential musician you have NOT had the chance to study or work with.

Kiku – There are so many – anyone with a passion for art and storytelling. Those who want to share in that gift. They don’t have to be famous or rich. They have to live the language and love the life.

DG – How does one get a job such as playing with a major act like Michael Bolton, Beyoncé or some of the others you have worked with?

Kiku – It all started with my Beyoncé audition, which I almost didn’t do. I toured with her for a year, had to leave for childcare reasons and Michael Bolton called a couple of months later. That was a wonderful 3 years, and from there I’ve been happily working with artists like Gloria Gaynor, Nick Lowe, Train, and back with Beyoncé for a bit. I have been thankful for my TV work for BET Networks, and my recent DC hits at The Kennedy Center and The White House. I’m amazed at my life right now and happy to have so much positive support around me!

I would also like to give a shout out to an amazing organization – www.stupidcancer.org – as they are doing incredible work in this field. Thanks!

DG – Thank you, Kiku. They are lucky to have you involved!