In college she switched majors from music and graduated instead with a degree in art. Hilton’s art background informs her compositions: she describes “painting” compositions using improvisation, and “sculpting” with constantly changing rhythmic ideas from different cultures and eras. Hilton’s music draws on classical traditions, and twentieth century modernists as well as classic American jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, and Count Basie, as well as blues heroes Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson.
A prolific and passionate composer as well as an accomplished producer and bandleader, Hilton has about 300 recorded tracks. She often speaks of the profound imbalance of music presented historically in great concert halls, opera theaters, jazz clubs and other venues where the vast majority of music heard is written by male composers. Hilton regularly works with students who are visually disabled across the US stating: “Music should be for everyone.”