Katya Khartova

Hitting all the right notes

Saskatoon soprano Katya Khartova has been proud to sing O Canada at University of Saskatchewan convocation ceremonies for the past two years.

By James Shewaga
But this year, it will be her turn to be serenaded with the national anthem when she steps on stage and graduates with a Bachelor of Music from the U of S. It will be a memorable moment for Khartova and something she could have only dreamed about, growing up back in Ukraine.

"It's very personal to me," said Khartova, who became a Canadian citizen five years ago. "Every time I have to sing ‘Our home and native land' I feel a part of that because Canada is a country that welcomes immigrants and I am one of them and I hope to have my own contributions to pass on to other generations."

The 27-year-old Khartova hopes to be a part of the next generation of Canadian singing sensations after winning back-to-back provincial music festival competitions, posting the highest grade (88 per cent) earned in vocal studies in the past six years at the U of S, and serving as the featured soloist in the university's Music Theatre Ensemble.

"There is no question that Katya Khartova ranks among the very most talented singers with whom I have worked in my 22 years at the U of S," said Garry Gable, associate professor in the Department of Music and the director of the Music Theatre Ensemble. "She has the potential to do well in the singing world, but it is a very competitive world, especially for sopranos. Much rides on good fortune and hard work. Katya will have to continue to study for years to come to be successful. Her talent, dedication and work to this point have given her a very strong advantage."

Another major advantage for Khartova was moving from the Ukraine to Canada at the age of 18 with her family— mother Marina, father Henry and brother Sergei—in search of a better life that they have found in Saskatchewan. Khartova didn't speak English when she first arrived in the small town of Drake, but worked hard to master the language with the help of her teachers, before moving on to work full-time in Saskatoon to save money for tuition. After a year of arts courses, she began music studies at the age of 21, having had no formal training.

"Canada has given me things that I could never even dream of back in Ukraine and pursuing music would not have been possible," she said. "In countries like the Ukraine, honestly nobody would have even looked at me, I would have been too old to even start. And here people said if that is what you want to do, we will develop you as much as we can."

Her rapid development will be on full display next year when she serves as the featured soprano soloist in the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra's produc-tion of The Golden Harvest by composer Larysa Kuzmenko, which celebrates the 125th anniversary of immigration of Ukrainians to Canada.

"I am very excited to take part," said Khartova. "Next year will also be 10 years since my immigration to Canada, so it's big for me, too. When I first came here, I couldn't have even dreamed about it, to be on the stage at TCU Place ... and now I will be on the stage myself."

The next stage in Khartova's development will be pursuing her master's degree, likely elsewhere in Canada or overseas in Europe, as she works towards her dream of becoming an opera singer.

"I will probably go take (a master's) in a different city, mainly because that is what the business requires," she said. "They like to see that you have studied with different people and have had different kinds of experiences.

"But I want to find a teacher that I can connect with just as good as I have connected with my teachers here at the U of S. I'm having a very hard time leaving them because they became my second parents. They were more than professors; they were so supportive on all levels. I will miss them all."