The Powerful Medium of Music
He adds that one of the most prolific sources of music in America is a city near to his heart—New Orleans. “New Orleans is important to the American culture; it’s the birthplace of many forms of music—including rock.” As part of his American Music class, which takes place during the summer, he takes his students there to hear live music and appreciate the cultural vibes of the city.
Collins came to County College of Morris (CCM) by chance in 1994. A friend invited him to play accompaniment for a modern dance class. The college also needed someone for guitar instruction. When the decision was made to create a Music Recording Program at CCM, Collins possessed the technical skills, so he was recruited to establish that course of study. More than 20 years later, he’s still here.
“I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time,” he says.
Outside of the classroom, he can be found performing as far away as England. Most recently, he played mandocello – a large mandolin – with an orchestra outside the Museum of Natural History in New York City.
He is the author of five books on mandolin. His recording credits include film, television and CD session work. He was the mandolinist for the Disney film soundtrack “Tom and Huck,” and has produced several commercially released recordings as well as his own “Blue Soul” and “Barbella Mandolin Duets” CDs.
Of his teaching, he reflects, “I try to get students to learn critical listening. Their ears are their most important tools.” His graduates work as professional engineers and producers; some have their own studios. One recently texted him from the Grammys.
“He was a CCM recording alumni who took banjo lessons with me, and here he was backstage at the Grammys!”
Collins adds that another powerful aspect of music is that it crosses generations to provide a wellspring of inspiration. “Music is a highly creative field. Something I love about teaching is that I often find myself learning along with the students. We are all a work in progress!”