Rising star stays grounded
With a promising singing career ahead, Milman keeps things in perspective
Russian-born jazz singer Sophie Milman was stopped at customs in Canada on her recent tour. Custom officials did not believe that she hadn’t spent more than $200 on shoes in the United States.
“I had a whole half of a suitcase filled with shoes,” Milman said. “And they looked at me as if I was lying.”
¤ Sophie Milman ¤ 8 p.m. tonight ¤ Strings in the Mountains Music Festival Park, 900 Strings Road ¤ $25 ¤ 879-5056
Milman loves cheap footware.
Her suitcase also was filled with Band-Aids because all of her fancy shoes hurt her feet.
“Stilettos are quite painful when standing on stage for two hours,” Milman said. “But my musicians are so much taller than me. I can’t wear flats anymore. Forget about it.”
Milman, 23, has learned to pack her suitcase in only 30 minutes because of the extensive traveling that comes with her new singing career.
“I’ve become a pro,” she said. “I can start my own business if singing doesn’t work out — packing people’s stuff.”
Milman began her semi-transient lifestyle when her family left Russia for Israel when she was seven years old, because the Iron Curtain was coming down.
“My parents decided to bolt to look for better opportunities for themselves and me and didn’t want to raise me in a crazy situation,” Milman said.
The only things they could take with them were paintings and her father’s vinyl records.
“We couldn’t take any money and we were kind of shamed when we left. They stripped us of our citizenship,” Milman said. “My parents sold the apartment and gave the money away to family and bought paintings from local painters.”
Her father also collected vinyl records as a teenager and picked up some on the black market. His collection is comprised of jazz and western music, ’60s and ’70s African and American music, rock, gospel and blues. The eclectic blend informed Milman’s own tastes.
“That record collection, if you go through it — you can see why I sing the way I do,” Milman said.
Milman speaks four languages: English, Russian, French and Hebrew. She sings songs in French and Russian as well as in English on her album.
“I love music from all different cultures and old folk songs. I sing Russian music because the form is simple but also very passionate,” she said. “It is so important to me to record something of that vein because the Russian songs are a tribute to my roots.”
When Milman moved to Canada at age 16, she began listening to North American music and British rock.
“I didn’t understand a word, so I would make it up,” she said. “I fell in love with English at a young age.”
Milman has developed an accent that is almost indistinguishable.
“It’s not a Russian accent in French, but the Hebrew and Russian mix together in a weird way, and maybe English,” Milman said. “I have something that people can’t really place.”
Milman considers music a serious hobby, but finishing college is her first priority. She is studying commerce and has one year left until graduation.
“I’m pretty nerdy, but it’s important to me to have a degree. I don’t want to be one of those musicians who doesn’t know what’s going on,” she said. “The music business is a business like any other, and I was a student before I was a singer.”
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A smile dances across Amy Satkiewicz’s face as she talks about the adventures, life and love she shared with her late husband, Mark.