CLAIM TO FAME: Yana Demian ’09 is a Wagner-trained RN who works at Staten Island University Hospital. But from 1997 to 2003, Yana Demian was Space Girl, “the Queen of Acid Trance.” Demian’s keyboard performances for live rave audiences drew as many as 100,000 fans. Her catalogue includes three EPs and three full-length LP recordings. (Listen to a playlist on YouTube.)
TALENT AND TORMENT: Born in Moscow, Demian started serious studies of the piano at age 4. “My mom forced me to practice every day for 2 or 3 hours,” she says. “And I had a very strict teacher, very old school. She smoked all the time, and when I got a note wrong she would burn me. It got to the point where I started hating it.” As a teenager, Demian rebelled, listening to anything but classical music. Her tastes ranged widely, from Ella Fitzgerald to AC/DC. Nevertheless, she became a student at the prestigious Moscow Conservatory.
MATERNAL AMBITION: On March 8, 1991, Demian’s mother brought her 15-year-old daughter to America to visit her grandparents; however, Mom had a secret agenda: to enroll Demian at Juilliard. “She took me down to apply, supposedly just on a whim. I got in right away,” she says. Still, Demian knew that classical music was not for her.
SPACE GIRL STARDOM: One night, a friend took her to a rave in Brooklyn, where she heard a new type of electronic music: acid trance. She was hooked. The next day, she went out and bought a Roland XP-50 keyboard. She picked her stage name, “Space Girl,” from a song by German electronic music artist D. J. Hooligan. At her first performance, a 1997 rave at Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos, “The audience went completely crazy,” she recalls. “Taking New York City’s nightlife by storm, Space Girl was soon headlining clubs like the Tunnel and Limelight, entertaining thousands of rapturous fans,” wrote one reviewer. “Soon she was being booked all over the States and overseas, from mega-clubs in megalopolises to moon-drenched desert parties miles from civilization.”
LIGHTS ON: “Around 2003, 2004, they declared war on the raves,” Demian recalls. “The cops would come in, turn up the lights and clear everyone out. There were too many people involved with drugs.” Almost overnight, her performing career was over.
FROM RAVING TO HEALING: Influenced by her father, a surgeon, she felt drawn to medicine. “While I was performing, I saw people overdose at the raves,” she said. “It was part of the culture, and I felt at least somewhat responsible for that. It felt like nursing would be good for me, kind of a way to make amends.” After trying a pre-med program and finding it was not the right fit, she discovered the 15-month, second-degree nursing program at Wagner College, tailored for people like her who had already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field and were changing careers.
A NEW ADRENALINE HIGH: The transition to nursing was rough. “I’d never had to work with people, I’d never been a part of a team, and I wasn’t used to being surrounded by women all day. But now, I love it.” She found her niche working in the delivery room, first at Mt. Sinai Hospital and now at Staten Island University Hospital. “It’s like an emergency room, but for delivering babies,” she says. “There’s a feeling of accomplishment when you come home from work and you’ve brought new life into the world. It’s very rewarding, and very high adrenaline.” Perfect for a former Space Girl.
Watch Yana Demian perform on the piano at the Wagner College Spiro Nursing Pinning Ceremony in December 2009, following a candle lighting ceremony and recitation of the Florence Nightingale Oath.