I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I listened in awe to Nikki Yanofsky’s powerful performance at the Isabel Bader in Toronto on February 5, and I was not alone.
This 13-year-old jazz sensation brought the house down for two
consecutive solo debut concerts, presented by Luminato and TD Canada
Trust Toronto Jazz Festival.
With the maturity of a seasoned jazz vocalist, well beyond her years, Nikki belted out tunes sung by Ella Fitzgerald, such as I Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues, to an amazing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Love’s In Need of Love Today and Seasons Of Love from the musical, Rent.
Dressed in a midnight blue sequin dress, and backed by a 12-piece band, Nikki grooved to the music, snapping her fingers and moving her hips to the beat. Even the band members were smiling throughout the performance. When Nikki sang, we were all mesmerized by her talent and stage presence, and when she kibitzed with the audience, Nikki was just herself, a witty and charming, adorable teenage girl.
Before the concert, I caught up with Nikki on the telephone, after she had just returned home from St. George’s School of Montreal. By the time I had spoken with her, Nikki had already checked her homework, walked her standard poodle, watched some TV and played on the computer.
In addition to her daily routine, Nikki also sings for 11/2 hours a day, is trained by two vocal coaches, and studies theory. She even has a music studio in her home.
Despite all the attention that is given to this young lady, Nikki seems quite grounded. She was a delight to speak with, extremely mature, very polite, and most excited about her recent trip to Jamaica, where she performed at the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival.
“It was a taste of what my career will hopefully be like for me in the near future. It was pleasurable, even though I was working. I love the feel of all my hard work paying off.”
Nikki has performed at many charity events and has helped raise $6 million for various charities over the past two years. In fact, Nikki got her first big break, at age 11, performing with her father’s band at a fundraiser for the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal. Nikki was then invited to play with another band at the Club Soda, where coincidentally, Andre Menard, co-founder of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, was in the audience. Taken with Nikki, Menard invited her to sing at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
Nikki claims that since she was 2 years old, her father Richard knew that something was unusual about his little girl. “I had a weird sense of timing and I was able to sing perfectly on tune”.
Guided by her parents, and managed by her father’s production company A440 Entertainment, Inc., Nikki’s career has really taken off in the last year. She feels grateful for having such a supportive family. “This past year has been like a big burst. I’m so lucky that I don’t have pushy parents because they didn’t push me into this. I pulled them, they didn’t push me.”
Nikki’s voice can be heard on We all Love Ella, Celebrating the First Lady of Song alongside internationally acclaimed artists, Michael Buble, K.D. Lang, Diana Krall and Nathalie Cole. Nikki also sings Gotto Go My Way in English and French on Disney’s High School Musical 2, CD.
Without a doubt, Nikki is a force to be reckoned with, loaded with confidence and clear in her personal vision.
“There was never ever a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be a singer. I love to sing and I just want to focus on my art, and I don’t want to be too commercial. I will do this for eternity, for my whole life.”
Nikki’s inner strength and incredible talent have undoubtedly propelled her into the spotlight within a very short time. Nikki will be performing at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops on February 8, which coincidentally, also happens to be her 14th birthday, and one that she will never forget.
You can hear and see Nikki online at www.nikkionline.ca.