Every Hymn Has a Story to Connect: Interview with Artem Ostapenko


Hailed by the world at large as one of the most versatile, provocative musical intellectuals of his generation, legend has it that once you listen to him…there is no going back and it’s all for a good reason obviously! International saxophonist singer and composer, Artem Ostapenko has been pushing and re-defining the boundaries of music, for years together. Alongside making killer music, he seems to possess a great all-rounder mentality for his career and a clear-cut vision of how to continuously keep churning out bestselling compositions, that continuously keeps us, the audience, coming back for more.

Some people think that it’s outdated to learn to read sheet music. While it’s a fact that many great musicians despite never learning to read music had made it big, reading music sheet is a priceless skill that any musician would immensely benefit from and Artem can do it. This ability made Artem Ostapenko a versatile musician, he can easily collaborate with others and achieve more musical precision and accuracy. The best thing about engaging our minds mentally with Artem’s compelling compositions, is that we tend to put aside and forget the worries that were disrupting the peace and quiet of our minds.

Artem Ostapenko’s true passion is jazz. However, he always strives to explore diverse repertoire and continually seeks to explore new genres. This being sad, his portfolio includes many different styles from jazz to rock
and roll. If speak about his vocal, he can sing many styles, from Frank Sinatra to modern pop music, in several languages. Artem’s performance portfolio is diverse as well. He has experience performing in front of over 5000 people in Opera and Drama Theaters, in front of president’s family member and even in front of international consul and ambassadors. At the same time, he has so much fun performing for the kids during birthday parties or at circus show, entertain people in the resorts, lounge bars, restaurants, or weddings. He even has experience to be part of the commercial.

Once you hear him play or sing you will fall in love with the sound of his saxophone or timber of his voiceover and over again.

1.How exactly did your musical adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of? Where do you think your current experiments are taking you?
I was born in the family of professional musician. There always was music around me. However, I started from piano and only at age of nine I discovered that my true passion is saxophone, after I heard performance of Stan Getz and Branford Marsalis. When did I realized that I could make a living out of it? I guess you can say after I realized that practicing 6-8 hours a day was not a chore for me but rather an escape from everything else and fun at the same time. I could not imagine doing anything else or learn something new outside of music. Also, one should remember, that the job of performing musician has the other side. And it is actually related to your next questions. I am talking about business side. You know, you can’t get around it. The first side, music, is the easiest and the most rewording and fun. Business…not so much. Competition is brutal, friends are disappearing (except true one of cause) and there are challenges, such as proper contract, payment…. you name it. What I learned that you have to be very good in business and if you are not, it is ok but get someone else who will do it for you. Otherwise, you can’t survive music industry. One more thing… what I learned in the past several years is that family is the most important. They will get you through difficult time and they will always believe in you, unconditionally.

2. How would you describe your sonic palette? What goes through your mind when you’re performing for an audience and what is it about your creativity that you want them to impact them with?
To be honest, there are a lot of things that goes through my mind before and after performance. For example, what is my audience, why they are here, meeting a friends or romantic dinner, what is the age of my audience, did audience enjoyed my performance….and many more. Sometime, performance and choice of what I will play in the same restaurant is completely different from evening to evening. However, during performance, nothing is going through my mind except music because I completely melt into it. When I play, I usually associate specific peace with some moments from my life and relieve it again. This way I play with emotions, and I hope audience feel this as well. I never forget, when after one performance, couples came to me and said that my music helped them to forget for the evening all the difficulties that they had and showed that life still can be great and now they had a plan how to overcome their challenges. We, musicians, leave for a moment like this. Man don’t cry, right? but I think I shed a tear of joy that evening.

3. there’s a lot to music than what meets people’s eyes. Especially for jazz music. What substantive changes can you envision that would make the music scene markedly better?

As far as civilization was existent, people were singing and playing music. I don’t think music will go anywhere anytime soon.

4. Your work is exceptional. I had the opposite to listen to some of your compositions and they really did much more than just striking a chord with me. Whether it’s a jazz collective, a film score or an orchestral project, what is it about your music that not only connects people, but also starts conversations in society?

