‘The Voice’ contestant Anthony Arya ’24 reflects on frosh year at Stanford, new holiday album

Jan. 10, 2021, 8:11 p.m.

When Anthony Arya ’24 first stepped on stage as one of 40,000 contestants on NBC’s “The Voice,” he hardly expected to make it through the blind audition and into the next round. And there was no way to prepare for show judge Adam Levine choosing him just moments into his performance. 

At just 16 years old, Arya launched his musical journey through the hit national show. Now a frosh starting his second quarter at Stanford, he’s seeking to find the balance between music and academics as he enters the next stage in his life. 

A guitarist, singer and songwriter, Arya grew up watching “The Voice” on his home television, familiarizing himself with all aspects of the singing competition. When he had the chance to enter open call auditions, he jumped at the opportunity. 

Seeing Levine’s spinning chair light up with “I Want You” made the entire experience “surreal,” Arya told The Daily. “It was a crazy summer in 2018.”

Arya spent the summer on the show recording in Los Angeles and diving into the world of music entertainment while competing against 47 other contestants who passed the blind auditions. He finished his time on “The Voice” during the 32-contestant Knockout Round. 

He said a highlight was building many lasting connections with fellow competitors, an aspect he said many viewers can miss. Arya said he also learned about the legal aspect of show business and how to create a career from his talents while on the show.

This fall, Arya began his transition to life as an undergraduate at Stanford, equipped with his whirlwind experience at “The Voice.” 

Before the academic year started, Arya said he wanted to involve himself in the vibrant musical community at Stanford, though this year’s circumstances sidelined his aspirations to meet other music lovers in person. 

To get a taste of the campus musical scene, Arya joined the Stanford Jazz Combo. The student musicians connect digitally and use JackTrip, open-source software that enables sound streaming over the internet, to host virtual sessions in real-time.

“I’ve been exploring the possibilities of this technology, and it’s really amazing to figure it out,” Arya said of JackTrip and his experience with the jazz group. 

Music professor Chris Chafe D.M.A ’83, the founder of JackTrip, told The Daily that student musicians like Arya have been “helping push the limits” of online connection. As music groups become more accustomed to the technology, they enjoy playing in concerts from various locations in smooth, real-time live streams. 

While music remains his primary passion, Arya said he also enjoys focusing on other academic subjects. He wants to pursue an education in computer science, and he also says he is fascinated by history. Arya also joined Stanford’s Structured Liberal Education (SLE) program, adding that a liberal arts education will positively influence his songwriting.

‘I fell in love with performing’

Arya found a home in music from a young age, playing the drums in his after-school elementary rock band. 

He transitioned to his go-to instrument, the guitar, in fifth grade, which he “wanted to stick with and take as far” as he could. 

These early encounters with music fostered an interest in training his voice, propelling him to join his school choir. Arya credits Alex Koppel, the director of music at his Santa Cruz high school, with impacting the trajectory of his musical life. 

Koppel told The Daily that his former student has been successful so far because he “just lives and breathes music.”

Another defining trait is his determination, according to his vocal coach Dee Kohanna Davis, who said that it helped her and Arya work together to “discover in more depth what his [voice] was capable of.”

Arya noted that his vocal and playing style draws from his multifaceted heritage. His mom, who was raised in West Virginia, passed down her love of Appalachian folk music, and his Indian background encouraged him to explore genres related to his cultural upbringing.

“Certainly, my heritage has influenced what kind of music I like to explore,” Arya said. 

Arya’s early experiences in music set the path for his burgeoning career, but this winter marks a new milestone: the release of his holiday album.

The album “Home for the Holidays” consists of recordings from live performances that Arya sang with his band in 2019 and comes at a time when Arya is at home in Santa Cruz.

The new music was a “special project” to put together, Arya said. “I’m happy to get it out there for people looking for some holiday tunes.”

As he continues his musical and academic aspirations in the new year, Arya said that he looks forward to touring out of state and exploring the “incredible” opportunities that technology offers to the world of music.

Even with his rising fame, Arya’s friends say that he never forgets his origins and always acts with humility. Quinn Becker, a close friend and bandmate, said that Arya is able to remember everyone he meets. 

“It’s a really great trait for a person to be able to remember someone in your crowd … He’s a genuinely good, caring guy,” Becker said. 

Contact Jack Quach at jackcquach ‘at’ gmail.com.

Jack is a high school student in The Stanford Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.

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