Andrey Chmut, a saxophone player that hasn’t been able to visit his family in Ukraine for over a year, has found in America an opportunity to start a new life
Andrey Chmut. 30, is a Ukrainian saxophone player who hasn’t been able to see most of his family since February 24, 2022 when his home country was invaded by Russia and a war broke out between the two nations. He moved to the US in November to start a new life – but not without obstacles.
At age 30, he has already recorded three contemporary jazz albums – including one with American legend pianist Bob James. He’s also part of the band that accompanies Ukrainian pop singer sensation Jamala in her world tours.
Born in a small village in Ukraine, son of a Baptist pastor, Chmut developed a connection with music since he was a child. He was a singer in his father’s church choir. But when was 7 years old, his father invited a saxophonist to play in the church’s band – and since then Chmut fell in love with the instrument.
Coming from a humble household, though, Chmut was only able to buy his first sax two years later. At 14, he moved to the capital Kyiv, where he studied at the R. Glier Kyiv Municipal Academy for 8 years and got a bachelor’s degree in musical studies. In 2017, he got a master’s degree for the Kyiv Institute of Culture.
When Chmut was an undergraduate, he met his wife – who was a violin student at the Academy – and they got married. Now, they have a 3-year-old daughter named Liza.
On 15 February 2022, Chmut traveled from Ukraine to the United States to play in a few concerts and to record with two-times Grammy winner Bob James. He was living his best moment, but little he knew his life was about to turn upside down.
On February 24, 2022, little over one year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine, creating a world of chaos for Chmut. He wasn’t able to get back home when the invasion happened, so he managed to have his wife and kid rescued to Lithuania with the help of some friends. In mid-march, they got reunited.
But they were living with a friend, who kindly gave a room to them in his house. They had a safe roof under their head, but not a home. Especially because Chmut’s parents and sister still live in Ukraine. “They don’t want to leave; they are always recording videos to show the real impact of the war. It’s difficult to live there now. Russia in always bombing Kyiv. They had a total blackout a few weeks ago”, said Chmut.
While living in Lithuania, he mostly played in charity concerts in support of Ukraine. In one of them, Bob James flew from the US to play for a crowd of 700 people during the famous Klaipeda Jazz Fest. “Bob and I met via Facebook. I sent him a message asking him to record a track for my first album and he surprisingly said yes. Since then, a friendship was born and I’m very grateful for all his help”.
Thanks to James, Chmut was invited to play with another legendary jazz icon, Dave Koz, in Amsterdam and to work alongside Italian singer Eros Ramazzoti.
In November 2022, Chmut was finally able to enter the US as part of the Department of Homeland Security program “Uniting for Ukraine”, which created a system to give refuge to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
He initially moved to Port St. Lucie – a small city located 113 miles north of Miami, Florida, but now he is staying in Orlando, where he lives in a friend’s house. He hopes to soon move to a place of his own and start a new life with his wife and daughter.
AG immigration – an immigration law firm based in Washington, D.C. – has taken Chmut’s case as pro bono and it’s now helping him to apply for a green card through an EB-1 visa. “We’re sure he can contribute to America with his talent”, says AG Immigration’s CEO, Rodrigo Costa.
AG Immigration’s attorneys were already able to secure a social security and a work permit for Andrey, as also handled his asylum petition. “If he is granted the EB-1 visa, he’ll get a green card and things will be much better for him”, says Costa.
On February, 28 2023, Chmut performed alongside the Bob James Quartet at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, in downtown Seattle. He’s now planning to get more traction on his career, building an American audience.
One of his last creations, in 2022, was a song called Freedom, recorded in partnership with Ukrainian singers Anyanya and CHILIBI. “We plan to release this song in 2023 in support of our country. We want to be free”.