As I sip a cup of tea with this Detroit Country Day student, the singer-songwriter’s personality emerges. Under the tutelage of several coaches, Tara Nayak’s interest developed into a passion, sparking her desire to join several choir groups, including The Michigan Youth Ensemble where she has been a student for nearly four years.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Tara.
Tara Nayak: I was born and raised in Troy my entire life and jumped around between a few schools before I ended up at Detroit Country Day, where I absolutely love it. I love the rigorous college prep program and all that it has to offer. Contrastingly, I have always loved singing, for it offers an outlet for me when I am feeling stressed, or even when I am happy. I love composing songs and being involved in choirs and competitions.
IS: What attracted you to singing in the first place?
TN: I’ve just always been attracted to singing. I cannot remember the exact moment. I know that it allows me to bring joy to other people and I love exploring what my voice can do. I’m excited to see what the future has in store.
IS: What sort of experience do you have in the world of music?
Nayak: I began singing in my school choir in preschool and once I entered sixth grade, I decided to take it as an elective. I have been with my choir director, Ronald Weiler, since that time and have learned so much from him. In addition to that, I have been a part of the Women’s Choir at the University of Michigan for the past three years where I have studied under the guidance of Professor Julie Skadsem. I highly recommend that to anyone who is interested in the vocal arts. Lastly, I was a part of The University of Michigan’s summer program called, MPulse, which is a one week vocal camp.
IS: What’s been the most exciting moment of your musical experience?
TN: Probably the time that I flew down to St. Louis to audition for The Voice. It was an experience like no other. I prepared two songs and waited in line for eight hours before seeing a judge.
IS: Did you get a call back?
TN: Unfortunately, I did not receive a call back. That year, judges were searching for someone who could sing country.
IS: What was your takeaway from that experience? Did you learn anything?
TN: I learned that it is a very competitive industry and that only the most original and creative will succeed in doing so. Also, I have learned that when you do something wrong one time you should learn from the mistake. I don’t plan to give up.
IS: Are you planning to pursue a music degree? Ultimately, do you see yourself in the profession?
TN: I am not sure. I still have to think that over. Ultimately, I want to pursue a degree in psychiatry and maybe minor in music.
IS: Why psychiatry?
TN: I think that mental health is a large issue and that it needs to be addressed. Many people often overlook it and having one is considered negative. I want to be part of the remedy and help those who suffer from conditions.
IS: Mental health is definitely a huge concern — why do you think it is such a big
topic among teens?
TN: There are a couple of answers for that. One is social media. People are always looking at each other’s posts and develop a large insecurity about who they are, when in fact they should realize how beautiful of a person they are. School is another place where mental health surfaces. Where I go, there is always the need to succeed and to be the best.
IS: School does cause a lot of stress amongst students. How do you decompress from your day of rigor? Do you have any interests within your school? Any clubs?
TN: At school, I am part of the Voices Club, which is a non-fiction creative writing club. I also partake in GIDAS and UNICEF, both of which offer a chance to collaborate. I have also started a club for students with learning disabilities called The Cognition Focus Group.
IS: With all of these extracurriculars, where are you in the process of college applications?
Nayak: I have toured several colleges including, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, DePaul University and Albion, where my dad went to school. I hope to see Loyola over the summer. I have been preparing for the ACT and recently took it. Hopefully, I score well. If not, I plan to take it again.
IS: What excites you most about college?
TN: The different courses that I will be able to take, more emphasis on what I want to pursue. And, definitely meeting new people!
IS: Are you going to join an Indian student association if offered?
TN: Maybe, it depends on where I plan to go and the free time that I have on my hands.
IS: How do you otherwise embrace your Indian culture?
TN: I make sure that I go to the temple at least once every month. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends during the holidays, specifically during Diwali and Holi, which is my favorite. I am bilingual and am able to speak Konkani fluently. My mom’s family is from Mangalore.
IS: How might being able to speak Konkani give you an advantage?
TN: It connects me more to the people who speak it and know it. It gives me and opportunity when people want to learn, to teach them. It is also great because I can communicate with my family in India who may not know much English, but it is a great because I can effectively and fluently communicate with them.
Tara’s Best List:
Best Place for Dinner with Friends: Market in downtown Birmingham
Best Book: Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Best Bollywood Movie: Kabi Kushi Kabi Gam