IMAG1127It has been a long and arduous journey for Yana Gray from her birthplace of Kiev, Ukraine, where she first performed before large audiences as a soloist in the city’s Children’s Choir, to her current recording career. Raised by her grandparents from her infancy, Yana left them and the only home she knew for the United States when she was 15, living with her mother’s new family. The transition was difficult, and less than two years later she married, which required her to work long hours as a waitress to support herself, thus postponing her education. After obtaining her GED, however, she went on to earn degrees in Marketing and Voice from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, while working fulltime and becoming a parent.
But life, with its seemingly endless challenges and hardships, could not deter her dream to perform once again – it had merely deferred it. For in 2005, she met a musician at a local Russian restaurant who agreed to play for her and to help her establish her initial repertoire. The next year, she recorded her debut album, “In My Wounded Heart,” her interpretation of traditional songs from the Russian Romance genre. Since then, she has recorded six additional albums, among them: “That was Love,” her unique take on American songs of the 1930s-1960s, and two more Russian albums, “Those Were the Days” and “Russian Tango.”
Yana derives inspiration from early 20th Century Russian and World singers such as Varya Panina, Ekaterina Yourovskaya, Alla Bayanova, Petr Lechenko, Vladimir Kozin, Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, not to mention Russian Tango music, particularly that composed by Oscar Strok. Yet she isn’t content to slavishly imitate other performers – in fact, she fiercely asserts her independence from her predecessors. She has no fear of her music being misunderstood or disliked nor does she adhere to previously established rules and expectations. An artist, she believes, must be honest to her own feelings. To do otherwise would violate not only her integrity, but also the potential for a genuine connection between herself and the listener.
To Yana, then, music is a profoundly personal process and as a result, by its very nature, it nurtures the potential for personal connections. She strives to forge a bond with each and every listener by touching the emotions we all share but all too often keep to ourselves, to express herself to an audience of one person who she hopes, in turn, will not only connect with his or her own emotions, but also unite with others on the basis of these shared sentiments.
Yana hopes you enjoy the experience of listening to her music and come away from it feeling that you are not alone. She would love to hear from you.