Yolanda Bruno is one of the hottest young musicians in Canada (CBC Music says so!) She’s won a slew of awards and competitions, has performed as a soloist all over Europe and North America and joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2019.
She’s played for the Queen at Buckingham Palace and backed-up the Australian heavy metal band Parkway Drive at a recording session in Ottawa.
Yet her most memorable musical experiences have happened in unexpected places – playing for children in a parking lot in South-East London, giving a concert in a high-security penitentiary, playing for strangers on street corners or in parks, subways, airports, hospitals.
She believes deeply in the power of music to break down barriers of all kinds – personal, cultural, even political.
Yolanda grew up in Ottawa and music was part of life before she was even born. Her mom went into labour while playing a concert, and became Yolanda’s first, and probably most important, teacher.
After studies at McGill and the Guildhall School in London, she returned to Canada and launched a whirlwind professional career full of musical adventures. She masterminded a Kickstarter campaign with pianist Isabelle David to cover the costs of their first CD, “The Wild Swans”. It features music by 11 women composers, spanning ten centuries, including several world premieres.
During the pandemic, she gave over 50 free performances as part of a project she calls “Music for Your Blues”. Children, retirees, folks in classrooms and seniors’ centres joined her for on-line concerts combining music with stories and poetry. It was all about helping people feel connected during an exceptionally isolating time.
Yolanda is fascinated by music of all eras, including Baroque repertoire. She loves the physical sensation of drawing sound from the strings, of using her bow like a paint brush, of experiencing the way the sound resonates in a room and connects with listeners. For her, playing on her nearly 300 year-old Domenico Montagnana violin (on generous loan from Groupe Canimex Inc. in Drummondville, Quebec) is about spinning sound, carving notes to make them speak as words – communication that is both intimate and provocative.
There’s also the possibility of entering a deep meditative state while playing, in concert or in the practice room. The world slows down, the mind quiets, concentration becomes intensely focused.
In Yolanda’s experience, music can also awaken the mind. She recalls a performance at a nursing home with a group of patients living with dementia. Most were distracted and restless. But when she played a song the whole group knew, the audience began singing along. It was a profound demonstration of how music can reach deeply into the recesses of memory and being.
For her, music isn’t just a career. It’s a way of life – a way of exercising an intense devotion to sharing beauty and companionship with anyone who inhabits our increasingly fragile world, with anyone who cares to listen.