You may think you know The Collingsworth Family, but did you ever wonder where it all began? When did Kim discover her passion for music? How did she and Phil meet? What was it like growing up in the Collingsworth household from the kids’ perspectives? All your questions and more will be answered as Kim takes you through their journey. You may even hear from the rest of the family along the way.
Kim Collingsworth describes her childhood days and her encounter with her Heavenly Father at the age of three: “My earliest musical memories are of my mother playing the piano in our home. I have eight siblings, and she was very good at entertaining us or helping us find ways to entertain ourselves. I vividly remember her playing ‘Chopsticks.’ My siblings and I, upon hearing this song, would always run around the coffee table and chase each other.
“I loved it when Mother started playing. It was time to have fun. I was around three years of age when I first started to play. My dad was a minister. One particular Sunday evening, I remember my father preaching a message on the gift of wisdom that God gave to Solomon. I was captivated and drawn in by a statement my father made in the sermon. He said, ‘Solomon asked for a gift, and God graciously granted it.’
“That got my attention that night. I began to think immediately in my mind that I wanted to do the same thing. I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to talk to God when I get home tonight.’ Now keep in mind, I was about three years old. I didn’t have the mental capacity to understand much of anything, but there was one thing I did believe. If I talked to God, He would hear me. I never doubted for a moment that God would answer my prayer.
“I went home that night, put my pajamas on, and knelt beside my bed. I began to plead with God in my childish way that He would give me a gift like he gave that king my daddy was talking about. I remember thinking two things. One, I would probably be the wisest woman in the world since Solomon was the only person like that and he was a man. Since there wasn’t a woman that had been given that gift, I figured that woman would be me. That didn’t happen.
“The second thought I had came to me as I was being tucked into bed. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder what I’ll be when I wake up in the morning?’ Looking back, I realize how powerful the faith of a child is. I couldn’t have understood it at the time, let alone have explained it, but I believe God saw the sincerity of a little girl’s heart when I prayed and asked Him for a gift.
“Needless to say, the next morning when I awakened, I was very disappointed to discover that I was no different than when I had crawled into bed the night before. Nothing had changed. My faith was unshakable as a child. I kept wondering when my gift would come. I really did believe.
“Some weeks later, I heard one of my siblings who is five years older than me, playing the piano in our living room. It was at that moment, for the first time, I remember being interested and intrigued by the piano. I remember hearing the pitches in my head and thinking, ‘I can do that.’
“I waited until my sister got off the piano bench, and I went over and started finding the pitches that I had heard. Some moments later, my mother said she came into the living room thinking my older sibling was still playing, when to her shock, her three-year-old child was playing the recital piece the older sibling had just been playing.
“She immediately said to me, ‘How did you know how to do that?’ She said my response was, ‘She was playing it, and I wanted to play it, too.’ That was the beginning of my love for the piano. From that moment on, I became almost inseparable with the instrument. Mother said I would play six to eight hours a day before ever entering the first grade. I do believe with all my heart, God heard my prayer and granted my request … in a completely different way than I ever expected. I’m so grateful. All praise to Jesus.”
In fast-forwarding a several years, Kim recalls what the early days were like for she and Phil.
“I met Phil on Aug. 26, 1983,” Kim shares. “I had just started my freshmen year of high school, and he was starting his sophomore year of college. Yes, we are four years and seven months apart. I was 14 years old and he was 19. It was an instant attraction for both of us. I was too young to date, so we wrote letters and talked on the phone – rarely talked on the phone, because it was too expensive back then – until I was 16.
“We had our first date when I was 16, and he was 21. Poor guy, he had to wait on me to grow up. We were so in love and really wanted to get married. So, I decided to cram four years of high school into three so I could graduate from high school in 1986. The same year he would graduate from college. That plan worked well.
“My parents really liked Phil. That was in my favor. So, they agreed to sign for me when I was 17, and we were married a few months later. Phil graduated from college in May of 1986, on a Friday night. I graduated from high school the following Friday night, and we were married three months later. We have now been married for 30 years. Best decision I ever made, other than deciding to follow Christ.”
Once the children came along, the formative years consisted of a significant amount of musical training.
