Photograph by April Renae
Since its inception in 2010, True Life Trio has enchanted audiences all across the West. Their concerts take audiences on a borderless journey through the villages of Ukraine, the mountains of Bulgaria and Louisiana’s Cajun country, demonstrating the beauty, power and diversity of vocally driven folk music from Eastern Europe and North America. TLT honors these traditions while adding their own unique spin via innovative arrangements and folk-inspired compositions. The trio’s fiery and supple vocals bridge musical worlds and deliver them right to the listeners’ ears.
Featuring the powerful vocal talents of three dynamic performers whose musical collaboration was forged in Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, this Bay Area–based trio delves deep into a vast array of folk music that lends itself to three-part vocal harmony, massaging and expanding the boundaries of these traditional styles.
True Life Trio’s performances include a mix of a cappella songs and tunes accompanied by fiddle, guitar, accordion and percussion. In any given concert, the trio will sing in more than ten languages, interweaving translations, tales of their travels and background stories that bring this beautiful music to life and demonstrate their passion, joy and humor in singing together.
In 2016, TLT released their first full-length recording, Like Never and Like Always, a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Gari Hegedus. Like Never and Like Always was originally commissioned by the East Bay Fund for Artists, with premiere performances in November 2014. This ambitious and exciting recording was produced by sound designer Eric Oberthaler and recorded by David Luke at Opus Studios in Berkeley, California. It was released on the Waxsimile Productions label.
True Life Trio is:
Leslie Bonnett: voice, fiddle, percussion
Briget Boyle: voice, guitar, percussion
Juliana Graffagna: voice, accordion, percussion
Leslie Bonnett’s artistic path has been marked by a rich diversity of musical journeys. Her primary instruments of expression are voice and violin. She began with classical studies as a child and young adult but soon thereafter jumped off into the musical realms of Scandinavia, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Americas and beyond. Along the way she earned a BA in Music from UC Santa Cruz and sang with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and Savina. Leslie also sang for fifteen years with Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble, with whom she had the great fortune of working with amazing master artists and traveling to far-off lands for performance and musical/cultural study. She can currently be found performing with Sayat Nvaq Ensemble, Balkalicious Fire Drive and True Life Trio.
Briget Boyle is a songwriter, vocalist and guitar player based in Oakland, California. As part of a full schedule of performing, teaching, and touring, Briget just released her second album, The Next Line. The album has been hailed as a “thoroughly fascinating and gripping listen” by Substream magazine. Briget has a rich and diverse musical history. Growing up in Los Angeles, Briget sang backup for her mother, recording artist Karen Tobin, and worked with her father in Hollywood's film scoring studios. She began writing songs as a teenager and played guitar in rock and jazz ensembles. She then attended the College of Santa Fe as a Music Performance and Composition major. After college, Briget sang for eight years with Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble and Brass Menazeri Balkan Brass Band. She now works as the Creative Director at Waxsimile Productions and teaches voice and guitar in Oakland.
Juliana Graffagna began her musical career as a young girl, singing in church choir and studying classical piano. She then ventured on to musical theatre, women’s glee club, Russian language study and the discovery of her passion for traditional music. Juliana sang with the acclaimed Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble for more than two decades, serving as music director for ten years, performing extensively throughout the United States and Eastern Europe. She has had the privilege of studying Eastern European vocal technique with master singers Tzvetanka Varimezova, Mariana Sadovska, Merita Halili, Donka Koleva, Carl Linich and Christos Govetas. Juliana currently performs with the eclectic world music ensemble Janam, which she founded in 2007. She is also a studio vocalist and voice/piano teacher.