Ananya Akula Can’t be Outsung

Smashing school records, sophomore choir student Ananya Akula pushes through adversity to better her singing abilities, spending hours every day at rehearsals or choir events.


Photo Courtesy of Ananya Akula

In Sept. 2021, sophomore Ananya Akula auditioned and made it into All-National the NAfME Mixed Honor Choir; however, music isn’t just about auditions and scores for Akula. “Music is my passion, not a hobby,” Akula said. “It’s crucial to remember that because it reminds me that I bring something important to our world, and that I should never give up on that.”

Aarohi Motwani, News Section Editor

Since kindergarten, sophomore Ananya Akula has felt a unique attraction to singing. “There’s nothing in music I’ve done that I’ve regretted, and that alone shows me that I’m doing the right thing,” Akula said. “I’m at my full potential when I sing.”

After years of perseverance and hard work, Akula became the first freshman in LCPS to get into the All Virginia Choir in 2021, and got into All Virginia Choir this year with a perfect score of 200 out of 200. In July, she  will attend a Carnegie Mellon Summer Vocal Program where she will experience Pre-College life as a vocal student. 

At the age of five, Akula started lessons for carnatic singing, a form of Indian music, and enjoyed that these lessons allowed her to learn more about her culture while getting into formally learning music. After six years of carnatic music, Akula joined the Stone Hill Middle School choir as a sixth grader, which inspired her to try out for honor choirs and theater programs. 

When Akula was in eighth grade, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, she took part in ACDA Regionals (American Choral Directors Association), a choir which requires an audition process to get in, and learned important lessons from renowned conductor and educator Tesfa Wondemagegnehu. “All of the songs had this overarching theme [that] every human on this earth has a purpose, and we can all cause change and make the world a better place,” Akula said. “Music isn’t just random notes; you’re sharing a story with a community you build.” 

After participating in ACDA regionals, Akula began to take part in community service projects, including starting a music tutoring project within Loudoun County which connects a student from RRHS and SHMS to work on music together asynchronously. She is currently the Community Service Chair for the Rock Ridge choir program.

Apart from Wondemagegnehu, Akula found her inspiration in Rock Ridge choral director Jordan Markwood. “[Markwood] spent countless hours working with students and did projects in Africa to give underprivileged people a music program,” Akula said. “He is the definition of someone that is passionate and cares about his students.”

The passion and care Markwood puts into guiding his students is one of the main reasons Akula decided she wanted to pursue a vocal education major after high school. 

Markwood has always encouraged his students to find a career they love, and he is confident that if Akula were to become a choir teacher, she would show that love and convey it to her future students, infecting them with the same passion she got from him.

Despite Akula’s perfect scores, she can still stumble. Recently, Akula took part in the Bland contest, a music competition for people of all ages, and didn’t receive the best feedback from a judge. Markwood complimented Akula’s ability to take their comments well. “Musicians can take [criticism] in a negative way and spiral downwards and feel bad about themselves, or they can choose to take that feedback and apply what they said or ignore it and move on,” Markwood said. “I’m really proud of her resilience and her ability to continue working at something that she loves and to always do her best.”

Markwood said that Akula has challenged him to be better because of how much she cares about her singing. “Ananya is probably one of the most talented students I’ve ever had — and one that is dedicated to her art form,” Markwood said. 

Akula’s peers also think of her as a role model. “Ananya has taught me what it means to be sure about your intentions and what you love, and [how to] stay grounded with that,” sophomore Olivia McMahon said. 

Akula said that while she had learned a lot of lessons through chorus, the most important one was about following your passions. “Happiness and having fun fulfill you so much. Remember, it’s your life, and you should be the one to decide what you do with it in the end. That took me a lot of learning, but I got there,” Akula said.