The Suburban (Montreal) - June 29, 2021
'A Voice the Size of
By Julia Gerke
In some respects, 12-year-old Nikki Yanofsky is like any other
She likes to hang out with her friends and she collects online
Webkinz “Fuzzy animals” that need nurturing. Yanofsky
also likes to listen to music, like jazz and R and B, but unlike
most kids her age, she has been performing her favourite tunes
since she was two years old.
”I used to put on weekly shows for my parents,”
says Yanofsky, who will be widening her audience when she debuts
at the opening of the Montreal International Jazz Festival June
29 with two free shows outside Place des Arts at 8 and 10:30
Yanofsky’s popularity took off after she performed Dec.
7, 2005 at the Maimonides Battle of the Bands.
”We knew at our house that she could sing for a long
time,” says Nikki’s mother Elyssa. Her husband Richard
plays the piano in a band called Past Their Prime-Time Players.
Nikki had been singing at their shows and rehearsals since she
was nine years old. “On the night before she was going
to Maimonides, we [my husband and I] went like ‘aaahhhhh,
now everyone will know that she can sing. That’s it. Certainly
there will be someone there that knows,’ and that is exactly
After her Maimonides appearance, Nikki was asked to perform
at a Quebec Talent showcase in mid-February at Club Soda, and
was then invited Feb. 24 on the Eric Salvail Show. Since then,
she has been a guest on some local TV shows and became the subject
of a documentary. She often performs at fundraising events and
when she gets paid for a show, she sometimes donates half of
it to charities. “Otherwise I keep it in my bank,”
she says. “But once I got paid $27, and I spent it all.”
Her sudden popularity hasn’t affected the family negatively,
says her dad.
“The expectation for her to be at this level was always
there,” he says. “The whole family has seen it coming
for 10 years, so for us it’s more like a natural evolution.”
At the same time, Yanofsky stays true to herself. At a recent
interview, Yanofsky admits she’d much rather go outside
and play basketball with her brothers Michael, 17, and Andrew,
15, than discuss her singing. But once she starts talking about
her favourite musicians, her eyes light up.
“One of my favourite artists is Corinne Bailey Rae. I
love her song Put Your Records On,” she says. “I
love Joss Stone, I love Stevie Wonder, I love Aretha Franklin,
I love Ella Fitzgerald. Those are my favourites.”
Nikki says she is determined to make it to the top, even without
taking singing lessons, being able to read music - or applying
to Canadian Idol.
“Anyone who was on Canadian Idol...where are they now?
You can barely remember any of them,” she says.
Instead, Yanofsky chooses most of the songs she performs and
practices her “moves” in front of a mirror. When
it comes to song selection, though, her parents keep her age
“Inside that body, there is a voice the size of a woman,”
says her mother. “Most of her songs are age appropriate
and some she just sings so well. There are limits though. She
can sing Natural Woman incredibly well, but I will not let her
sing that [on stage]. But with something like At Last, for example,
she dedicated that to her dog because she loves her dog, so
it makes it a bit more acceptable.”
Nikki says she has no jitters about the jazz fest.
“The only thing I am nervous about is forgetting the
words of the songs. I am not worried about the audience. I get
nervous two seconds before I get on stage, and once I get into
the song, I am fine,” she says.
With her father producing the show and planning to watch her
perform from the front row, Nikki will be accompanied by Jeff
Statner on guitar, Jeff Lang on drums, Paul Shroffel on piano,
Rob Goldfarb on organ, Rob Fahie on bass. There will also be
three horn players and three back-up singers at her show.
And while she is looking forward to meeting some of the singers
at the jazz fest and performing in front of a Montreal crowd,
she also wants it to be over soon so she can go to camp for
the rest of the summer.
“I am missing one week because of the festival,”
she says. “And that’s fine, but I can’t wait
to go [to camp].”