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Take Five With Yelena Eckemoff

Yelena Eckemoff By

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Meet Yelena Eckemoff:
Yelena Eckemoff was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. Her parents noticed that she had great musical potential when she started to play piano by ear at the age of four. Yelena's mother, Olga, a professional pianist, became her first piano teacher. At the age of seven Yelena was accepted into an elite Gnessins 10-year School for musically gifted children where, in addition to common school subjects, she received extensive training in piano, music theory, music literature, solfeggio, harmony, analysis of musical forms, conducting, composing, and other musical subjects.

She was fortunate to study piano with Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who also trained one of today's most celebrated pianists, Evgeny Kissin. Later Yelena studied with Galina Nikolaevna Egiazarova at the Piano School of the Moscow State Conservatory. Upon graduation with Master's Degree in piano performance and pedagogy, she worked as a piano teacher in one of Moscow Music Schools, gave solo concerts, attended courses at the Moscow Jazz Studio, played in an experimental jazz-rock band, and continued to compose music for different instruments and voice.

After marrying and becoming a mother, Yelena had to withdraw from further career moves as a concert pianist. Even though she has never given up her performing activities, she had to stay away from commercial music circles. Together with her husband she found the Christian faith and decided to flee the Soviet Union.

Since 1991, Yelena has been living permanently in the USA, where she continued to play concerts and compose music. Taking advantage of technological advancements, Yelena also began developing her career as an independent recording artist. Over the course of years, she has produced a number of recordings of her original, arranged, and classical music under the independent label, L & H Production.

Yelena's original music has been acclaimed as intelligent, tasteful, reflective, sometimes dark and edgy, always interesting, diverse and sentimentality-free romantic. It is rooted in the modern classical approach, much influenced by jazz and world music. The margins between improvisation and composition in this refined music are almost indistinguishable; the structures are consistently complex, intricate and even epic.

Instrument(s):
Piano, composer.

Teachers and/or influences?
My mother's influence was the most crucial. She was a professional pianist whose wonderful interpretations of Chopin, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, and others, I have heard since even before I was born. She taught piano and played a lot, and following her example, I started to play and make up little songs since I turned four. My mother wrote down my childish compositions until I was able to do it myself a few years later and has always encouraged me in creativity of all kinds.

I went through a former music education, and my piano teachers Anna P. Kantor and Galina N. Egiazarova played a huge role in my development as a musician.

They gave me everything I needed to base my future grows upon. I was fortunate to be a recipient of renowned Neihaus piano school multiplied by the enormous teacher's talent and refined musicianship of both teachers, assisted by the efforts of many other fabulous teachers I had during my years both at the elite Gnessins School and the Conservatory.

Then came a teenage infatuation with rock and jazz, and I had a lot of influences from some of my friends and teachers at the Moscow Jazz Studio.

Naturally, my composer's side has been evolving throughout the years under the influences of everything I found interesting in music. The biggest impression that made a revolution in my classical music ears, I experienced listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin) and Pink Floyd, back in late '70s-early '80s. But that was before I started to get involved with jazz—at first of tradition trend, and much later—getting a taste of its alternative direction outlined by Manfred Eicher for the ECM Records.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
The thought of being somebody else, not a musician never, ever crossed my mind for as long as I can remember myself.

Your sound and approach to music: I am convinced that music, even at the most dramatic moments, should not be obnoxious and unpleasant. I think that music, like a language, can be rude or polite, slangy or formal, passionate or bleak, smart or dumb.

Your music is you, and for better or for worse, you can not help it. Change yourself, and your art will follow. The styles in music don't matter for me. I have worked in almost all of them, but jazz appeals to me the most, because it is the most adaptive style of all. In my opinion, modern jazz is the way that classical music has taken after reaching its dead end at 20th century abstractionism.

Music that makes sense; music that nurtures your soul and boosts your imagination; music that makes you a better person; music as a powerful language of God.

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