A soft cymbal joins a lonely bass as Stefani Bondari sings: “It will be, it is, it was.”
These lyrics both open and close the song “Winter,” the fifth and final track from Bondari’s song suite Seasons. In only seven words, the line reveals a motif that Bondari says had bearing over the whole project.
“The premise of [the project] was change throughout one’s year, and how it’s cyclical within a year,” Bondari said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I think change is a thing that inspires everyone. I don’t think it’s specific to me at all, but it’s what I know and what I reflect on. I don’t know enough about love. I don’t know enough about having my own family. I don’t know enough about having a career or money. So, I write about change, which is something very universal, and something [that] I can reflect on honestly.”
Honesty is important to Bondari, as the artist strictly writes about her own experiences. This was not always the case.
“[When I wrote songs] in elementary school it was like, ‘I’ll be Romeo and you’ll be Juliet’,” Bonardi said.
These lyrics, typical of many tweenage musicians eager to show off their songwriting gravitas, have since matured. Today, her music is very personal. Aside from simply growing older, Bondari mentions the death of her grandmother as sparking a tonal shift in her style. In fact, Bondari, otherwise known as Stefani Recheshter, chose her stage name in her grandmother’s honour, Bondari being her family name.
“We were very close when I was young, and she passed away when I was twelve. I think the way I was able to [fully grieve was by] writing songs,” Bonardi said. “ I think that helped me focus in on what really matters to me, and I started finally being able to write about what I knew because this grief was what I knew really prominently.”
Hailing from New York City, Bondari has been playing and writing music for almost her entire life. After taking lessons as a child and concentrating in classical piano in her high school’s music program, she chose to study Jazz Voice at McGill. It has not always been the easiest transition, as she notes she lacks the jazz background of other students.
“I came to McGill [having studied] jazz for one year and then [having gone] to conservatory where people have been jazz musicians their entire life,” Bonardi said. “It was very isolating. I would just play alone […] and just write all the time. I wasn’t going to sit idly by waiting to play bebop with people, so I just started writing my own stuff.”
This drive to write was a blessing in disguise, as Bondari was able to find friends who were interested in her compositions and supportive of her creative efforts. A little over a year ago, she started playing shows around Montreal. Since then, she has developed a close bond with her friends in the music community, such as guitarist Zach Bachand, with whom she plays often.
Currently, a live recording of “Winter” is the only song on Bondari’s bandcamp page, but she says she is planning on releasing more material soon. In the meantime, she will continue to play shows across Montreal. Instead of spending this time trying to find her voice, she intends to develop what she has already found.
“[Music] is the only thing I want to do,” Bonardi said. “Even though I’m grateful for what I’ve learned [at school], I think I [have] kind of found my voice.”