Colionne picked up the guitar when he was nine years old. A professional touring artist by the age of 15, he spent much of his youth on the road, touring with such legendary acts as the Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, the Impressions, and others. Although music was his passion, getting an education was also a primary focus for Colionne. After high school, he graduated from Chicago's Malcolm X College and became an elementary-school teacher. Along with performing, he worked for over 15 years at St. Laurence Elementary School in Elgin, Illinois as a music teacher and counselor. In 1996 he received the Malcolm X College Alumnus of the Year Award from his alma mater for his continued dedication to mentoring students.