Thank you. As I mention earlier, I always try to play with emotions. It goes back to my childhood memory of saxophonist playing a very emotional solo at the center of the stage and how his play affected me. You know, when musician melt into the composition that he plays, audience feel it as well. It is like they start feel what you feel and then they relate this emotional play with their story. Also, it is much easier to talk when nice music is playing then in the silence of air. I also have a personal story. Do you know that my wife first fall in love with my performance before she fell in love with me. She listened to me for several years before we even started dating. We are happily married for almost five years now.

5. From Romantic comedy, to sci-fi or thriller with a slice of mystery, which genre or medium do you feel represents your music the best?

Romantic comedy

6. Not only are you a maestro of a saxophonist, but you’re also a singer, since you mentioned the singing is your second musical love. I want to ask you… do you sometimes find yourself being caught up in the moment when you’re singing a song, depending on how much it has touched you?

Funny you mention it. All the time. You can’t connect with audience unless you leave through the song. You have to feel it. If some songs did not touched me personally, I always try to remember some story associated with it from previous performance. And if a song does have a personal meaning to me, this one is the best because people can hear and feel not just nice music and your voice but also your soul.

7. What are some of your routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

Hmm.. Practice is important because if you don’t practice one day you can hear it if you don’t practice more than two day, everyone else can hear it. It is not just about learning or remembering melody, it is also about upkeeping my breathing technic. The key for me is not to do routine. Sure, when you just start you need to learn basics, and this is when you might need to play same exercises over and over till you get it perfect. However, now I am doing things slightly differently. Every day, I pick few melodies and play, regardless, if it is the one that I can play from my memory or relatively new one for me that I need to use music sheet. The key is to play. By playing different compositions I eliminate boring effect and it becomes fun. Also, I always listen to music. Ok…except time when I talk to my wife 😊. Having music quite often in my ear serves two purposes. First one of cause fun and enjoyment and second is melody memorization. Well, this is what works for me, but everyone is different and there is no wrong or right, everyone should find their own way.

8. You are incredibly versatile. When you sing or play the saxophone, the entire world stops and listens to you. How has your sound evolved over time?

Ok, of cause with practice and years you became better but the most significant influence on my sound had a geography. What I mean by that, each country or culture has unique melismatic style. By living in different places or working or listening musicians from different geographical background I started incorporated some pieces of their unique style in my play on the saxophone or singing.

9. In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

You can’t be a great performing musician without a soul. In my opinion they are equally important

10. How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

Hmm, it is a good one. Jazz standards survived more than half a century because they are great, but to be serious, I think what turn off some young people are the old sounds of instruments.
If a jazz standard remastered with sounds of modern instruments without changing standard itself (no remix) I think it will change perception of young people about the jazz. What I mean is that a new technology brought us amazing quality microphones; drums, or guitar today sound somewhat different than in 1920 quality wise and style wise; and, of cause, there was significant progress in saxophones manufacture and its sound. In addition, some small elements of modern music style can be added to jazz standard without changing the melody of the standard.
As a musician, I appreciate classics, but I also like new technology and believe in staying in line with progress of modern society.

11. Last but not least, how do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

For me, it is a family and my music. Last few years were difficult. Pandemic and complete shutdown of entertainment industry taught me importance of the family. Their unconditional love and support helped me through this difficult time. My wife believed in me when no one else did. I almost lost myself during those years but with her encouragement and support I came back even stronger, better and full of ambitions and plans for the future. You know, for centuries, food and music always united people. Think about it, today geopolitical situation in the Europe, Africa and other part of the word divided many nations. However, when I performed, everyone just listening sound of saxophone or my voice; and more importantly, they listen together, they laugh together, they eat at the same table and there are no arguments or fight. Everyone happy. Pope Benedict XVI once said: “Music has no borders, no race or color, no limits of country, no ethnicity. Music makes the people come together.” I am very happy that I can be part of the solution, that with my music I can make people forget everyday challenges and help them just enjoy a moment with friends and family even just for a little.

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