Musicians of Irvington: Anika Mohan


Anika Mohan

Anika Mohan (10) is an alto singer in the Viking Jazz choir and Chamber Choir

I started singing when I was five years old, so it’s been about 10 years now. Initially, it was mostly my parents driving me, and up till sixth grade, I was just doing Indian classical singing. What that meant was I was doing a lot of music that my peers didn’t listen to, so I didn’t really feel connected to the music in any way. But when I entered seventh grade, I joined Horner’s advanced choir. There, I started doing Western music – it was stuff that my peers and I could appreciate. The first time we had a choir concert in seventh grade was amazing. Even though it was just in the gym, having that full of a sound was something that I’d never experienced before. 

Later, I was part of a summer program called Summer in the City, which had a six week choral workshop. We auditioned to get in, and it was a big massive choir of students aged 14 or 15 to seniors in high school and freshmen in college. This camp required sight reading on the spot, which I did not know how to do. It was also a lot more challenging in terms of the rigor and the vocal maturity expected. Then, I was part of California All-State Choir in eighth grade. Compared to choir in school, the repertoire was a lot more challenging. It was hard as it was happening, but I left with a lot of skills that I would not have otherwise. 

 A struggle I’ve faced is finding the motivation to keep going. At one point in sixth or seventh grade, I didn’t know why I was singing; until then it was just something my parents made me do. But at that point, I realized my parents could make me go to the classes, but the effort was mine to put in. I read a lot of books about finding your thing, and so I started narrowing down my list, and singing was one of the only things left. I’m not really sure if it was a natural inclination or just a matter of chance. 

As a younger student, another challenge was not eating certain foods. I try not to drink milk, because it causes the voice to slide. I don’t eat chocolate because it causes the voice to dry out. I remember for All-State in eighth grade, I had a really, really bad cold. The only thing keeping me going was honey and Gatorade. I basically had four spoons of honey and two Gatorade bottles per day. It was not one of my best moments.

One of the songs I enjoyed most was “Seasons of Love,” which we sing every year for graduation. Mr. Lorigan carried on this tradition throughout the years, even through COVID. My favorite song of all time is “Ballade to the Moon.” That song almost brings me to tears. Meanwhile, the most challenging song for me was “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” from The Phantom of the Opera, because it has a lot of high notes in it. 

In the future, I would want to continue on with singing, even in college and potentially after that. So my plan is – as of now – to join some type of ensemble in college. A lot of colleges have acapella groups or groups that fuse Indian with Western music. As cliché as it sounds, I think Indian classical music gave me the basis that would have taken years for me to build with Western music. It’s just so vocally exhaustive that your voice builds resistance in a certain way. The contrast between the two and having the best of both worlds definitely helped me.