She may be Justin Bieber’s peer – at least in age – but 16-year-old Nikki Yanofsky is already a veteran jazz singer. At 12, the Montreal-native was hooked on the sophisticated genre (though she sings pop every once in a while) and, in February, she took the world stage, performing “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, at the Vancouver Olympics.
She’s just released her self-titled, debut album – and already performed alongside Celine Dion, collaborated with will.i.am and appeared on the High School Musical 2 soundtrack. Here are five more things to know about the up-and-coming star.
1. She travels the world – but still goes to class
Yanofsky may have regularly scheduled gigs at international concert venues (like the Kennedy Center), but she doesn’t have a private tutor. She still attends her small Montreal high school. “They give me the work before I leave, and then I go on the road with it,” she tells PEOPLE. “I actually get my best work done on the plane.”
2. She’s a (not-so) secret rap and country fan
Jazz may be her preferred genre, but Yanofsky says she loves all music – even rap. But the singer especially loves country music. “It’s kind of like comfort [music] for me because I grew up on the Eagles,” she says. She also counts Rascal Flatts among her favorite bands.
3. She’s bilingual basically
While recording “Gotta Go My Own Way” for the High School Musical 2 soundtrack, Yanofsky says her language skills were put to the test. “For the French part, I had to have a coach there. I speak French but I wasn’t used to actually singing it.”
4. Are You Listening, Paul McCartney?
Calling Ella Fitzgerald an inspiration, and Wyclef Jean a favorite collaborator, Yanofsky has some major ideas about who she’d like to sing with in the future. “I always say dream big,” she says, “but I have a bunch of people [in mind] and they’re icons like Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder or Paul Simon.”
5. She’s sung for billions
Evan a major gig – singing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics – couldn’t rattle the singer’s confidence. “I was really proud to be up there,” she recalls. “The second before I went on stage, I turned to the guy working back there and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, in five seconds 3.2 billion people will have me on their TV screens. That’s crazy.’ All I was thinking about was ‘please don’t fall.’ ”