Karolina Protsenko is a violin prodigy child with over 1.7 billion combined views on YouTube, across her three channels and her family’s channel. Her life started in Kiev, the capital of at-the-time peaceful country of Ukraine, where she was born to a piano player mother and a guitar playing father on 3 October 2008. She lived peacefully for the next six years, but as geopolitical tensions rose in her region, including the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, in 2015 the family decided against staying and moved to Simi Valley, California USA.
She escaped a living hell
Although the capital is generally the safest part of any country, her parents’ assessment apparently disregarded that fact, which was later proved to have been a prudent choice, given the threat from Russia. As then-president Viktor Yanukovych refused to ratify the people’s decision for Ukraine to begin its integration process into the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), those among the dissatisfied populace received outside funding for an armed revolution, also known as the Maidan Uprising.
Consequently, most Ukrainian cities became unsafe, especially for a 6-year-old girl. Protests were happening everywhere, with radical WWII slogans being shouted left and right. Of course, this was not the whole population – the eastern part of the country supported the president’s decision, and openly opposed the revolutionary movement. Civilian-on-civilian casualties became commonplace as the Maidan grew into a behemoth of unimaginable violence, with even the local authorities splitting according to their political preferences.
As Yanukovych was ousted by the parliament, pro-western Petro Poroshenko took his place. His newly appointed prime minister Olesandr Turchynov showed little interest in negotiating with Ukrainians who stood against the new government, sending the military into the eastern regions to subjugate them through any means necessary.
This decision created a veritable armed conflict, forcing the separatists of the east to take up arms and organize some semblance of a military structure. In spite of mutually agreed-upon treaties, their war continued for eight years, and escalated with Russia’s direct involvement on 24 February 2022. As of late October of the same year, residents of Kiev live with electricity and heating restrictions, while the situation is expected to get much worse over winter. Without a doubt, moving to the US was the most crucial step in Karolina’s rise to prominence.
She took only two years to become a master violinist
Protsenko already had a profound understanding of music when she arrived in North America, which her parents were aware of, and thus wasted no time thrusting her into the study of their craft. Karolina was specifically sent to violin lessons in 2015, and only two years later at the age of nine, she began performing her unique renditions on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, at the same spot that she uses five years later to record her videos.
Come find me on 3rd street Promenade today and say “hi”!!! 6-8 I will be performing for you ❤️🎻!!!
Posted by Karolina Protsenko on Sunday, August 12, 2018
What really makes her stand out is that she doesn’t cover songs the way instrument players normally do that. Instead of playing the melody of the song and replacing all of the music with just the instrument, she plays the full track on a loudspeaker, and uses the violin to replace the voice of the singer. This method has obviously enjoyed enormous success, for two distinct reasons.
The most evident benefit of this type of cover is that the audience gets to hear someone’s entire vocal performance turned into an instrument’s sound, which is untouched by all the other parts of the song, as that’s coming from the loudspeaker. Thus, it’s a pure vocal instrumental. The second perk is that singing a very popular song karaoke-style with one’s fingers is a delicate mastery of its own caliber, and Karolina has thus captivated the hearts of numerous passers-by. On top of that, the prodigy adds another element to her performance – dancing.
Karolina is spread across four YouTube channels
The initial idea that Karolina and her parents had was that she would just play in the street as a busker, and share her passion with strangers, with a humble donation box for anyone to add a dime. Like any street musician, she wasn’t expecting to become rich, however, as is evident five years later, the people absolutely loved it, so much so that she is a bona fide internet sensation. Videos of her busking and dancing are a real treat for sponsors, because YouTube turned her into a superstar.
The channel that started it all is Karolina Protsenko, created on 8 December 2016, now with nearly 900,000 subscribers and over 93 million views. This is initially the channel on which the girl’s parents would upload her performances, but as her popularity grew exponentially, they needed a place to condense only street violin content, while the primary channel would be kept for actual music videos.
That second channel is called Karolina Protsenko Violin, and is far more successful, with more than 7.6 million subscribers, as well as close to 1.5 billion views. Her all-time most popular videos can be found on this channel, including the “Dance Monkey – Tones and I – Street Performance – Violin Cover” video, with nearly 60 million views.
This brings us to her third channel, which is simply named Karolina Protsenko Vlog. As the name suggests, that’s onto which her family uploads cutouts from her everyday life, ranging from ballet lessons, orchestra participation, taking her dog to the beach, and trying on various school outfits. It has just over 370,000 subscribers, but still more than 55 million views.
Lastly, her mother and father have their own channel too, called The Protsenko Family, with 100,000 subscribers and over 20 million views, created on 13 June 2021. The channel features all members of the family, including Karolina and her two baby siblings, as well as the parents’ day-to-day trials and tribulations with three young children.
The married couple also use it to share very important details about themselves, such as moving to a new house, or meeting a bear in the wilderness. In addition, Karolina also has Facebook and Instagram accounts, with over 10 million and nearly one million followers, respectively.
Ellen’s honorary guest
It turns out that Karolina became so popular that Ellen DeGeneres simply couldn’t afford not to invite her to the show. With that, of course, comes a proper introduction – ‘Our next guest is a 10-year-old violinist who spends every weekend performing on the streets of Santa Monica. Her videos have been viewed over 250 million times online. Performing “Sunflower” by Post Malone, please welcome Karolina.’
As many of you have already seen, I got to perform on The Ellen Show 😍🎻! I am so happy and grateful for this amazing…
Posted by Karolina Protsenko on Sunday, May 5, 2019
She showed up in a pink dress with flowers, and her signature instrument, playing the same song that Ellen showed a video of, along with the whole dance routine and energetic twirls. After she finished the performance and they got to talking, the child star explained that she started playing the violin at six years of age, without even initially understanding the instrument.
