Colleen Clark started playing drums when she was little.
Her dad had started a family band, and Clark immediately knew she wanted to be the drummer.
Ever since then, Clark has performed for years to promote jazz studies and be a role model for women in jazz.
And on Jan. 29, she'll be closer to reaching her goal when she steps onto the "Late Night With Seth Meyers" stage to drum with The 8G Band. The group is the talk-show's house band that features a guest drummer weekly. Band members include "Saturday Night Live" alumnus Fred Armisen on rhythm guitar, Seth Jabour on lead guitar, Syd Butler on bass and Eli Janney on keys.
Clark started her professional career in music at the University of North Texas, where she was the only woman and drummer to graduate with a doctoral degree in jazz.
After graduation, Clark lived in New York for 12 years, where she has performed at prominent NYC venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland and the 55 Bar. Rooted with the jazz scene in New York, Clark said she tours there frequently.
New York had a lasting impact and influenced her journey as a drummer and musician, along with her jazz family in NY, Clark said.
"It's part of us, you know," Clark said. "We were there for so long. We just can't get rid of it."
She then released her debut album, "Introducing Colleen Clark," in 2013. The album, which was all original music, was engineered by Brian Dozoretz, a 10-time Grammy Award nominee and winner.
Later, Clark, drawn to USC, started her position as assistant professor of jazz studies in fall 2021.
"When I came down for the interview and met my future colleagues I was like, 'Man, this would be amazing,'" Clark said. "It just felt like the right fit for me and my family, and I'm so grateful and so happy that I'm here."
She rose to the top of a very large pool of talented musicians by being one of the most skilled and stylistic drummers, said Tayloe Harding, the dean of USC's School of music.
“She’s 100% all time enthusiastic and devoted,” Harding said. “She’s never distracted from tasks or from her goals, and her goals are to reach as many people with the beauty of jazz and American music as she can.”
But it wasn't until she performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention that the doors opened to an appearance on the late night show.
Clark performed as the drum set clinician in November 2023, which she said is the highest honor for a percussionist. The event got her invited to perform for Zildjian, the oldest musical instrument manufacturing company, at its 400th anniversary party.
The producer for "Late Night with Seth Meyers" was at that same party. And a week later, Clark received a text from the producer, inviting her to perform for the talk show.
"I was like, 'Woah, absolutely,'" Clark said.
Clark said she wants to use her time on the late-night talk show to bring visibility to the university and its School of Music's Jazz Studies program.
“I find this opportunity to be not only for myself," Clark said. "I really find it to be for us here at USC."
Although the invitation to play is considered a prestigious opportunity, Clark said playing at the event and highlighting the program will benefit current and future student more than herself.
Students have made her a more successful drummer and musician, she said. They've made her learn more about music and how to teach more proficiently.
Clark's passion to elevate jazz education is the most memorable thing about her, said Matthew White, an associate professor of Jazz Studies
"She has a lot of energy, a lot of passion for teaching, a lot of passion for music," White said. "(She's) the driving force behind our jazz program."
Through her position at USC and through the work she does outside the university, Clark holds a lot on her plate, but she said it does not stop her from striving for success, even when exhaustion hits.
“I wake up grateful and happy, and I just know that it's really important that I am a strong voice in this coveted position,” Clark said.
Along with her other projects, she created Jazz Girls Day at USC, which looks to help girls across the state learn or continue to play jazz.
With her performance on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," she said she hopes to continue growing the program and create a new normal where there is an equal amount of women in music.
"It's just (about) providing that opportunity for women and girls to collaborate," Clark said.
Clark will appear on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" the week of Jan. 29. The show is broadcast daily at 12:35 a.m. on NBC.