Up & Comer: Classical Crossover Artist Jahna
YII’s Making It Happen columns usually feature people in their 20s and early 30s. But after struggling without significant progress during those years, Jahna is seeing her dreams come to fruition in an especially satisfying way. People of all ages can be informed and inspired by her. If you are just starting out on an artistic career path, maybe reading her profile will help you avoid some of the bumps in the road she hit. And if you are an older reader and thought you had to give up on your dreams, Jahna’s story might make you rethink that idea and come up with a way to make them come true now.
College: I graduated from UCLA with a major in Psychology and a minor in Music.
Early Days: Looking back on things, I realize that I was not very sure of myself and did not feel empowered by my choices. I had taken voice lessons privately in high schools and performed in recitals (though my high school didn’t have any musical theater). My family taught me that music was a hobby, not a vocation. I took singing lessons weekly from ages 13 to 19 and I was a soloist with the UCLA a capella choir, along with performing in some opera. But I didn’t feel strong in my choices and my ability to make a living with my musical talent. I felt torn. I started a masters in psychology and quit when I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I did a singing waitress job at American Celebration restaurant- I was singing but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I auditioned for “Star Search” and continued to audition and perform in roles with Equity musical theater groups. (Somewhere in here, I met my husband, Michael, when I sent my demo from the “Star Search” audition to a friend of his. He heard it and contacted me.) I started persuing a Masters in vocal performance soon after my son was born, as a way of honing my skills and learning more about what my options were. I got more interested in classical music then, and less interested in musical theater and nightclub singing.
Finding her true voice: Following a challenging period of reflection, I started to think about the actual music I was drawn to. I started hearing a blend of classical music and world music in my head. I was looking for balance with my life and my musical taste. I kept hearing a classical piece, In Trutina, which I found out later means ‘in the balance.’ I turned away from an outward looking view (paying attention to the market) and instead focused on my inspiration and my own insides, what was my own gift. Instead of following the “right way” to go about it, I followed my instinct.
I started making CDs in this genre about ten years ago and, along with that, started doing yoga and being present and mindful, and through that, my husband and I decided to create Omstream.com, an online music store honoring this community of people living through a place of integrity and giving them a place to find the kind of music they made. (We say it’s like iTunes for your favorite spiritual center, spa, or yoga studio!)
I started to perform at Green festivals, events in conjunction with Lululemon athletic stores, and other similar gatherings. I also connected with Nutone Music (the side label for the owner of Network Records, which produces Sarah McLaughlin’s music).
Hardlearned lessons: It’s really important to follow your own instincts and get quiet. One of the biggest negative messages I was telling myself is that if you’re over 20, it’s over. Instead of fighting with and believing the negative voice, I learned to simply follow my true self. (By the way, my father, a doctor, pursued a lifelong interest and got a law degree at age 55 and became an expert medical witness.)
Hitting her stride: My music first got into a small Japanese market and one song charted #2 while the album charted #4. I also was the opening opera singer for designer Sue Wong’s fashion show in the Los Angeles Fashion Week. And in 2005, the producers of “The L Word” found my music online and placed a song in the show. The song was chosen for the third season album and it was the #1 download off the album on iTunes for over a month after it came out.
What’s Next: I have a new album I’m finishing called Furtive Glances. It’s a blend of world and classic, mixed with my own stuff I’ve been writing. I’m shooting a music video and I have a new agent (MSA agency). In January, an interview I did for Glamour Magazine is coming out as part of a section on quieting the mind and dealing with all the input in our modern world. Also, my music is featured on a compilation CD being released by Yoga Journal and Omstream.com as part of a pilot program featuring yoga DVDs.
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