Theresa Sokyrka first caught national attention as a finalist from the 2004 season of ‘Canadian Idol,’ but the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native had already been cutting her teeth since moving to Saskatoon at the age of eight. The youngest of three kids, she grew up in a musical household where traditional Ukraininan folk songs was part of the repetoire. Her mother was a choir director at their church and her father owned a private music school.
She attended cultural music camps, and it was also a key factor in her education. She tok voice and violin lessons while attending the only Ukrainian bilingual school in the province, and was the lead soloist with the Lastiwka Ukrainian Youth Choir. Before she attended the music program in Red Deer College after high school, she’d also taught herself guitar and piano, oboe and bassoon, and fronted the experimental group, Phagoo.
Her penchant for scat at open mics around this time came in handy in April of 2004, when she was one of 9,000 contestants in Toronto vying for a shot at stardom on “Canadian Idol,” where she was eventually named runner up to Kalan Porter. Her natural showmanship and musical versatily, mixed with covers that ranged from Billie Holliday to Lionel Richie, earned constant praise from the judges and guests.
That same year, she released the EP, FOUR HOURS IN NOVEMBER, and closed out the year entertaining the troops in Israel and Egypt. With her star on the rise, she released her debut album in ’05, THESE OLD CHARMS. Sales of fifty thousand certified it gold. The album was a mix of covers like Jann Arden‘s “Good Mother” (one of the songs she’d performed in front of the country on TV) and Jeff Healey‘s “Angel Eyes,” and personal, well structured originals like “Change The World” and “She Let Her Down.”
She moved to Toronto and followed it up a year later with SOMETHING IS EXPECTED. Another indie release after joining MapleMusic for distribution, the album was indicative of her pop, blues, and jazz influences, with the lead-off “Waiting Song,” “Sandy Eyes,” and “Bluebird.”
She spent the next year or so as a cruise ship entertainer, where she was allowed to develop her own style and work on her songwriting. With a grant from the Schevchenko Foundation, she released her self-titled Ukrainian roots album in 2010. All traditional material, she managed to put a modern spin on it, and also incorporated Carissa Klopoushak and Andy Czerny from Montreal’s group, Veselka. She was on the road throughout North America until September the next year promoting the album as fundraising for various Ukrainian cultural organizations.
She moved home to Saskatoon following a year in Spain. She commented there’s been a method to her madness in terms of not settling in any one place for very long. “Sometimes I feel that the only reason I move around so much is because I’m afraid that getting comfortable would create a monumental writer’s block,” she said. “I’ve always been someone who craves excitement. There is nothing more exciting than moving to a new place. Inspiration comes to life with experience.”
Her next project was back to a more mainstream sound, with 2013’s PRAIRIE WINDS.
Over her career, she’s worked with the likes of Ron Sexmith, David Carswell (New Pornographers, Evaporators), and Mike Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. Always doing some sort of philanthropic work, she was named Saskatchewan Centennial 2005 Youth Ambassador. That same year she was named UNESCO’s spokesperson for the Associated Schools Project Network, along with Celine Dion and Buffy Sainte Marie.