True Life Trio’s singing exudes untamed joy. They met in Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble and soon found their affinity extended beyond Balkan music to the far reaches of Europe and America. Their music is an elixir of ancient traditional songs made new, tasty choral arrangements and inspired original compositions. They have been enchanting audiences in their San Francisco Bay Area home and all across the West for more than a decade with their finely-honed, heart-centered, "concert hall meets front porch" performances.
True Life Trio has collaborated with a diverse array of artists including Real Vocal String Quartet, Black Sea Hotel, Honey Whiskey Trio, Gari Hegedus, Faisal Zedan, Edessa, Dunava, Duo Kel-Mo, Chimera, Aurora Chorus, Ghost Note Ensemble and Nevenka Folk Ensemble with Tzvetanka Varimezova. They performed for SheSings Vocal Festival and the Jewish Music Festival at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage and were featured artists with the California Revels at Oakland’s Scottish Rite Temple. TLT appeared as special guests of the UC Berkeley Choral Department at Hertz Hall and sang on the album The Flock by Teddy Raven, performing in its world premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
In 2014, they received a commission from the East Bay Community Foundation Fund for Artists to create Like Never & Like Always, an ambitious collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Gari Hegedus on the theme of memory. This stage production culminated in their first full-length recording of the same name, released in 2016 and produced by sound designer Eric Oberthaler.
True Life Trio heads into the studio in late 2022 to record their long-awaited second full-length album.
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. She began with classical studies on violin as a child, spent her teenage years playing Scandinavian fiddle and studying a variety of dance, pursued classical voice at UC Santa Cruz where she earned a B.A., spent some years singing with local opera study programs and choruses as well as with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and ultimately found her home in the traditional folk music of the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the Americas and beyond. She has performed with Bay Area bands such as Balkalicious Fire Drive, Sayat Nvaq Ensemble, and Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble. During her tenure with Kitka, she was very fortunate to travel the country as well as abroad, working and studying with master artists, and taking part in a wide array of projects including myriad concerts, new works created for the group, movie soundtracks and vocal theater productions. Leslie’s current focus is mainly on True Life Trio with other musical projects in the works.
Briget Boyle is a multi-faceted songstress based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has performed, recorded and toured nationally and internationally with True Life Trio, Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble, Brass Menažeri Balkan Brass Band, and as a solo artist. She has performed and venues such as at the Fox and Paramount Theatre in Oakland, the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Yoshi's in San Francisco, and the Triple Door in Seattle. Her voice can be heard on recordings by Beats Antique, Tim Young & The Questionaires, and more. She is also an accomplished songwriter and is currently working on her third studio album. In 2014, she founded Waxsimile Productions, an independent record label with the mission of supporting musicians with equitable contracts and currently teaches voice, guitar, and songwriting.
Juliana Graffagna fell in love with Balkan and Eastern European folk music in the late 80's and
hasn't stopped singing it since. As a veteran vocalist and music director of the acclaimed Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble, Juliana has performed throughout the U.S. and Eastern Europe, appearing in projects as diverse as Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares 50th anniversary concert in
Sofia, Bulgaria, and on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion". She has studied with master vocalists Tzvetanka Varimezova, Mariana Sadovska, Merita Halili, Donka Koleva,
Svetlana Spajic, Carl Linich and Christos Govetas and has been featured on numerous recordings and film soundtracks. Juliana also performs with the eclectic band Janam which she founded in 2007 and teaches voice, ensemble singing and piano.