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Strumming success


September 28, 2012

WAMI award winner Nora Collins began her career at age 14.

Nora Collins launched her songwriting career when she was 14, just to break the monotony. "I was bored that summer and had an old guitar laying around my room," she says. "I only knew four chords."

So she taught herself to play by making up her own songs. Collins had a knack for it. This year, at 18, she was the recipient of the "Rising Star" award by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry.

"Thereís a lot of hardworking and talented young people here, and I was very surprised and honored," she says.

Collins started taking voice lessons when she was in the fourth grade, aspiring to follow in her sister Saraís musical theater footsteps. But the teachers could not help her lose that charming twang. No worries. She had always liked country music.

"Iím a big fan of Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Theyíve influenced me, along with The Band Perry. I also like classic country such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline," she says.

Her live set, whether itís at a Potbellyís Sandwich Works, doing segues for Brookfield East choral concerts, or opening on a festival stage for Chasiní Mason, is a mix of covers and original Collins tunes. She says her favorite original tune is "First Heartbreak," a song that cracked the top 20 in a national songwriting contest. She has auditioned both for "American Idol" and "The Voice," and received callbacks both times.

Her process is deceptively simple: "For me, the words and melody pop into my head and I try to match it with a guitar part. I donít sit down and try to come up with a song, it just kind of comes to me."

Collins has recorded two CDs, "Red Chuck Taylors" and "Run Away With Me." A third recording may be coming soon.

A recent Brookfield East graduate, Collins will attend UW-Waukesha part-time this fall, majoring in business.

"Iím in business for myself doing the whole music thing, so I thought it would be a good idea to take some business classes," she says. "My goal is to make music my career."

For upcoming appearances and music samples, visit


This story ran in the August 2012 issue of: