Chris Collins ’92 was a musical force to be reckoned with, even as a Marin Academy freshman. Coming from a musical family, he poured his passion and talents into MA’s Rock Band in the late 80s / early 90s and stuck with it long after his days on the Cottage Avenue theater stage. Today, Chris can be found touring the world as the guitarist with Super Diamond, the San Francisco based Neil Diamond tribute band, who will be headlining Marin Academy’s 40th Anniversary Celebration at Bimbo’s 365 Club on April 20.
Tell us about your life today.
Being a professional musician, I perform, compose, produce, record, and teach music. I perform in Super Diamond, the nationally touring Neil Diamond tribute band. I compose music for television with my production partner and fellow Marin Academy alum, my brother Will Collins ’95. I also do recording session work, and teach guitar and piano lessons around the Bay Area.
Super Diamond has a long-established reputation as one of San Francisco’s most followed tribute bands. Can you tell us a little about Super Diamond’s history and your history with the band?
I’m excited to have my band Super Diamond perform at Marin Academy’s 40th anniversary party at San Francisco’s Bimbo’s 365 Club in North Beach. Super Diamond thrives on putting on a fun show. Something I immediately noticed when I first started playing with Super Diamond is that they developed their own identity as a band. We are not a look alike or sound alike production, as one might assume about a tribute band. I often hear from a newly won-over fan, “I have to say, I’m not even a Neil Diamond fan, but I love you guys!” – that means a lot to me! Surreal Neil, our lead singer, often says to our audience, “some of you love Neil Diamond, and some of you love Neil Diamond, but just don’t know it yet.”
Tell us about a favorite memory from a Super Diamond show.
Playing with this band has brought its share of special memories, including singing “Sweet Home Chicago” with Jim Belushi at Dodger’s Stadium. Opening for childhood inspirations like Jon Bon Jovi at Disneyworld and Steve Miller at Shoreline Amphitheater were also nice perks of the gig.
Who from MA made the most significant impact on who you have become as an adult (classmate, teacher, etc).
So many teachers and students from my days at MA influenced me and my development as a musician. I remember, as an 8th grader, feeling incredibly inspired when I attended MA’s “gala” music concert. The students’ fearless performances offered me a vision of what I wanted to do with my life. Former art teacher Bob Percy was particularly influential and inspiring. In addition to taking 4 years of his art classes and acting as my faculty advisor, he led me, my brother Sean Collins ’91 and eight other students on an art-student exchange to Leningrad, USSR. More than anything, Bob offered an invaluable counterweight to the prevailing culture of pressure-cooking commitment to over-achievement, by suggesting an alternative perspective to false pretense.
Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?
There are many great classes that come to mind: World Civ with James Shipman; Fine Art with Bob Percy; Rock Band with Bob Schleeter; and English with Joe Coulson, to name just a few.
If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?
If I was to enroll in Marin Academy again, I would do two things differently: I would go on as many outings as possible; and, although I’d still be fully engaged and committed to learning the curriculum with hard work and enthusiasm, I would not be concerned about grades.
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