Santilli was born to an Italian father and a French-Canadian mother. Santilli's earliest performances began at age 9 playing trumpet for her father’s Italian wedding band in Toronto. Ivana is also fluent in Italian and French.
During her schooling, she hooked up with her first band, Bass is Base, a band which gained national attention . The trio’s funk and soul fusion garnered them a number of Juno, CMVA, and MMVA awards, and they released two albums with A&M/Polygram & Island Records in the U.S.
Bass is Base broke up, and Ivana asked to be released from her contract with A&M records. She wrote and recorded 10 new songs as a solo artist within a month of the breakup. She then began working as a session musician (keyboards, Back up vocals) with various bands: Soul Attorneys, Women ah Run Tings, Punjabi by Nature, Holly McNarland.
Her solo career began with the release of her album Brown in April 1999.
The album Brown became one of the most successful independent albums released in Canada that year, outselling major label releases. The album included soul and bossa nova, as well as drum 'n bass ("Sun + Moon = Tomorrow"), and featured Santilli's vocals, keys, and trumpet. The album led to a Juno nomination in 2000 as best new solo artist, and also featured '"If Ever I Fall", a duet with singer Glenn Lewis during his early career
Santilli toured across North America, and played live with James Brown, Tito Puente, Barenaked Ladies, De La Soul, Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies, The Fugees, Jann Arden, Maceo Parker, Sylk130, Bahamadia, Pharcyde, and The Roots. One of her three performances during the Montreal Jazz Festival was the subject of a one-hour Bravo! television special. Peer publishing signed her as a writer in the fall of 2000.
In August, 2004 she released her second album, Corduroy Boogie, which included the singles, "Deserve" "Superstar" and "What Matters". The video version of "What Matters" appears on a various artists compilation entitled Required Listening. This album featured collaborations with James Poyser, King Britt, Dwele, Dego (4Hero), Kaidi Tatham (Bugz In The Attic), soul legend Omar, Stuart Matthewman (Sade, Maxwell, Sweetback). She then became heavily involved as a keyboardist in remix collaborations for Jazzanova, King Britt, Scuba, Vikter Duplaix, Steven Spacek, All Saints, Appleton: "Don't Worry", Rosey (Def Jam), Roy Ayers, Larry Gold. After touring Japan (blue note), and Europe, in New York, she appearded as an instrumentalist on various soundtrack recordings for film. Her third album TO.NY was released in June, 2008 with the singles "Whateva U Want" and "Been Thru This" which reached #91 on the Canadian Hot 100.
Santilli signed to CP Records and released her fourth studio album, Santilli in June, 2010. The first single is "Your Girl Tonight" and the second single is "Letting Go". Six of the songs on Santilli are new recordings, while the remainder were from TO.NY.
Ivana's 5th studio album was prereleased on February 13, 2015 and released digitally worldwide on March 10, 2015.April 1999: Brown (Brown Recordings)
August 2004: Corduroy Boogie (Brown Recordings)
June 2008: TO.NY (Brown Recordings) review
June 2010: Santilli (CP Records)
March 2015: Late Night Light (Brown Recordings)