A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Nikki Hillis began playing the trombone at age 13, having begun her musical training on the piano several years earlier. Throughout middle and high schools, Nikki studied with Kate Jenkins before taking up studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music under Timothy Anderson. 

While attending the Conservatory, Nikki competed in numerous competitions and received multiple awards, including winning the Undergraduate Concerto Competition. She also enjoyed a semester abroad in Aarhus, Denmark at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied with Niels-Ole Bo Johansen.  Nikki participated in a variety of festivals and seminars throughout the summers, including the Brevard Summer Music Festival, the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute, the Cleveland Trombone Seminar, the Mulcahy Seminar, and the Spoleto Festival.  

She is recent graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she studied with Timothy Higgins, principal trombone of the San Francisco Symphony. Nikki has enjoyed the opportunity to play with groups such as the San Francisco Symphony, the Philip Glass Ensemble, and many regional orchestras in the Bay Area. Most recently, she was one of three finalists in the International Trombone Association Frank Smith competition and the winner of the biannual concerto competition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.