Faculty member brings joy of music to Durham Tech

On Jan. 12, the Durham Tech Choir, under the direction of Dr. Norman Collins, brought the house down at Durham Tech’s 39th annual MLK celebration.

The performances were so powerful, some audience members were in tears. With Collins conducting the faculty members comprising the choir delivered a memorable musical experience.

It’s a passion for life that encompasses Collins’ love of music, people and voices. In addition to leading the MLK Choir, he’s also made these three things come together through the Durham Tech Choir.

""Collins, apprenticeship coordinator for Durham Tech’s Center for Workforce Engagement, began his musical journey at age 5 when he started singing in church and school choirs. He grew into "banging” on a small, child’s piano at age 6. Collins said his mother reinforced this play by saying, “Isn’t that such and such song you’re playing, Norman?”

His love of music continued and as Collins grew, so did his piano and soon he was playing a full-size version. He plays totally by ear. And while a soprano in eighth grade he rounded out to a baritone.  

“I don’t sing as much anymore. I teach choirs, and that combining of people and their talents is what I enjoy,” Collins said. While Collins rarely sings solos these days, he does help others do just that as he builds and leads choirs and hosts choir workshops.

“I do sing in the shower, but I far more enjoy bringing people together and blending voices,” Collins said. “Through choirs, my love of music and people come together.”

Originally from Mississippi, Collins says his piano playing is what kept him growing musically.

“I started playing for our youth choir, and then thought let's do this community-wide,” he said.  

He did just that with his Inspiration Community Choir of about 50 singers. That led to gospel music workshops, with his most prolific running for 16 years and welcoming around 400 people.  

With his "choir guy" persona, it did not take long for some at Durham Tech to take notice of Collins’ talents as a choir teacher and workshop host.  

“It started around November 2022 with preparations for MLK Day and word was put out for people to join the MLK Choir. I liked that and was interested. Once there I was volun-told I would be choir director,” Collins said with a laugh.  

Collins is the correct "volun-told" person for the job, not just based on his past and current involvement with choirs, but for his instructing style.

“I believe teaching music should be done with a spirit of excellence,” Collins said. “I can be a little rigid, but I appreciate things done well, and I want others to learn correctly. I care about the people and the music.”

With strong singing voices, group energy and a shared love of music, Collins hopes to lead the Durham Tech choir, originally known as the Durham Tech MLK Choir, into new territory of performance choirs.  

“My days of banging on the tiny, kids’ piano to starting a successful, well-attended community choir workshop have brought me here and I am ready to share all I know and love about music to our Durham Tech Choir,” Collins said. “You will soon hear the sound of singing voices in the halls of our campus.”