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Nikki Janofsky

"I got really nervous before singing at the Olympics."

“I’ve been singing since I could talk,” says Nikki Yanofsky when she speaks to me on the phone from Canada. “I’ve listened to so much music. When I was about eleven years old my Dad had his band, Past Their Prime Time Players. My Dad plays piano. I would always go downstairs when the musicians were rehearsing. I would beg them to let me sing a song with them. Actually, I didn’t have to beg all that much, because my Dad was always very supportive of me and my brothers.

“There was a charity show. He said that I could sing a song with his band, in front of about 300 people. The Montreal Jazz Festival was coming up. The organisers asked if I’d like to sing to open the whole festival. That was my first real professional show. I was twelve. I sang to 125,000 people.”

Janofsky says that she wasn’t nervous. “To this day, I don’t get nervous. I get a jolt of energy. It’s so much fun. I get nervous only for certain shows. I got really nervous before singing at the Olympics; I got really nervous to perform with Herbie Hancock and Barbra Streisand. Every show has to be better than the one before, so it doesn’t really matter who’s in the audience, I know that. I’m going to try to do it as good as I possibly can.”

Nikki plays the guitar, but regards playing the piano as more important. “It’s all by ear,” she says, apologetically. “When I was around six years old I took piano lessons. My Mum said to my Dad: “Nikki never practices.” My brothers never practised. My Dad said that if they really love it, they’ll play. He wasn’t going to force them. Eventually my first piano teacher kicked me out because I wasn’t serious enough - at six years old!”

Today she still has a voice coach, the Montreal singer Sharada Banman. During April, Nikki Yanofsky, now 17, will be travelling between Canada and Los Angeles, working with different writers for her next album. And she’ll be in London to appear at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the 8th May.

“I’ve recently bought a turntable, so I’m buying a lot of vinyl,” she says. Her recent purchases include a Joe Cocker disc, and something by the Beatles. “Because of the way I started out there is an idea that all I sing is jazz,” she says. “I always say that I love singing jazz, but I’m not a jazz singer. I sing everything. Jazz is definitely one of my favourite genres to sing. I always want to sing jazz, but I also want to sing everything else. Yet people want to put you into one genre, because it gets less confusing that way.”

John Robert Brown

First published in Jazz Journal, April 2011. Reproduced by kind permission of the editor. Reproduction forbidden.
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