South Lake Tahoe drummer on a musical mission
Nicole Grant, or Nikki G, wants to take over the world.
Armed with a pair of drumsticks and a lot of heART, the South Lake Tahoe native drummer has performed across the world with artists such as Katy Perry, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, and The Used.
Grant currently tours the country with the Street Drum Corps. She’s been a member of the group for seven years and in that time has helped grow the program into a national drumming army. As the only woman in the program, she trains new recruits for the musical battle and leads the casts of the franchise’s various groups.
“We have created a unique ensemble with the world being our musical playground, but we also have enriched young musicians to join us in our purpose. Hopefully as the army grows we will bring on more female drummers,” Grant said.
Working with young musicians is an important part of Grant’s mission. For years, she’s worked in the South Lake Tahoe arts community alongside her father, Bob Grant, the department chair for visual and performing arts at South Tahoe High School.
She started mentoring elementary honor bands in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District when she was 12 years old. In high school, she led the percussion section under the direction of her father. When she gets time to come back to South Lake Tahoe from her base in Los Angeles, she leads percussion workshops for the high school and speaks with students about careers in the music industry.
“We have such a small, sheltered community and it’s important she shows people you can be from Tahoe and still be really successful. Nicole is very dedicated to having kids have the same chances she’s had,” Bob Grant said.
The Grants are Tahoe’s very own von Trapp family, with over four generations of music in the blood. Nicole Grant’s mother was a professional concert pianist who still teaches and plays in the community; her sister teaches piano and music readiness to children; her grandfather was a professional drummer for the L.A. symphony; her aunt teaches piano at a community college and is married to a high school band director; and she has a niece who is already showing interest and talent in music, dancing and singing.
By the age of 4 years old, drumming turned out to be an inherited passion, and Grant has pursued the rhythm ever since.
“Her life is music, always has been, always will be. I know she was writing her own song before most of us knew what a musical note was. Nicole lives and breathes music,” said Jennifer Koba, a close friend of Grant’s.
Now, Grant has toured the world with the Street Drum Corps, performed on “The Tonight Show” with Conan O’Brien, composed the worldwide airing of a 2011 Starz Channel promotional commercial, and has been featured in national percussion magazines.
DRUM! magazine named the Street Drum Corps the “Best Percussion Ensemble,” and featured Grant in a 2008 “New Blood” section.
“Her skills as a drummer are amazing. She’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever worked with,” said Justin Imamura, another member of the Street Drum Corps who joined the group at the same time as Grant.
For Grant, the South Lake Tahoe community still takes center stage and she hopes that her story can serve as an inspiration to other young musicians.
“The arts isn’t just crucial for the young mind, it can be an integral part of the cohesion inside the community. I hope with stories such as my own it creates aspirations in the young musicians to truly pursue any dream they may dream,” Grant said.