Amnesia, the intriguing name of a local jazz duo, aptly describes the musical attitude of its performers. "During our music," says jazz pianist Frank Yanowitz, "we let go. We forget the rest of our lives. We get wrapped up in the moment of playing."
Andalin Nosanchuk, who balances Yanowitz's flawless keyboard with her energetic flute, agrees. "Improvising," she says,"is a gift. If you can't feel it, you can't play it." And they have to do it together for it to work - something they've been doing for 10 years."If you break up Frank and Andalin," says Nosanchuk, "you don't have Amnesia."
Not that they plan on breaking up.
The duo, specializing in contemporary, new-age jazz, is literally the talk of the town, and no one is sure how far it can go. The Private Eye - a Salt Lake entertainment newspaper - selected them as "Best Jazz," based on a reader's poll earlier this year. One typical critic said the group's trademark "is an intoxicating elixir of flute and piano sounds."
Their two recordings have been remarkably well-received, the first appropriately called "First Time," documenting Yanowitz's first composition; and the most recent, "After Hours," a CD by Suntana Records, was released last summer, establishing Yanowitz as a prolific local composer.
They have performed at numerous festivals, including the Telluride Jazz Festival in Colorado, the 1989 United States Film Festival, Park City Art Festival, Utah State Jazz Festival and many others.
They also appear frequently at several local clubs, such as Harvey's, Nino's Cabaret, The Aerie Lounge at Snowbird, Woody's Wharf, etc. They play for weddings, parties, grand openings, receptions or custom events. Frequently, the duo increases in size to become a trio, a quartet or a quintet.
If this rare musical combination of energy and concentration were all that are unusual about Yanowitz and Nosanchuk it would be enough. It's not.
When she is not lost in jazz, Nosanchuk, 38, is a paralegal with the law firm of Sherri Palmer and Associates and plans to go to law school full time next year. Although marriage interrupted her music major at the University of Utah, she is now finishing a business degree at Westminster that will more logically prepare her for law.
Yanowitz, 51, is a physician-cardiologist, director of the Fitness Institute at LDS Hospital and a faculty member in the U.'s School of Medicine. He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics at Cornell and his medical degree from the State University of New York in Syracuse.
In almost cosmic irony, Nosanchuk's husband, Mel, holds a doctorate in psychology, as does Yanowitz's wife, Betty. Nosanchuk is the mother of two teenagers, and Yanowitz is the father of three grown children.
Besides active medical research, writing and lecturing on his favorite topic of prevention of heart disease, Yanowitz engages in an active exercise program of his own, running, hiking and skiing.
Nosanchuk keeps in shape through a karate workout twice a week with her 12-year-old daughter. She says, "The more you do, the younger you get."
Although deeply committed to active professions and their families, the two find an outlet for their creative drive through Amnesia.
Yanowitz, who characterizes himself as a "mello, laid-back, relatively unstressed person," has learned to be less driven. Although he loves medicine, it is not his whole life. And he teaches patients also to "take time for themselves."
He has played the piano since the age of 9 and played jazz piano actively in college. Yanowitz didn't play the piano as much while attending medical school, then quit entirely because of the pressures of his career. In 1980 he resumed his interest. He met Nosanchuk socially and they talked about their complimentary musical backgrounds and then scheduled some practice sessions to experiment with a duo.
They hit it off immediately and played their first engagement at a no longer active local club called Dooley's. Gradually, their musical sidelight progressed, and in May 1983, "by accident," Yanowitz wrote his first song.
"It was called `First Time,' because it was my first song. Since then I've written over 90 compositions," he says. Nosanchuk proudly labels those compositions the "bible" of the duo.
By the time "After Hours" appeared last year, the duo had become more than a hobby. "It became a second major career for me," says Yanowitz, who enjoys it so much that he would likesome national recognition for his songs but has "no idea how to do it."
Would he ever leave medicine in order to devote full time to the duo? "Never," he says. "I love medicine too much." He has a "mission to prevent death and disability related to life style and environment." In fact, he schedules not more than two or three musical engagements a week in an effort to protect his home life - and he tries to reserve his weekends for his wife.
"A large part of our success," says Yanowitz, "is due to my partner. People come to see her. I just write the music. People think I'm the accompanist."
Nosanchuk agrees that they "work real well together." She has also had a lifelong interest in music and played for the Utah Youth Symphony for many years. A highlight was winning first prize as a high school student on Eugene Jelesnik's TV show, which led to an appearance on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour and a jazz music scholarship.
After her marriage, she stopped playing for seven years. Her parents were killed in an auto accident in 1973, and she and her husband "inherited" the responsibility of raising her three younger brothers, in addition to their own children. The responsibility was awesome and so she was ready for a creative outlet when she met Yanowitz.
Speaking of their unusual blend, she says, "Frank knows my talent and he writes to that. Our performances are really tight and well structured - but then we take off and express ourselves to fit the mood of the audience."
It's called improvisation - and it is the trademark of Amnesia.
Neither Nosanchuk nor Yanowitz would have predicted their current success a decade ago - with logo, business cards, regular engagements and an enduring reputation. When asked if she would consider devoting herself full time to music, she has no hesitation.
"It's gotta go somewhere!" she says. Yet she is realistic enough to know that there are several considerations, including family and professional commitments. "I don't expect it to go farther," she says plaintively, "but we are directed nationally, and if that's where it goes, I'm ready."
That is not to say that she is rejecting law. Because her mother was a lawyer, she always thought "the last thing I was going to do was get into law - because that was my mother's thing."
But she loves law. "I really enjoy litigation. I like to negotiate settlements, and I love people. Law is like a debate. Sometimes, I think the one who wins is the one who can afford the best attorney."
Yanowitz and Nosanchuk are high energy people with the ability to balance amazingly diverse lives. Few members of their audiences realize what fascinating, successful professional lives they lead outside of their music.
Obviously, they disagree about the future. Whether what started as a fun musical sidelight will expand to become a national career for the two remains an open question.
But don't forget - both will have to make that decision, because "if you break up Frank and Andalin, you don't have Amnesia."