SongVault Artist Profile
California, United States
Dance Pop / Chillout / Lounge
Yulianna's life has always centered around music. Her earliest memories are of her mother (herself an accomplished musician and author) playing Chopin while Yulianna toddled at her feet. Born in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan ("Yes, that Khazakstan," says Yulianna, adding with an exasperated grin, "and please, no "Borat" jokes - I've heard them all!"), Yulianna began violin lessons at the age of six and quickly distinguished herself in competitions and as a member of a children's group performing in the then-U.S.S.R.
The fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s brought independence to Kazakhstan and opened the doors for Yulianna's mother to come to the United States in search of greater opportunities for herself and her two young daughters. In 1996, Yulianna's family settled in Southern California.
Shy, self-conscious and struggling to learn the language and customs of her new home, Yulianna found solace - and a means of expression - in the world she knew best: music. Already an accomplished violinist for her age, Yulianna continued to hone her skills and started taking private voice lessons. It wasn't long before Yulianna's talents put her in the limelight once again: in 1999, she became the first contestant in the history of the Applause Young Artists Showcase to win both the instrumental and vocal competitions; a year later, she repeated that performance, becoming the first to win both categories back-to-back.
Upon graduating from high school, Yulianna was accepted to the prestigious California Institute of the Arts (unique in that it bases admissions solely on an applicant's creative ability - CalArts doesn't even review SAT scores unless requested). It was at CalArts that Yulianna finally began to find her "voice," both literally and figuratively. "For the first time in a long time, I really felt like I'd found a home," says Yulianna. "I was surrounded by people from all different backgrounds and cultures, but we shared a common passion for music, and I loved it."
Majoring in Vocal Performance, Yulianna found the depth and breadth of the CalArts musical community irresistible; she applied her voice and talents to a broad range of styles, ranging from classical to baroque, jazz, pop, and the extended vocal techniques of traditional World Music, while at the same time drawing on those experiences to compose her own songs and experimental pieces.
Encouraged by a family friend and vocal coach, Yulianna discovered an aptitude for opera and made it the primary focus of her studies. She soon became an active participant and performer in the opera community, working with OperaWorks, SongFest and Bel Canto. Though still a student, Yulianna won roles in several productions and has performed on stage at Walt Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles, as well as the Red Cat Theater and the Sidney Cohen Center with the San Luis Obispo Symphony Guild. Yulianna even appeared opposite Michael Madsen in the 2007 film, "Jacked," in which she played an opera singer and performed on the title track of the soundtrack.
Yulianna received her BFA in Vocal Performance from CalArts in 2004 and went on to receive her Master's in 2006. With her education complete, a growing reputation in the opera community and several roles already to her credit, it would appear that Yulianna was well on her way to long and successful career as a soprano. But Yulianna had other plans.
Setting aside the seemingly ready-made life that opera offered, Yulianna instead chose to follow her creative heart, taking her chances in the much more competitive world of popular music. The decision isn't as crazy as it might sound. Yulianna explains, "Opera is, in many ways, an older performer's art - it often takes two or three decades for a singers voice to fully mature in the operatic style and success usually comes later in life, while popular music is just the opposite."
Yulianna insists that she hasn't abandoned opera (in fact, she still trains privately with internationally acclaimed Russian baritone Vladimir Chernov, currently a Professor of Vocal Studies at UCLA) and sees the move as just one step in her progression as an artist: "I love opera, and it will always be a part of me. But - how can I put this? - I'm young!" says Yulianna. "I want to make the kind of music my friends and I listen to. Music that doesn't just move you, but makes you want to move!"
Yulianna attacked her goal with typical zeal and energy, spending the next year working with music producer Robin Nixon, searching for the perfect sound. "Our goal was to discover who I am as an artist today - who inspires me, what really resonates with me." Yulianna and Robin spent countless hours listening to records and sharing favorite tracks as well as thoughts on poetry and lyric style. With the help of co-writer and composer Alex Bubenheim, an album began to take shape. TItled "La-La-Land", the album has a sound that is uniquely Yulianna's: a fusion of the jangling guitars of 1960s rock with the driving rhythms of reggae and ska, peppered with influences from electronic dance music, DnB, and even classical music and opera.
As the title suggests, "La-La-Land" was inspired by Yulianna's new life in Los Angeles and reflects the lighter, more confident artist she has become. But even amidst a very contemporary soundYulianna has still managed to squeeze in an homage to her roots (and perhaps her future) with a stunning original aria based on poetry from her mother's book, "Otshel'nitza."