Student musician goes from ‘The Voice’ to Stanford
Anthony Arya, ’24, was a contestant on season 15 of the NBC television hit talent show The Voice. Now the singer, songwriter and guitarist is marking the end of his first quarter at Stanford with a new holiday album.
Over the past several years, Anthony Arya has made a name for himself in the Northern California music scene. But it was his appearance on NBC’s The Voice that exposed him to a national audience.
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In 2018, Arya was a contestant on season 15 of the popular singing competition show that features celebrities judging promising singers based solely on their vocal abilities. It was a milestone in his budding music career that broadened his audience and exposed him to the world of entertainment.
“It was a crazy window into show business,” Arya said. “I learned a lot.”
Since beating out thousands of other acts to make it onto one of the country’s biggest stages, Arya has recorded his original music and performed around the country. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced him to cancel many live musical performances and postpone a tour, he’s found other ways to keep his music alive.
This fall, Arya enrolled at Stanford, where he’s studying remotely from Santa Cruz and performing with the Stanford jazz combo via Zoom. The group is using a new Stanford-developed software called JackTrip that allows isolated musicians to jam together in real-time. And last month, he released a holiday album: Anthony Arya: Home for the Holidays.
The new album is just the latest in a string of artistic and professional accomplishments for this musician turned college student.
Competing on The Voice
Born in San Francisco and raised in Santa Cruz, Arya immersed himself in music at a young age, taking guitar lessons, playing in bands and joining his school’s choir. At home, he frequently watched The Voice with his mom.
“We would watch every Monday or Tuesday night,” he said. “I loved watching the different kinds of artists that would go on the show. That was always a point of interest for me.”
On the show, four celebrity singing coaches evaluate contestants’ performances and form teams of select artists that they mentor through the competition. Singers compete in numerous rounds, and by the end of each season the winner receives $100,000 and a recording contract.
During a trip to Houston, Texas, to visit friends, Arya learned of an open-call audition for the show in that city and, on a whim, decided to try out. Having to audition multiple times against a pool of thousands of other hopefuls, he didn’t expect to go very far.
“One thing led to another – audition after audition – and the next thing I know I’m out in L.A.,” he said.
In the summer of 2018, Arya joined 47 other contestants to film The Voice at Universal Studios Hollywood. His first appearance on the show was his blind audition, during which judges Adam Levine, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton evaluated his performance with their chairs turned away from him. Accompanied by his acoustic guitar, Arya performed “Danny’s Song” by Kenny Loggins.
“It was weird because I was living out this routine that I’d watched so many times growing up,” Arya said. “So it was all pretty surreal.”
Impressed with the performance, Levine, lead singer of the group Maroon 5, turned around and became Arya’s singing coach for the first two rounds of the competition. Being on stage before a packed studio audience, bright lights and cameras, Arya said he never let his nerves get the best of him. He credits his youth baseball career with helping him maintain composure as a singer and musician.
“I was a pitcher,” he said, adding that being on a baseball mound is much like the spotlight of a stage. “You have to really control your emotions. So that transition from pitching to being on stage and performing, I think it helped my nerves a lot.”
Following the battle round of the competition, Arya was “stolen” onto Hudson’s team, where he remained through the third round. Hudson is a singer and actress who rose to fame in the movie Dreamgirls.
Building a music career
Although a highlight of his young music career, Arya’s performances on The Voice were certainly not his first. Over the past several years he has performed at venues throughout Northern California. In addition to his singing abilities, Arya has developed his skills on the acoustic and electric guitars, and also became a prolific songwriter. He’s inspired by other rock and blues artists such as Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Elvis Presley, as well as more contemporary performers like John Mayer and Kaleo.
“The beauty of music is that everyone plays it a little bit differently,” Arya said. “I love hearing what other people are doing.”
Following his appearance on The Voice, Arya recorded his debut album, Going to California, which was released in early 2019. He followed that up a year later with his second album The Road. Just last month, Arya released his third album, Anthony Arya: Home for the Holidays, a collection of 22 holiday songs he performed live last year at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz.
Arya’s musical accomplishments were recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; this past summer he received the Presidential Scholars in the Arts award, which recognizes some of the nation’s most distinguished high school seniors for their artistic accomplishments.
He said many people ask why he’s attending college, rather than pursuing his music full-time. But he said that Stanford has always been his dream school and that academics will only make him a better performer.
“It’s really important for my songwriting,” he said. “I think a liberal arts education will really influence my music and my ability to write music that has an impact.”