Not only does Colionne perform for audiences around the world, he also helps future generations reach their goals. Since 1994, Colionne has helped Elgin, Illinois' St. Laurence K-8 School as he teaches guitar and computer skills, counsels and arranges talent shows. Colionne says, "That's very important to me because if I can with the younger kids keep them from making some of the mistakes I made and if I can encourage them in any way to pursue their dream, I can let them know that if you can see the dream, you can have it. It may take a while or it may be overnight, who knows, but you have to persevere and believe in yourself and believe in the music that you create. Eventually, everybody else will start to believe in you and your music, too. But nobody believes in you unless you believe in yourself. So I spend a lot of time at the schools with kids and trying to help them out and trying to teach them what I know."
Nick Colionne says not only does his work with students help them, he helps himself as well. He says, "It keeps me up on top of my game in teaching them because I know one day, hopefully, the students that I teach guitar will one day be better than me. Early in my teens, I had bands and I had opportunities to leave those groups and I wouldn't leave the band where I could have branched out and did other things that were bigger. I was always a group kind of guy and wouldn't leave the band."
Colionne says as a teenager, he also listened to what other people said about his guitar work. "Different managers and other people were telling me what they are going to do for me. I found out nobody is going to do anything for me but me," says Colionne. "Until you start getting some kind of status, nobody really wants to know who you are. Nobody is going to put in that effort. Fortunately as I started coming along, I had a great manager, but as a kid, I made a lot of mistakes. I could have probably gotten to this point quicker if I would have, no fault of my own, mind my own heart instead of being loyal to certain situations."
In his last CD Just Come On In, Nick Colionne showed he had a more upbeat style than most other smooth jazz guitarists. He says, "I thought the music was going to come to this a long time ago and it did. People that I worked with didn't have the foresight to see where the music was going. It had to develop into something else or it would have stagnated in the same place. I wanted to go along with it and I had these ideas years ago and now people are starting to accept what I thought the music should go from me."
Colionne says it's hard to get music that's different to get recorded and released. He says, "Anytime something is new, it takes longer. Where I was coming from was a new place. So it took a little longer for people, especially radio people, to get next to what I was doing because there's similarities to other things, but then there's a definite difference from everybody else. When something is new and different, people are kind of hesitant in the beginning. Thank God everybody came along and started feeling what I was feeling."
Nick Colionne's first Narada Jazz release Keepin' It Cool is a CD that shows how he has grown musically. He says, "With each project, I hope that I expand on my musical creativity and hope people see that and feel that. Each project I try to make a little different with some similarities and differences at the same time. Basically I want them to hear the growth and see what Nick Colionne is coming from now as opposed to where he was in 'Just Come On In." Now he's 'Keepin' It Cool.'
People will see not only where he is going, but what is behind Colionne's signature sound. Nick says, "I play all the time really from the heart. So everything I play will always have the Nick Colionne textures. I don't want to try to change my sound or try to change what I do. I just try and expand on what I did the last time and keep creating new songs, but still in the Nick Colionne vein of things. I just play who I am hopefully get accepted for who I am because that's all that I am and that's all I will be."
Nick Colionne's sound started out as a mix of people that influenced his music. "Most every performer has had people they emulated throughout their career getting started," says Nick. "I emulated George Benson, Wes Montgomery and a few other people. You're always going to hear those inflections come out in me. At the same time inside of those people, in learning their style I found Nick Colionne in between all of that and I want that to set out more so than anything else. When something different hits you, like 'oh, what is that?,' it's good to be a little different and I think that's what they're looking for."
The first single released from Colionne's Keepin' It Cool is "Always Thinking of You." He says, "I was just messing around in my little studio with some sounds. My bass player Dave came over and I was playing a few things and he says, 'Oh, yeah that's cool.' Then he played a couple of things and I came over with this guitar line and the song just kept developing and developing. By the time we got to the third version of the song, I said, 'okay it's time to stop, I think it's really cool, let's do this song here the way it is.' Honestly, I didn't think it would be the single, but I loved the way we were going with the music. I thought it was something different. Then when they said they wanted to do it as a single, I was a little afraid because it was so different from what I have done previously. But then all my life I dared to be different and the song has been accepted worldwide."
"Always Thinking of You" wasn't supposed to be a song that would get a lot of air play on radio. However, Nick Colionne says, "It's a great song, I love it. I believe in every song that I do, but some songs you don't think they're going to be radio songs. You just think they will be really great songs for the record, but this turns out also to be a great radio song. I'm happy about it, I'm very proud of it and hopefully by being different it lets it stand out a bit from the other things."
Colionne believes smooth jazz radio stations are trying to make the music sound interesting. "I don't think radio really wants everything to sound exactly the same," he says, "or else it would be boring. Some stations they may want to play it safe, but eventually they all reach out and find that thing that makes things a little different for the programming and for the listeners. I believe they know the listeners want to hear something different and they want to hear something new. There are a lot of songs, a lot of remakes and those are all great. I've been trying not to do a lot of remake songs because I want to try to keep my originality. If I do a bunch of remakes, then I'm doing the same thing over and over again and I think there's still music to be created. You don't have to be recycled."
Nick Colionne has been a Chicago treasure for many years. Not is he only helping out other future performers through his work with youth, but his concerts have always been packed with fans wanting more. He is now giving that treasure to a worldwide audience and the world is Keepin' It Cool.