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Interview with Nikki Yanofsky, 15-year-old Jazz Prodigy

by Erin Darling 4 February 2010 425 views 4 Comments E-mail Erin Darling

Up and coming jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky has a talent you wouldn’t expect from a 15-year-old girl. Although her voice and her ability as a performer seem to be beyond her years, she says she knows exactly what she’s doing. “When I started out, I used to pretend that I was in a play trying to really emote as best as I could. But now that I’m 15, almost 16, I have been in love and also had my heart broken,” Yanofsky explains, giving her a deeper understanding of the songs of her idols. However, Yanofsky not only looks up to soulful singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Etta James and Aretha Franklin, but she’s also set to follow in their footsteps.

Yanofsky says she never understood how talented she was as a young child, but always knew she loved music. “I never really noticed it. I loved music and I always listened to music ever since I was 2 years old,” she explains. It wasn’t long before she was singing along with her father’s band, and people started to take notice of her voice. “I always knew that if you love something so much and if you’re passionate about it, it’s a probably a good career choice because it doesn’t feel like work at all.” In 2007, she became the youngest singer ever to record for Verve Records when she sang “Airmail Special” for an Ella Fitzgerald tribute album. In 2008, she was nominated for two Juno Awards (Canada’s music awards). In 2010, you’ll hear her sing the theme for the Winter Olympics, “I believe,” which Yanofsky describes as a great honor. No small feat for someone who hasn’t even graduated high school. But a diploma isn’t too far off for Yanofsky, who still attends class, despite her demanding schedule. “I’ve already had a full day of school today,” she tells me during our interview. “I go to a very artsy school so when I travel, the teachers give me the work when I leave so I can do it on the road. I still get the exams and tests like everyone else.”


Nikki Yanofsky’s first studio album is set to be released in Spring 2010, for Decca Records. “It’s very different than what people are used to,” Yanofsky says. “I’m known as a cover artist who sings jazz, but there are also original songs. The songs came out really great and some of them are more jazzy, some are more pop and r&b. It’s very exhilarating that people are buying my music because they enjoy it. It’s really cool.”

Yanofsky seems to be poised and ready for this next big step in her career, expressing gratitude for the chance to actually do what most can only dream about. “I like the whole thing,” she says. “I’m really lucky that I’m able to do this.” But although she may be bound for sudden stardom, don’t consider her to be the next to join the ranks of the good-girl-gone-bad formula that’s all too prevalent among young pop stars. “Some people don’t handle the spotlight as well as others. It can be overwhelming,” she says of pop icon Britney Spears who, similarly, found success in the music industry as a teen. “Along with dedication and passion, (fame) comes with responsibility so you have to be able to handle whatever the career path throws at you. At the same time, we’re also human so were going to make some mistakes here and there.”

Not only is her talent beyond her years, but so is her wisdom. When asked about career goals she reponds, “I don’t have one specific goal, but I always aspire to be the best I can be. When you think you’re the best at something you can become egotistical, but there’s always room for improvement. My goal is to grow myself as an artist and as a person.”

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  • adam said:

    This girl has a bright future ahead. What a talent!

  • linda said:

    GREAT talent!

  • sarah said:

    This kid is the real deal. I had no idea she was only 15!! Move over
    Nora Jones, here comes Nikki.

  • Doug said:

    Nikki is gonna be huge. Amazing for 15 years old! They don’t ask just anyone to sing the national anthem of the host country of the Olympics for no reason! She is something special and will be a musical force to be reckoned with for many, many years to come. One of the best young talents I’ve ever seen, Nikki has got the total package!

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