`School is there till some point, to give you a certain amount of knowlegde, or a shorter path for improvement. There is no perfect recipe in art, everything depends on an individual who creates it`
Shortly before her 21st birthday, Sofija Knezević, a jazz singer from Belgrade, finished her jazz studies at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Graz, wrote a couple of unpublished manuscripts in Somerset Maugham style, wrote for fashion magazines and sang and created music that caught attention of musicians such as Kevin Mahogany, Terence Blanchard and Jason Moran. Since she was seven years old, she has been performing as a pianist and a vocal soloist, and a component part of her schedule is touring Europe, with a jazz veteran Don Menza on the saxophone, or with a pianist Veryan Weston who has been announced to perform on last years Ring Ring Festival with the Sol6 Band.
Autumn 2010. Sofija had a chance to introduce her voice to the Zagreb Jazz Festival audience on the session with Jason Moran where she met David Murray. We talked about her home country, favorite song, and a conversation concerning the Old year by a catholic calendar just continued on.
Jazzin: Since I met you, you `live on the road`, an except music you have been writing and producing fashion shows. You have the first part of your New York experience behind you, where you are going to continue your work…what do you think that is you could give them, and what do you expect, generally, from life in New York?
Sofija: I met the baddest cats, wrote music, sang and hang with Terence, Christian McBride etc. We were supposed to have a performance in Philly but I had to go toPittsburghto record an album with Poogie Bell, that was produced by Dana Cannon (Beyonce, Bebel Gilberto). Sang in Cleo`s with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, Rodney Kendrick, Betty Carter`s pianist, then Brandon McCune in the Village Underground (Nenna Freelon’s piano player).Then with the brilliant and very young mr. Alex Han, saxophonist in Marcus Miller`s band in Pittsburgh. Recorded a song with Selan (Joni Mitchell, Atlantic rec. producer). And of course with Antonio Hart, a beautiful musical mind.
All I learned by now, I can give to them. And how it`s all gonna work out on that part of the world, and how much they will appreciate it, we will see… Although, I believe that it is going to be alright. I think that true love always succeeds, no matter when, no matter where, and no matter how… I have been raised that way by my wonderful parents, and I believe in it… I have to succeed.
Besides the education that you already have by now, you are going to continue your education further, how to you see all that, how far would you like it to go?
Things that I had an opportunity to learn from an institution – university- I think I already learned it by this time, I was always very independent and aware about self-improving my capabillities and my own aesthethics… I will continue my education in New York because it will make it easier for me as a girl coming from another part of the world, especially concerning the exsistence. But most of all because I will meet there many, many people that want the same thing that I want, people who will help me to grow and upgrade myself more.
School wise, that is it. School is school, it can`t go on to infinity…I have been studying in an institution long enough already, everything else is a specialization of yourself, your being…
In this era that we live in, and this world we`re coming from, from one differente social hertiage we carry, what are your experiences and looks on capitalism, classes, and western society?
I don`t know, it depends on a man, and their own dealing with the world, I don`t think there is anything difficult to achieve, and I don`t think there is a important difference… people are the same everywhere, it`s only important to survive… and love. Classes, races and other `differences` are changing only narrow-minded people.
When did you discover that jazz is the thing you would like to do?
I played piano since I was a little girl… My mum saw a little girl that was coming out from my school, she was with her grandmother that looked very autoritative, who was also a piano teacher, so my mum wanted me to take lessons with her…And that`s an interesting story. The only way to escape the lessons with that woman was to go to a real music shool, where I actually started loving playing piano with all my heart.
My piano professor was also a very autoritative and very strict lady, sour and difficult, but I loved her because she was telling me about the music and the sound. That`s when I realized how beautiful is that thing, that there are emotions transfering directly but gently, and they are sounding. Of course, with a touch to the piano but they are starting in you and coming out of you… And then, I started listening to jazz. My uncle played jazz guitar,my brother also, that was the music genre popular in our house – jazz, and classical music. While in music high shool, my best friend fell in love with a sax player in the jazz school. `Let`s go Sofija, we`re going to audition there`…We go there, and they tell us` the audition is on the 7th of June, prepare that, that and that…`
The audition was on the 27th of May. I was finishing my piano lesson on the 26th when she called me to go to the jazz school to see what room are we in, since there was just two weeks left until the audition. I still thought at that time, that I was going to be a classical piano player…I go down,and I see that the audition is tomorrow morning (27.05) at 10 am, I call her and she gives up. So I went home, I was talking to my brother, and he tells me to just go there and see how it is.
Since I didn`t have to do the theory test, because I already did it for the classical school, I went there with my made up English, since we didn`t have a good English teacher at that time, and I started singing. I think I was singing `At Last` and `My Man` a capella. Shortly after that I was the first on the list with a maximum point on the audition.
It sounds just like a movie.
Since I was already doing the normal high school and then the theory department and a piano department, I had 37 subjects, and more than 50 lessons per a week. I thought I was going to die when the new jazz lessons started. So I couldn`t tell my parents, of course…But they found out a couple of months later from some of their friends.
I started taking the jazz lessons finally, and I fell in love with jazz. Completely. Because of music and professors. I was sitting there listening to the other peoples lessons, before and after school ,more than six hours a day. I was listening to my great friend, professor and a menthor Jelena Jovović. After her lessons it didn`t take much to figure out everything at the University.
School is there till some point, to give you a certain amount of knowlegde, or a shorter path for improvement. There is no perfect recipe in art, everything depends on an individual who creates it.
And what about mathematics and physics?
I rule in math! I competed. Math and music are connected, that`s how my dad taught me…But the chemistry, I never attended those lessons, I was always telling them I was having concerts or recitals at that time.