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 very romantic (see reviews). It is rooted in the modern classical approach, much influenced by jazz and world music. Listeners commented that Yelena's music often served as a source of inspiration and made them feel relaxed. Many said that this kind of sophisticated music can withstand and even get better with multiple listenings.
A band leader, a founder of "Yelena Eckemoff's Piano School" as well as "Singers of Hope Chorus," Yelena also gives piano lessons and serves as a church musician and choir director. Her hobbies include oil-on-canvas painting (see gallery), photography, and gardening. She lives with her family and pets on their pine tree farm in a quiet corner of North Carolina. Yelena believes in hard work, God's guidance, humanism, and eternal love.
"As long as I can remember, music has always been a way to express my feelings, thoughts, emotions, life experiences, and love for people and nature. I play and compose because I have an urge to pour out my soul, and the whole process makes me happy and relieved.
In my original musical style, I come from the background of classical composition concepts. But my early studies of jazz, rock, and world music helped me to enrich the classical approach with the methods of improvisation and various rhythmical and melodic structures. I constantly strive to learn, to be open-minded, and to further develop my skills to achieve the best I can in my musical journey. But most of all I hope that my music reflects my love for life - all God's creation under the Sun and beyond, and my yearning for peace on Earth.
Mostly I compose my music the old-fashioned way, at the piano, with pencil and notepaper, although some of it I improvise while recording. But most of my compositions are improvisations which I instantly scribble down as I hear them in my head.
Ever since my school years I was working and playing with various musicians, chamber ensembles and bands gaining knowledge and experience in broad range of styles and practical applications of my creative ideas. I have also spent several years digging into electronic music and found sampling and MIDI technology very useful for a contemporary composer. I was thrilled with the endless opportunities of virtual orchestras, yet I was always struggling to try to make them sound live, not 'electronic.' However, in a while I drifted back to playing and recording with live musicians.
In 2006-2008 I have played gigs and recorded with cellist Gayle Masarie, drummer Michael Bolejack, flutist Deborah Egekvist, bassists Nathan Scott, Gray Hackelman, Pat Lawrence, and oboist/saxophonist Evan Thee.
In 2009 I was fortunate to work and record an album, “Cold Sun” (released on April 12, 2010) with two legendary jazzmen, Mads Vinding (double-bass) and Peter Erskine (drums). I have also recorded an album entitled “Grass Catching the Wind” (released in July of 2010) with Mads Vinding on bass and hot Danish drummer Morten Lund. In August 2010, I flu to Pasadena, CA, where I have recorded yet another album with Peter Erskine on drums and with wonderful bass player Darek Oles, a.k.a. Darek Oleszkiewicz. This album, “Flying Steps,” was released in December of 2010.
In August of 2011 I have enjoed my first over-seas recording session in Copenhagen, Denmark, with wonderful ECM musicians - Mats Eilertsen on double-bass and Marilyn Mazur on drums and percussion. This CD, "Forget-me-not," is scheduled to be released in December of 2011.