Cheryl Aiko Villegas Collins
Cheryl Collins, pianist and harpsichordist, has enjoyed a distinguished career as a performer, educator, and church musician. She has taught music for over thirty years at four colleges.
Cheryl was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the older of two children and the only daughter of William Yoshio and Joyce Kakazu Villegas. Music was an important activity in the home, her father being an active amateur musician who played piano by ear and sang in the choir and in a male quartet. Both parents supported their children in their musical training.
Cheryl started lessons on piano at age six, studying with the pastor's wife and then, at age ten, with Constance Smith, first chair cellist in the Honolulu Symphony and piano teacher; and at age fourteen with Ernest Chang, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, continuing with him all through her high school years. She also started organ lessons with Hugh Winn, music teacher at Hawaiian Mission School, beginning at age twelve, and with Dan Duerksen in her junior high school years. She studied for one summer with Nyle Hallman, organist at Central Union Church, the major cathedral in Honolulu, which had the largest pipe organ in the city.
While attending Hawaiian Mission Academy, she was accompanist for the choirs for eight years, beginning in fourth grade, and beginning in fifth grade, the pianist for the church. In her sophomore year she played in two performances of the first movement of the Beethoven Concerto in C minor with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. She also won in piano competitions sponsored by the Morning Club of Honolulu while in high school, was chosen in her junior year as the local Outstanding Teenager of America because of her academic achievement and community service, was included in Who's Who in American High School Students, and was the recipient of a $500 college scholarship.
Following graduation from HMA in 1974, she enrolled at Pacific Union College as a music major and completed a B.Mus. in music education in 1978 with piano as her performance area. She studied piano with Melva Wright for a year and then with Lynn Wheeler for the remainder of her time at PUC. At the end of her sophomore year she auditioned for and won a position in the Napa Valley Orchestra and in her junior year performed the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major with the orchestra. She accompanied the Collegiate Chorale for three years, was a reader for both James McGee and James Mercer, and served as the choral librarian.
In 1980 she earned an M.Mus. in piano performance at the University of Southern California, studying with Robert Ward, a particularly demanding teacher, and started work on a D.M.A. at the University of Arizona. In 1981 she was hired to teach at Canadian Union College, now Canadian University College, in Alberta, and in the following year she completed her doctorate in piano performance at UA with minors in music history and harpsichord. In her final year at CUC, she married David Collins, a tenor and adjunct voice teacher at the college.
They then spent a year in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she taught at Leeward Community College and he taught at Hawaiian Mission Academy, before returning to Canada to teach at Curtis-Horne Junior Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan. They moved to Oregon in 1989, where she taught for sixteen years at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and he was music specialist at Hood View Junior Academy. She also assisted at the academy, teaching piano. The academy yearbook was dedicated to both of them in 2002.
In 2005 the Collinses moved to Farmington, New Mexico, where he had accepted a position at Piñon Hills Christian School. Cheryl joined the faculty at San Juan College in January 2006 to teach piano and music theory and history
Throughout her life, Cheryl has been involved in church music, mostly as an organist and pianist in SDA churches. While earning her master's degree, she served as pianist and also conducted the choir at the Central Japanese-American Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles
The Collinses have two children, Ryan and Christopher, both of whom are active in musical activities.
Sources: biography at San Juan College website (2012); Pacific Union Recorder, 5 February 1973, 7; North Pacific Union Gleaner, 6 November 1985, 20; 22 October 1989, 21; 19 April 1993, 13; Canadian Adventist Messenger, 1 April 1977, 15; 21 April, 1983, 6; October 1987, 20.