It's not every day that a 14-year-old girl gets to perform at Carnegie Hall for her birthday. But for Canadian singer Nikki Yanofsky, this was but one of a string of engagements that has included sold-out shows, collaboration with some of the brightest names in music and a philanthropist of the year award—all in the span of 2 years.
"I'm really, really lucky", said Montreal-based Nikki in a special interview with The Epoch Times. "I'm very, very blessed to have what I have."
With several jazz festivals under her belt, Nikki has been known to many as a jazz singer. This is not surprising considering her performance on the We All Love Ella album, a star-studded tribute to jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, alongside the likes of Natalie Cole, Michael Buble, Diana Krall, and many others. But while Nikki admits her love for jazz—Ella Fitzgerald is one of her favorite singers—she refuses to be labeled only as a jazz singer.
"I'm a songstress. I wouldn't be married to one genre of music. I like to sing R&B and pop and soul and blues. It's not just all jazz at all", insisted the 14 year old. "Actually, I'd say I'm more of a blues and R&B singer than jazz. People see me as a jazz singer because that's how I got introduced to the music world."
While Nikki grew up listening to music around her house, singing along to the likes of Joe Cocker, the Beatles and Stevie Wonder–it was actually she who introduced her parents to jazz after discovering it at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
"I went looking for a bunch of jazz stuff and I really fell in love with the songs from that era and that type of music," said Nikki.
And what type of music does she listen to now?
"I listen to everything. I even listen to country," laughed the 14 year old whose playlist includes the likes of John Mayer, Jamie Cohen and the Beatles.
Having performed at Carnegie Hall, at several music festivals and to audiences of over 100,000 people, Nikki admits she feels quite comfortable on stage.
Her secret? Her first performance at the 2006 Montreal Jazz Festival.
"I guess I was sort of naive at the time because I knew what a big deal it was, but I didn't get nervous. And I still don't get nervous now, but I think that's how it got started, said Nikki who believes this experience is what helped her be comfortable.
"Because it was the first time and I didn't get nervous, I knew there was no reason for any other show, so I just stopped getting nervous."
Jazz, Blues…. and National Anthems
In addition to jazz, R&B and blues, Nikki's talent has also garnered her invitations to perform national anthems both in Canada and in the United States at a Los Angeles Lakers Game.
"When I performed [the national anthem] last year in Parliament Hill [in Ottawa], it was a really big rush. I was so proud to be doing it because I was a young fellow Canadian and everyone was on the ground and I was up on the stage and they were looking up at me and their hands were on their hearts singing along. It was a really fun experience", said Nikki.
Big Voice, Big Heart
While Nikki is enjoying more and more success, she hasn't forgotten to help the less fortunate, contributing her time and money to several children's charities. In the past two years alone, she has helped raise more than 6 million dollars. This year, she was honored with a philanthropist of the year award, which she proudly keeps in her room.
"I am so fortunate to have what I have, said Nikki who explained why charity work is so important to her. "So many people have a dream and they don't have a voice to ask people to help out. I guess I want to share my voice with everyone so I'm sort of helping out with everything."
And where does Nikki see herself in 10 years?
Singing, of course.
"I'm doing this for the love of the music. It's not for fame, and it's not for fortune. It's really just because I love to do what I do and I want to continue doing it", said Nikki who believes that success will never go to her head knowing that there is always room to improve. Having recently completed a track on basket-ball star Kareem Abdul-Jabar's audio book On the Shoulders of Giants, Nikki is now spending her summer working on her first solo album with Grammy Award-winning producer, Phil Ramone, musician Wyclef Jean and a talented team of song-writers. Nikki promises mostly original songs for the album, which will probably be released by later this year or early next year.
For more information or to download some of Nikki's songs for free, you can visit her website: www.nikkionline.ca