She said ‘I just wanted to play an instrument, and my parents asked me what do I wanna play – a violin or a flute, and I just picked violin without knowing what it was.’ Ellen then said ‘And you must practice a lot. How often do you practice?’ Karolina responded with ‘Every day, two to three hours.’ ‘Wow,’ Ellen said ‘that’s why you’re that good, and then you dance around, it’s so entertaining. And then you’re on the streets of the Promenade, right? In Santa Monica. Do you love that?’
The child simply smiled and said ‘Yes,’ after which Ellen inquired about the money she makes, asking whether the people are ‘generous.’ Karolina gave an affirmative answer once again. Ellen asked ‘What are you gonna save up for? What do you wanna do with your money?’ Protsenko explained that she’s keeping the cash for college, but that she also wants a puppy. However, her mother told her that they can’t have one yet due to their house not being big enough, and having no large backyard.
Ellen agreed, saying ‘Yes, and time for a puppy, ‘cause puppies take a lot of it. Also, there’s a lot of dogs that look like puppies, that are a little older, and they don’t act like puppies, ‘cause puppies are a lot. They chew on furniture and they pee in your house. Just to let you know.’
The host then revealed a very generous surprise for the aspiring artist, saying ‘Alright, well I got you something for the next time you perform. Bring it out.’ An assistant emerged from backstage and brought her a blue tip bucket showing a sign with her picture and the text ‘Thank you for your support. As seen on ELLEN.’ The next and even greater gift was the beautiful blue violin featuring Ellen’s face with heart eyes, which Karolina was especially excited about.
She’s a selfless soul
Karolina’s family is excited to help wherever they can, and they’re known benefactors of good causes, especially the star herself. In 2018, she performed for free at the California Club in Los Angeles, where the annual gala of the Operation Walk organization was being held. The event in question was hosted by a group of all-volunteer medical professionals, whose aim is to provide free joint replacement surgeries around the world.
It was started in 1996 by prestigious orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lawrence D. Dorr, and over the years has grown into a movement that has helped more than 17,000 people in 25 countries. The organization started in the US, but has since expanded its premises into Canada, Ireland, Thailand and even the United Kingdom. For this group, Karolina performed her rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
She is also a Teen Cancer America ambassador, and as such went to represent them with her performance at the FaerieWorlds annual music festival. Her family recorded a story-like video about the whole event, that can be found on her YouTube channel.
Hey everyone, hope you all have a great day #karolinaprotsenko #aesthetic pic.twitter.com/5y0LRhZpgK
— Karolina Protsenko (@karolinaprotsen) September 29, 2020
Lindsey Stirling is her idol
When one reflects upon the performing style of Lindsey Stirling, one of the greatest violinists alive in 2022, it becomes easy to see where Karolina draws her inspiration. Unlike most of her colleagues, Lindsey likes to take the violin straight into the action and make herself part of the story of every music video instead of simply playing on the side.
She always puts on a show with a wide range of motions and complicated dance moves that generally shouldn’t be possible while playing a violin. It’s this very style that made her stand out from everyone else, and today it’s her signature. She was apparently surprised to see Karolina following in her steps, and decided to surprise her.
Protsenko was interviewed in “The Access Live TV Show” in 2019, and when she answered that Lindsey is her idol, the hosts happily presented her with a video message from the superstar herself. She said ‘What’s up Karolina? Lindsey Stirling here, and I have seen your videos! Even before they told me about you, I’ve seen your stuff, you are so amazing.’ Karolina found it hard to contain her excitement, grinning uncontrollably at the footage.
Lindsey continued, saying ‘You’re killing it. Keep chasing your dreams. Keep working hard, because, girl, you’re gonna get to wherever you wanna go. You’re awesome.’ The child star rubbed her face in disbelief, as the hosts revealed that there was another video message for her. This time, it was from Howie Mandel, who wanted to tell her to keep working hard, and come back to “America’s Got Talent” next year.
It’s a little-known fact that Karolina auditioned there, but didn’t get the green light from enough judges. Howie thus assured her that violinists simply need to continue working hard, because he has one in his family and knows it to be the case. He called rejection ‘a suit of armor’ that Karolina can now use to her benefit, and come back better and stronger.
Protsenko then said she would be coming back to “America’s Got Talent” later on, explaining how she always feels empowered, thanks to virtually unlimited support from her classmates and online audiences.
Karolina has found her phobia
According to the video posted by her father when she was almost 14 years of age, Karolina seems to have an unexplainable fear of ticks. Since they are in the arachnid family, and technically not insects, it’s safe to assume she has arachnophobia – an irrational fear of spiders.
She found a tick on the ear of Cashew – the family dog. Since ticks need to be removed carefully so as to avoid their teeth remaining stuck inside the flesh after the removal of the body, her father approached the issue with a creative solution. He used a plastic fork and hydrogen peroxide.
After disinfecting the wound with the topical solution, he put the tick through the fork and began spinning it in circles slowly, allowing for proper and safe extraction of the head with all of its teeth. The dog was fine and everything went according to plan, but Karolina simply couldn’t stop crying, calling the experience ‘the worst day of my life.’
Her own musical business
While Karolina primarily makes her livelihood through tips and ads on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, she also has six albums listed for sale on her website. While none of the songs featured in them were originally created by her, the renditions on offer across the CD’s carry the customary musical brilliance that the child displays in the streets every weekend.