Ivan Zenovitch takes centre stage: Now that you can see him … don’t take your eyes off

“I want to stop standing on the side of the stage and looking in … I want to stand in the center and look out.”

You know Ivan Zenovitch. More importantly, you have heard him. He’s the one playing guitar for any one of a hundred performers. He is the Forrest Gump of Yukon music.

Zenovitch was here in the 80s when musicians played to the room and they played it well. He performed with Dave Haddock, Bruce Bergman, Mark Paradis, Paul Stephens and Daniel Janke – from venue to venue, from party to party.

Zenovitch was behind Matthew Lien in Taiwan when he played to 30,000. He was in the Capital Hotel’s house band for two and a half years, learning new songs every three weeks when a new performer came from Outside. He played disco, country, swing, rock and jazz.

He knew Robbie McKay when he was a young man. And, later, he became his student and practised his chord changes over and over at his Marsh Lake home even though he didn’t understand the complexity of musicianship his teacher was pushing him to.

One thing anyone could say about Zenovitch was that he was a professional. He always delivered … in spite of the demons he battled.

“I don’t keep pictures, I don’t keep letters, I’m an underachiever and I don’t dream.

“I have an addictive personality,” he says today. “I get hooked on everything from Caesar salad to worse … much worse.”

Lately, the demons have been losing. Zenovitch has lost a lot of weight, he picked up a good set of hearing aides so that he can hear is own voice again, he just celebrated his first clean and sober Christmas since childhood and, in this year he turns 50, he is feeling better than ever.

Zenovitch is in love.

“She’s a big influence on me,” he says of his love, whom he refuses to name because she hates the limelight. “She told me, ‘You don’t have to prove anything anymore.’

“I’ve finally broken through, I can write a happy, simple song now.”

His girlfriend reached into his past and pulled back a cassette tape from a one-week recording session in 1991. It was the only copy he had. Twelve were produced and the others had been given away, lost, retrieved and lost again. But, there it was, in his girlfriend’s hand: “This is good,” she told him.

Zenovitch knew it was good. It featured some of the best session players in Canada at the time and was produced just for the experience of it … no commercial aspirations at all. The musicianship is as close to perfect as you can ever expect to hear and, yet, he says he is embarrassed at how little he knew back then. One thing, though, Zenovitch was surprised to hear how good his voice was.

He says today he has to take voice lessons to control it better, but that would be a shame because the voice on that tape is a unique instrument. It is real and it lends itself well to the rollicking good time the sum of this tape adds up to.

Zenovitch is poised to burst through to the next level. Once he wins a grant, he will produce a CD. And it will be great.

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