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Vira Burmenko
Brilliant Ukrainian composer Vira Burmenko taps into primal forces to create a unique blend of classical and modern music with a performance twist. It's little wonder why her debut radio single ‘Three-Mix’ is powering its way up the charts.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Vira Burmenko has emerged from inauspicious origins to become one of the most exciting and original artists of her generation. Ever since a young age, Vira has been sensitive and attuned to the music around her. She wrote her first violin concerto at the age of 10 and developed a diverse creative repertoire in the years that followed. A true Renaissance mind, Vira trained in Tai Chi, martial arts, gymnastics and dance, convinced that movement, energy, contrast and expression are the unifying elements of all artforms. Now residing in Toronto, Vira pursues her artistic calling as a performer, composer, songwriter, collaborator, entertainer and educator who understands and invokes the healing power of sound, thought and language. Vira has performed with stylistically diverse groups such as I-Strings Trio, Gypsy Flame Show Band, Baarbad Music, and The VIP, a theatrical improv group, with percussion and dance. Recently Vira also joined Tangomania, an ensemble of expert musicians from Russia, Ukraine and Argentina, going on a tour with the Rock'n'Tango Project. She is also regularly employed by charity organizations, human rights organizations, and professional services companies such as Vescio Funerals, Emunah Women Toronto, The Knights of Columbus, The ICHR (Human Rights for Mid-East) and has appeared in numerous music videos, TV shows and film. Now, with her debut radio single 'Three Mix' climbing the charts, Vira's begun cultivating her own style dubbed 'Unique Fusion of Sound and Movement, Violin Dance'. The word 'breathtaking' doesn't even come close to describing it. Reporter Andrew Edwards recently caught up with Vira to learn more about this musical prodigy, her inspiration and plans for the future.

ANDREW: When When did you first discover your love of music?
VIRA: I believe I discovered my conscious love for music at the age of five. A relative of mine, an old violin maker, recommended I study music. Then I came to audition to a local music school in Kiev, Ukraine at the age of seven for piano lessons and my violin instructor rushed in to audition me instead. I took up both instruments at the time, with a diagnosis of possessing the absolute pitch. Music has however been in me since before I was even born. My mother, while pregnant with me, used to regularly attend live concerts of Bach's solo works for keyboard, performed on the organ. She always reminds me that my education and career path began early in life. Truly, I always felt the natural connection to Johann Sebastian's theory and style. Having a strong background in classical music, I wrote my first violin concerto at the age of 10 on the beach of the Azov Sea. Also, the violin was my love at first sight. This instrument spoke to me the moment I saw it, and have never doubted my choice. Delicate, while divinely powerful and fierce, channeling and at the same time intimate it its nature- she resonates with my soul and we become one. I acquired my 203-year-old antique lady, the English violin made by Robert Fent, and she has been enriching my life and career ever since.

ANDREW: Your song ‘Three-Mix’ is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
VIRA: Astoundingly fantastic! It truly provides me as an artist with an unforeseen affirmation to have my music heard by the many fans and other artists. I create my art unconditionally, as it streams from within me with the divine force. I write and perform because I feel the natural need to do so. Nevertheless, having others share my work with me and furthermore have them being inspired by it is incredibly fulfilling. I have quite a few loyal fans who write to me daily saying that they woke up listening to my song and it brightened their day!

ANDREW: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
VIRA: I wanted to create a concise while a meaningful and undeniably entertaining piece, which could showcase at least three contrasting elements in my style as a performer and an artist. The first section of it is a quote from an old gypsy song, ‘Bogar’, which we often perform with my gypsy band locally around Toronto. It is a brief summary of my Eastern-European heritage and gypsy style in life and my creative process. The second theme pays homage to our dear Johann Sebastian Bach, as I quote the fugue from his solo partita in D Minor, set to a rock beat supported by powerful strike-chords. The third section is a pop style dramatic song, which I wrote to express my feelings to a fellow artist and a friend at the time. The complete version of this song contains lyrics. These are the three contrasting moods and characters I depict in my narrative, which tie together through the art of violin performance and dance.

ANDREW: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as ‘Three-Mix’?
VIRA: Truly, the extended percussive techniques on my instrument juxtaposed with expressive movement in performance are a feature in many of my works. My music must tell a one of a kind story while also showing the evolution of my character from my roots to the unique artist that I am in this very moment. This is how I came to create my other Akademia Award-winning track, ‘The NeverEnding Tango’. Its acoustic version was originally written and performed for my students' recital, as a fun while also curious piece for my students and their parents to enjoy.

