Yanni: Composer for the ages

Yanni in Chicago for Live at the Acropolis 25th Anniversary Tour

January 2018

As one of the world’s leading musical composers, for Yanni, it’s always been about the passion. His name has become synonymous with beautifully prepared orchestral music tinged with jazz, classical, and rock influences. His live performances are legendary and feature an impressive array of world class musicians and vocalists. Fans have even declared that Yanni’s music goes well beyond entertainment, effecting them at a deep spiritual level.

Yanni began playing the piano at age six in his hometown of Kalamata, Greece. His parents took notice of his enthusiasm for the keyboards and encouraged him to develop his own style at his own pace. Yanni would actually teach himself “musical shorthand,” bypassing at a young age conventional musical rotation methods. Even today, Yanni continues to utilize his own personal technique.

Before music became Yanni’s primary vision, he won a 50-meter swimming competition at age 14 and considered becoming an Olympic swimmer. He would move to the United States a few years later, settling in Minneapolis where he attended the University of Minnesota as a psychology major.

As Yanni pursued his studies, he would earn money as a dishwasher eventually earning a B.A degree in Psychology. After graduating, Yanni decided to commit the next year of his life exclusively to music. It was during this time that Yanni was his happiest and decided to devote the rest of his life to his childhood passion.

In 1976, Yanni joined the Minneapolis based rock group Chameleon while also working with choreographer Loyce Houlton on creating music for dance works that would be produced by the Minnesota Dance Theater. After 4 years of touring with Chameleon, he moved to California to pursue his gaining interest in composing movie soundtracks.

Yanni would release several albums in the 80’s touring with such well known musicians as John Tesh and drummer Charlie Adams. One tour included an amazing performance with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra that was described by a local music critic as “exhilirating, moving and inspiring.” The review acknowledged Yanni as a bona fide superstar and helped Yanni gain national recognition.

A few years later, Yanni released “Dare to Dream,” his first grammy nominated album that included “Aria,” a song that was featured prominently in a British Airways commercial. His next album, “In My Time,” followed one year later and was also nominated for a grammy.

But Yanni’s landmark achievement occured in 1993 when he performed live at the 2,ooo year old Herodes Atticus Theater at the Acropolis of Athens. So ambitious in scale, it was a concert event his own record company advised against and predicted would fail. So without any financial backing, Yanni would risk $2 million of his own money to make “Live At The Acropolis” a reality. The concert featured Yanni’s core band and the 60-piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra arranged and conducted by the renowned Shahrdad Rohani. The resulting video would become the second best selling music concert video of all time (after Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”).

Yanni has often said that psychology is actually the catalyst of all his songwriting. The music he creates is a reflection of his soul and a direct result of life experiences, relationships and interactions with other cultures. They are present in almost every creative thought he has and they continue to inspire and entertain everyone who attends a Yanni show.