The Suburban (Montreal) - June 29, 2021

'A Voice the Size of a Woman'
By Julia Gerke

In some respects, 12-year-old Nikki Yanofsky is like any other pre-teen.


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 p.m.


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 what happened.”


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 in mind.


“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].”

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