Yaala Ballin is a jazz musician who has performed in prestigious jazz venues, has toured all over the world, is teaching communities the meaning behind jazz music, and has been a featured artist in international jazz festivals in Israel. Along with all of the performing and teaching, Yaala has also just released her second solo album . AICF caught up with Yaala to learn more about her and what it is like to be a jazz artist.
1) What or who inspired you to want to become an artist?
I don’t think I ever made a conscience decision to become at artist. I come from a family where music is an important part of life. It’s something that is so connected to our culture. From a very young age, my siblings and I were sent to a conservatory (same conservatory where my mother played percussion). My brother is an amateur (very talented) clarinet player and my sister is a professional bassoon player, working for the Israeli opera house (also a AICF recipient). I studied theory and recorder, then moved to the flute and eventually started singing.
2)What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are today?
Until the age of 14 I studied classical music and some musical theater (Broadway etc..). One day my sister brought home 3 jazz records: Art Blakey’s A Night At Birdland, Chet Baker’s Sings and Plays and, my very favorite, Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin. I fell in love! I learned the words to all the songs and I could sing all the solos. When the time came, I decided to audition for The Thelma Yellin High School for Fine Arts. I was accepted as a flute player. That change quickly. Right before the 12th grade, I decided to put the flute down and start singing. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I started taking lessons with the great Atalia Pniel. From then on, it was very clear to me that this is who I am. It was also clear to me that I must get to NYC. in 2004, after serving in the army, I came to NY to continue the dream.
3) What do you need as an artist today?
Obviously, being an artist means to be a master of your craft. For better or worse, in art, learning and improving is endless. Nowadays, with the progress in technology, the music business has changed. An artist has to be more of a business person. Things like bookings, managing and promoting also became part of our everyday work.
4) What creative project are you working on now?
My latest project is my new album, On The Road, which was released this past July on Gallery Records. The album includes jazz standards from the American Songbook such as I Can’t Give You Anything But Love and Cole Porter’s Every Time We Say Goodbye. On The Road is a very special album. It was recorded while on tour in Cyprus and features an amazing band, which I feel very fortunate to be a part of. I am part of a program called the Bi-Communal Jazz Futures Workshop, sponsored by the US Department of State. Created by bassist Ari Roland and saxophone player Chris Byars, this program (in its 4th year now) brings both Cypriot communities (Greek and Turkish) together to learn jazz. In the last year, I have taught and performed there 5 times, each time over a one week period. It’s an amazing experience! So, I wanted to take advantage of the fact that we were working and playing together all day. The recording was just like another performance. Some of the tracks are first takes.
5) Where do you see yourself and your career in 10 years?
In 10 years I only hope to do what I’m doing now: singing, performing around the world and teaching. Amen!
6) What does it mean to you to be an Israeli artist?
Israel is such an amazing country. The combination of cultures, high motivation and ambition created great forces in the arts. Actors, dancers, artists and musicians are making their mark everywhere. The range of styles is so broad that it allows us to explore our path in many different directions. I’m very happy to be part of this powerful force.
7) What does it mean to you to have an organization like AICF available in the art world?
Education is a very important thing. Education in art might even be more important. To explore, experience and discover your talent, you need the best guidance, especially at a young age. Organizations like the AICF allows us to find these mentors that will influence and inspire us for life.