Yiannis Chryssomallis, known professionally as Yanni, is a composer, keyboardist, pianist, and music producer.
Yanni continues to use the musical shorthand that he developed as a child, blending jazz, classical, soft rock, and world music to create predominantly instrumental works. Although this genre of music was not well suited for commercial pop radio and music television, Yanni received international recognition by producing concerts at historic monuments and by producing videos that were broadcast on public television.
His breakthrough concert, Live at the Acropolis, yielded the second best-selling music concert video of all time. Additional historic sites for Yanni’s concerts have included India’s Taj Mahal, China’s Forbidden City, the United Arab Emirates’ Burj Khalifa, Russia’s Kremlin, Puerto Rico’s El Morro castle, Lebanon’s ancient city of Byblos, Tunisia’s Roman Theatre of Carthage, India’s Laxmi Vilas Palace, the Egyptian pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza, and the Amman Citadel.
At least sixteen of Yanni’s albums have peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s “Top New Age Album” category, and two albums (Dare to Dream, and In My Time) received Grammy Award nominations. Yanni has performed in more than 30 countries on five continents, and through late 2015 Yanni had performed live in concert before more than 5 million people and had accumulated more than 40 platinum and gold albums globally, with sales totaling over 25 million copies.
A longtime fundraiser for public television, Yanni’s compositions have been used on commercial television programs, especially for sporting events. He has written film scores and the music for an award-winning British Airways television commercial.
Yanni popularized the combination of electronic music synthesizers with a full-scale symphony orchestra. He has employed musicians of various nationalities and has incorporated a variety of exotic instruments to create music that has been called an eclectic fusion of ethnic sounds. Influenced by his encounters with cultures around the world, Yanni has been called a “true global artist” and his music is said to reflect his “one world, one people” philosophy.
“Creativity is an inherent human quality of the highest order.
When we create, we become more than the sum of our parts.”
Yanni was born November 14, 1954, in Kalamata, Greece, the son of Sotiri Chryssomallis and Felitsa. He displayed musical talent at a young age, playing the piano at the age of 6. His parents encouraged him to learn at his own pace and in his own way, without formal music training. The self-taught musician continues to use the “musical shorthand” that he developed as a child, rather than employing traditional musical notation.
In November 1972, Yanni moved from Greece to the United States to attend the University of Minnesota beginning in January 1973, majoring in psychology. For a time he earned money by washing dishes at the student union. Yanni later explained that learning English forced him to read each paragraph several times in what he called a slow and frustrating process, but which helped him memorize the material and do well on tests. He received a B.A. degree in psychology in 1976.
During his time as a student, Yanni played in a local rock band and continued to study piano and other keyboard instruments. Upon graduating, when he dedicated himself exclusively to music for one full year and found he was the happiest he had ever been, he said he decided music would be his life’s work.