Music is more than a hobby to freshman singer and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Kravchenko — it is a way of living.
It all started when 5-year-old Kravchenko discovered her “hidden” talent: singing.
Growing up, Kravchenko listened to her mother sing all the time, oftentimes choosing to sing along.
“After a while, she was like, ‘you know what, you’re actually good at this,’ and my dad and everyone around me thought that as well,” Kravchenko said.
So, as an easily flattered 5 year old, she said the encouragement made her think that maybe she really did have a knack for singing and should try singing seriously.
So, that is just what she did.
Kravchenko started taking singing lessons and eventually classes for piano and guitar, something her mother did not have the chance to do growing up.
“My mom and even my grandma were both great singers, but at that time, when they were still in Ukraine, they just did not have the money to play piano, play guitar and sing,” she said. “So, my parents made sure that when I was growing up, I would have the ability to pursue my dreams, to do what I love.”
For Kravchenko, that is singing and music.
“I feel like I have a genuine connection with music,” Kravchenko said. “Everyone has their strong side, something they’re passionate about and something they like a lot, and music was that for me.”
Her love for singing and music has helped her get through the difficulties of being diagnosed with asthma, a medical lung condition.
“As a child, I wasn’t necessarily the most healthy. I had to go once a week to a doctor for medication, and although it wasn’t easy at first, over time, singing really helped my lungs get better and get over it,” Kravchenko said. “I had this good memory of singing from the start.”
But, not every memory was as positive as this one — especially with the piano.
“I had trauma from the piano for a little while from a teacher that used to tell me I wasn’t good enough,” she said. “And, as a child, it’s sort of something that you believe, and so that kind of left a kind of scar within me.”
That negative feedback almost made her quit the piano.
“You know, at the end of the day, I look back and I’ll just realize that I really, really love the piano, even though I feel stressed out playing it.”
Kravchenko’s love of the piano was what caused her to begin classes. She was playing for herself, not for others, and as long as she was having fun, she intended to continue playing.
Now, Kravchenko is the lead pianist for the local Sacramento School of Rock band.
“I play piano there with five guitarists, three drummers, a few bassists and other singers and guitar players as well,” she said. “It’s a whole lotta fun.”
At the end of the day, playing together, working together and really making our own music is just so soothing and satisfying, she added.
Kravchenko, who is also part of the high school choir, said she feels the same way singing with the group, particularly the coordination involved in choir.
“Choir is all about teamwork,” she said. “There’s just something beautiful about it, and I try my best to work with everyone.”
Fellow choir member and singer Jordyn LaPlaca, said plenty of positive things about Kravchenko.
“She’s one of the loudest in the group, and you can tell that she’s really, really confident in what she’s doing,” she said.
Confidence is something choir teacher Kamilyn Davis said she appreciates in a choir setting.
Kravchenko’s confidence and outgoingness carries through to her peers to become confident in their own singing, Davis said.
Her easy going and approachable personality makes her a reliable leader within the group.
“She’s so nice,” LaPlaca said. “She makes it her goal to compliment everyone around her, and I think that’s just so valuable to the team.”
Davis said she too has noticed that in her experiences working with Kravchenko.
“Her sensitive and thoughtful compliments to her peers really bring this great energy, and it’s just an awesome characteristic to have,” she said, “especially when it comes to teamwork.”
And, to Kravchenko, a key member in the soprano group, that teamwork aspect is one of the best feelings a musician can experience.
“You will never, ever feel alone.”
That feeling from playing with the band and singing with the high school choir made her realize all the more just how much music means to her and the meaningful experiences made along the way.
That includes singing as a soloist in front of an audience of 5,000 in July at the annual 2022 Ukrainian Cultural Festival at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center in Kerhonkson, New York. The festival was a fundraiser to aid Ukrainian soldiers wounded in the Russo-Ukrainian war.
“That was probably the most meaningful and happiest day in my vocal career so far,” Kravchenko said. “You know, I have never seen 5,000 people in the audience before, let alone sing in front of one, so it was such a life changing experience.”
Holding the Ukrainian flag in one hand and the microphone in the other, she said she felt so happy and proud of her culture and heritage.
“I love Ukraine, and I’m proud to be Ukrainian,” Kravchenko said. “That’s why I sang about Ukraine in my performance.”
The song, “San Francisco – Kyiv,” expressed her desire to visit and sing in Ukraine again. She both wrote and recorded that song, which, a few months later, received the International Internet Film Festival Independent Star award for best music video.
But, Kravchenko’s journey to become the musician she is today has required a lot of hard work and dedication.
Regardless of how much homework she has or how busy she is, Kravchenko said she tries to use every opportunity to fit in extra practice.
“I’ve learned that no matter who you are, as long as you work hard, you can always do it if there’s a possibility of you achieving it,” Kravchenko said.
So, she typically practices two to three hours a day, sometimes losing track of just how long she spends perfecting her craft.
“It’s just so fun to me that time just goes by so fast,” Kravchenko said.
Her practice routine consists of 30 minutes of piano practice, two hours of vocal training and 15 minutes of guitar to top it off.
On top of that, she has music lessons virtually every day. That includes vocal lessons for typically four days a week and piano lessons for the remainder of the week.
Although she does not currently take guitar lessons, she continues to practice regularly.
“I practice so much in all of these things not because I have to practice, but because I love it so much,” she said.
And, to Kravchenko, moving forward, her talents may lead to a career one day.
“We’ll see where it takes me,” she said. “Who knows?”
— By Garrett Xu
Originally published in the Dec. 13 edition of The Octagon