Iqua Colson

IQUA COLSON.... VocalistComposer, Lyricist, Arts Administrator, Educator, has shared the stage with many of this era’s great artists. She was named a Vocal Talent Deserving Wider Recognition by Downbeat Magazine and has been recognized by Billboard Magazine for distinguished achievement as a lyricist. The international media has praised her placing her in the company of some of our finest known vocal innovators and stylists including Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Abbey Lincoln. She has six recordings, has led bands and collaborated with several artists, most frequently with her husband pianist/composer Steve Colson, performing in the U.S and overseas.

In addition to her recognition as a performer, Iqua has successfully initiated and/or produced concerts, festivals and arts education projects in Chicago, New York City, and the Essex County area of New Jersey. She has been the architect of several projects working with such organizations as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Symphony Space, The City of Newark, The Chicago Cultural Council, The Smithsonian, Columbia University, The Jazz Institute of Chicago, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, The Great Hall at Cooper Union, New Music America, The Museum of African American Music, Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey Symphony, and New Jersey Chamber Music Society.

Born and raised in Chicago, Iqua had already studied piano for 7 years when she entered Kenwood High School where her teacher was acclaimed composer Lena McLin, the niece and student of the famed Thomas Dorsey, “father of gospel music.” She auditioned and was accepted to Northwestern University School of Music after three years of high school. She later transferred to Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University where she completed her undergraduate Music Degree. Iqua became a member of the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the early ‘70s, a musicians’ collective that has influenced music internationally in the 20th and 21st Century. In addition to performing while in Chicago, Iqua was a leader in many successful initiatives, for the AACM and other arts organizations. These initiatives were implemented to present the arts to large and diverse audiences. She served as a member of The Board of Directors of The Jazz Institute of Chicago during which time the popular annual Chicago Jazz Festival grew to a week long event; and she was a founding member of FEPA, producers of Chicago’s internationally acclaimed “Underground Fest” and “Blacklight Film Festival.”

Iqua became a Music Team Leader in East Orange, New Jersey’s Washington Academy of Music at the school’s inception in 1994. An impressive and challenging music curriculum was developed at Washington helping to bring national recognition and awards to the school, and the school district. She then worked as the coordinator of arts programs. This work with the City and District administration, Emmy and Tony Award Winning Actress Ms. Cicely Tyson, and the talented arts staff assisted in particular award winning efforts and development of the Cicely L. Tyson School. This contributed to winning of a Demonstration Project Grant to build a new facility. In September 2009 the new Cicely Tyson Community School of the Arts, a state of the art K-12 school and Performing Arts Center opened. Iqua, as Supervisor of Visual & Performing Arts for the East Orange School District, focuses on curriculum development and special projects in the arts to benefit students in all schools. She oversees an accelerated arts curriculum at Tyson as Department Chair for Arts which lead in part to their recent designation as a Model School of the Arts. Iqua has a Masters of Public Administration/Arts Administration from Seton Hall University and currently consults on several projects that use of the arts as a catalyst for educational and/or social change. These projects include everything from neighborhood planning and arts venue design to arts curriculum.

When they left Chicago in 1982 Iqua and her husband, noted pianist and composer Steve Colson, moved to Montclair, New Jersey, a town 12 miles west of New York City. The Colsons now have two grown sons. Iqua continues to write, perform and produce music and other arts based projects. Her ideas are creative and fresh, lending much to the sound of today’s progressive music, whether expressed through her original lyrics, standard tunes, or vocal improvisation. Her 2005 CD “Hope for Love”, done in partnership with Steve on their label Silver Sphnix Recordings, was nominated for a Grammy. Her latest recorded effort, their most recent Silver Sphinx release The Untarnished Dream, received rave reviews internationally and ranked high in the Jazz Critics poll as one of the best Jazz CDs of 2010.

Iqua Colson has been discussed in countless magazines, newspapers, periodicals, and in several books including:

- Black Women & Music, More than the Blues (chapters on several influential women in music Leontyne Price)
- Anthology of Essays/Interviews -edit. Hayes, Univ. N. Texas, 2007
- A Power Stronger Than Itself – The AACM and American Experimental Music - George Lewis, U. Chicago, 2009
- Freedom, Rhythm and Sound - Book & CD Compilation– Soul Jazz Records, London, U.K. – 2009