“Our home has always been full of music,” Kim points out. “We love music, kind of like how people love food or sports. So, it was natural that our kids grew up listening to Christian music, classical music, or music such as the Carpenters or crooners’ music, as long as the lyric was wholesome. Phil and I both have always loved beautiful music of different genres, so they were exposed to a lot of different styles early on. Because of that, music just happened naturally with them.
“I do remember discovering that our daughter, Brooklyn, could sing alto at the age of two and a half. She joined in on the alto part, along with a duet that was being sung around the piano in our living room. I was really shocked. I actually recorded that and still have it to this day. So, their training kind of evolved along the way. They developed a love for music early on, which was very instrumental in them wanting to sing and play an instrument.
“Vocally, I began to lightly coach them along from the time they were two or so. The girls started their violin lessons when they were six and eight years of age. I always contracted outside teachers for their instruments. I don’t have a clue how to play the violin, drums or guitar.”
If someone had told Kim 20 years ago that their family would make this kind of an impact on Gospel Music, her reaction would have been lukewarm. “I probably would have smiled and thought they were a little far-fetched in their opinion,” Kim admits.
“I never had a dream that we would do what we do today. Phil is the visionary in our family. He may have had a vision, in the back of his mind, that someday we would travel extensively as we do today, but not me. I just simply wanted to obey and follow God, whatever that meant. That was all. It was just day to day following God and listening for His voice in the mundane.
“He began to open one obvious door of music ministry at a time, and we walked through those doors as He opened them. All these years later, I realize that we have been, and still are, in the good, good hands of Jesus. He had a plan all along. He has a plan for all of His children. The key is that we just have to give Him full reign and control. No demands on Him of what we want or require. He doesn’t work that way. We just have to relinquish our families, our careers, our desires, and whatever else concerns us to God, and allow Him to use us as He wishes. Then, and only then, can He work in and through us. That’s when He can do some amazing things.”
Courtney Collingsworth Metz – the second-oldest of the four siblings – shares some of her childhood memories.
“I would have to say that some of my favorite memories in the music room were all the laughter and jokes,” Courtney recalls. “We were very serious about our music and arrangements, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun. We were always goofing off or laughing when someone sang the wrong part. Lots of funny memories were made during our rehearsals that I will remember for a lifetime.”
Phillip Collingsworth – the third oldest of the four kids – talks about the impact of the music on himself as an artist and his greatest influences.
“Music had a large impact on me as a young kid growing up,” Phillip says. “Gospel Music was what I always wanted to sing, and a lot of that was because of singers like David Phelps, Michael O’Brien and Larnelle Harris, to name just a few. These artists’ talents and communication skills are what I would study mentally, and try to take away something from each of them to help form who I was as a singer. Other artists outside of Gospel music would be Michael Buble’, Brian McKnight and David Foster … again, just to name a few.
“Needless to say, I’ve been a music lover since I was a little kid, and since then, I have been blessed to be able to play a small part in the music making process over the years with my family.”
Olivia Collingsworth – the youngest sibling – recounts one of her fondest silly memories from days gone by.
“The times when we were under pressure on stage, and wanted to burst into laughter over something silly, are my funniest memories,” Olivia remembers. “My mom would give us that look like, ‘you had better stop it now.’ That made it even harder to gain control of ourselves. There’s something about being with your siblings on stage. When one of them starts laughing, it’s like a rippling effect with the rest of us. It’s hard to gain your composure.
“One time, my dad was talking to the audience, and started to say very emphatically, ‘God is faithful.’ It came out wrong and he, in a very loud voice said, ‘God is fat.’ No more holding our composure after that. We lost it.”
Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair – the oldest sibling – plans to pass down the family’s musical heritage to her children.
“I plan to surround my children with the music I grew up loving,” Brooklyn explains. “However, they will be able to experience it first hand as well, by having a front row seat to this ministry. It is my desire that my kids not only grow up to love this music but also the message within it.”
Phil has an overwhelming feeling of gratitude in knowing that his family is serving Jesus.
“There is no greater joy for a parent than to see your children embrace the love we personally have for Jesus and make it their own,” Phil shares. “It’s actually the fulfillment of our entire reason for existing as a family … to take our family to heaven with us. We are so grateful to God and so blessed.”
Photos courtesy of Courtney Collingsworth Metz, Erin Stevens, Craig Harris
Written by Erin Stevens
First published by SGNScoops Magazine June 2017.