Maria was born in Moscow, where she studied choral conducting and piano, until moving to Australia in 1993. In 1997, Maria attained an Associate of Music Australia diploma in piano, and performed a solo at the Opera House HSC Encore concert. She received a scholarship to study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and graduated in 2001 majoring in classical piano. In 2006, Maria completed a Master of Creative Arts degree majoring in opera, at the Newcastle Conservatorium.
As a soprano, Maria performs in solo recitals, radio broadcasts for ABC classic FM and with Opera Australia. Maria has been featured on the ABC radio in the “Rising Stars” program, “Saturday Sessions” as well as “Sunday Live”.
In 2009, Maria was the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship finalist. In July 2008, Maria won the MIETTA competition – a national award worth $15,000 presented to an outstanding Lieder singer. The distinguished panel was headed by Maestro Richard Bonynge, Richard Mills, Prof. John Poynter, Stephen McIntyre and Margaret Baker-Genovesi. Also in 2008, Maria was a finalist of the national Italian and German awards and the National Aria competition in Canberra. In 2007, Maria was a finalist in the National Covent Garden Opera Award and German Operatic Award. She traveled to Berlin in September 2007 on the artist scholarship from the Goethe Institute.
Russian-born, Anna Okuney started playing violin at the age of five. After migrating to Australia, Anna continued her music education through the ‘Your Musicians’ Program at the Australian Institute of Music, and as a scholarship student at the Methodist Ladies College. It was during this time that Anna received her Associate Diploma in Music and soon after, her Licentiate Diploma in Music. Anna then went on to complete her Bachelor of Music, majoring in performance, at the Australian Institute of Music. Anna received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Medowmount School of Music in New York, where she studied violin with Professor Gerardo Ribeiro of the Northwestern University in Chicago, and chamber music with Patricia McCarty of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Anna has toured nationally and abroad with the Sydney Youth Orchestra, and since then has done session work with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra, the Eminence Orchestra and the Sydney International Orchestra. Some credits include film soundtrack recordings for Australia and Mao’s Last Dancer, Australian Idol, First and Second World AIDS Day concerts, Eric Idle’s ‘Not The Messiah’, and Anthony the Johnsons Symphony Tour.
The Marianna Ensemble members consists of: Anna Okunev, Richard Savery, Maria Okunev and Blake Marianna. They started as a Russian duet in 2001 consisting of two sisters: Maria Okunev (voice/piano/guitar) and Anna Okunev (violin). In 2009 Blake Keep (guitar) and Richard Savery (Clarinets/Saxophone) joined the ensemble.
The ensemble draws on the multiple talents of its members, which between them share backgrounds in opera, jazz, folk and contemporary music. Since its beginning, the ensemble’s original compositions and arrangements of folk and classical repertoire have been winners of several awards. Marianna also performed a recital for the “Sunday Live” show on ABC classic FM on March 14th, and in the same year, “Marianna” was featured in Peter Butt’s “I-Spry” film. A sizzling ABC TV special, “I-Spry” is all about the ASIO and KGB in the 1950s-60s Australia, and is a spicy ride from start to finish.
Marianna Ensemble are a Blue Pie Records artist and are published by Blue Pie Publishing USA (ASCAP).