ANDREW: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician?
VIRA: As a performing artist, I am a natural entertainer! I am always ready to take off and be the life of the party. Also, I like to have fun while putting serious sense into it. An old Russian saying brilliantly points out, ‘In every joke there is only a part of a joke’. In other words, I have fun and mean it. In my work I value the deep emotion, supported by strong musicianship and experience, while I also value entertainment and innovation. I believe that the contrasts between conflict and peace, the darkness and light, as well as fun, joy and suffering in art and in our lives are truly the divine experiences in which our souls grow and evolve, and unquestionably are the stories worth sharing. Only after you have rolled on the deepest darkest bottoms of your largest oceans; after you have learned to love your demons and accept them as an inseparable part of you, then you can begin to emerge with a lighter chest for a breath of fresh air to fill your lungs.

ANDREW: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
VIRA: Though my parents pursued scientific careers, nevertheless I come from an extremely artistic background in my family tree on both parents' sides. There are famous Russian-Ukrainian actors, dancers, musicians and film directors among my roots. My dad always had a great ear and love for music and played guitar for a few months. My mom took piano lessons for years. My sister is also an artist: an actor and a singer. My parents immigrated to North America with the main purpose to give us the opportunities for artistic recognition and success of the kind they were unfortunately not given in their lives.

ANDREW: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
VIRA: As I dive into the wild whirl of my never-ending creative process- I am genuinely fulfilled. Time does not exist and nothing else is of importance, but to be art. This is who I am and there has never been a question about it in my life. The true reward is in my divine self-realization through art. Also, unquestionably, the people you meet on your true path that inspire you and contribute to your growth. When you know who you are and what you want, and you have set out clear goals for yourself, you naturally connect with the people who inspire and uplift you. My loyal crew, family and my vast professional network quintessentially enrich me as an artist. The challenges lie in finding means for financial support and sources to accomplish the great projects I have set for myself.

ANDREW: Who are your role models in music?
VIRA: I am inspired by the living creating artists as much as I am guided by those who lived before my time. In my spiritual works I pay homage to Sofia Gubaidulina, J. S. Bach, John Cage, Charles Ives and others who brought their daring innovation and transcendental ideals, having established their signature in music history. Personally I worked and studied with the most brilliant musicians, such as Casey Sokol, Matt Brubeck, David Lidov, Bill Westcott, and unquestionably my thesis supervisor and guide, David Mott. These composers are the living legends, who have taught me to break through new boundaries every day. In the industrial music arena, I grew up enjoying Queen and Freddy Mercury, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Ace of Base, Spice Girls- you name it! Everything around me and in me has always been music and made perfect sense, be it a noise on the subway train or the birds chirping next to my window. Among the currently known artists, I respect and admire Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Sam Smith, John Legend, and Lindsey Sterling- the people who not only create their art, recognizable for its ingenuity and originality, and put on a fantastic show, but also have shown themselves to be brilliant successful businessmen in the industry.

ANDREW: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
VIRA: Each performance is uniquely transcendental, and through it, I evolve as an artist. The true liberation for me as a performer began when I introduced my unique fusion style of sound and movement into the world! My first feature was at the Persian Beauty Awards in May 2014. Working with the space in the Toronto Centre For The Arts provided me with a new direction thinking of the space in the sense of choreography as a dancer; while also accounting for the sound quality. The lights on stage seemed dim, comparing to their appearance from the audience's perspective on the video. I found a few objects to use as points of reference in my exquisite poses and discovered new strengths in my performance. We learn about ourselves every step of the way. Also this was my first time wearing the artificial lashes! It took some time getting used to them, though with the brilliant work The Bahar Salon did with my make up, I am thrilled to have had them. In one sense I am proud to have learned to wear fake lashes! Having challenges and overcoming them is of most value to me as an artist. As one my violin instructors mentioned approaching my graduation from York University, ‘You can graduate playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, however if you know how to practice and overcome your technical challenges, then I have done my job preparing you for the life as an artist!’

ANDREW: Do you have a music video for your hit single? If so, what can you tell us about it?
VIRA: I intend to create the quality feature video as soon as my finances allow. I am currently in progress of organizing the shoot for one talent show also featuring me and my unique style. It is a powerful statement, a story of the modern female artist, who embodies the divine and the Mephistophelian, the light and the dark, the feminine and the masculine energies, the rhythmic intensity and drive and the lyrical melodies, in her performance. The juxtaposition of forces and my embodiment of the characters I depict show the full spectrum to who I am as a performing artist: When something is missing in your life and in your show- become it. When you reach the level in your self-realization, miracles enter your life! You realize you have always been the one to save and rescue you, fulfill you, entertain you and to stream divine joy and happiness from within you; the one to build and sail your ships and to design, construct and fly your own planes and stealth fighters! It is my message to young artists around the world.

ANDREW: Thank you for taking the time to share your wonderful story with me, Vira. I wish you good luck and much continued success in all of your endeavors.


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