Arya Samaratunga: Conquering the chorus one note at a time


Credit: Courtesy of Arya Samaratunga

Sophomore Arya Samaratunga performs with the WHS’s all-female a cappella group, the Muses during a Feb. 10 a cappella concert. Samaratunga also sings in WHS’s Honors Concert Choir.

Katya Luzarraga

Stepping into the spotlight, sophomore Arya Samaratunga’s voice carries the soft melody of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” as she performs for WHS’s all-female acapella group, the Muses. To some, singing might be a hobby, but to Samaratunga singing is her passion.

Since she was nine-years-old, Samaratunga has been discovering her voice. Growing up surrounded by music, there was never a question of whether or not music would be in her life.

“When I was five, I saw my brother playing the piano and I wished I could be like him because watching him play was so cool to me,” Samaratunga said. “That’s when I started playing the piano, because I realized that music is amazing and I want to create music.”

Samaratunga’s passion and curiosity for the musical arts brought her and her family to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for six years from 2015 to 2021. Although she grew up in Massachusetts, Samaratunga pursued her musical talent in Dubai by attending the Centre for Musical Arts, where she specialized in singing and playing the piano.

“I really started getting into singing when I was nine,” Samaratunga said. “I started taking voice lessons because I realized that I kind of have a good voice, and I joined a choir within my [performance] school in Dubai.”

The Centre for Musical Arts specializes in providing students with ample opportunities to expand their musicianship through both individual and small group lessons. The Centre for Musical Arts focuses on students’ musical abilities, requiring many of their students to take musical exams under the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM.) Samaratunga had to learn how to adjust and embrace a different way of schooling that didn’t focus as much on her academics, but rather on her musical career.

“When I was in Dubai, my school choir was definitely practicing a lot more, and it was stressful at times,” Samaratunga said. “But I think whenever we did an exam, the feeling of accomplishment in you when you got your scores back and you did well. [That feeling] was just so amazing.”

Before moving to Dubai in 2015, Samaratunga lived in Massachusetts until she was eight-years-old. She moved to Wayland in 2021, and since then she has joined the Honors Concert Choir at WHS and the all-female acapella group, The Muses. The Honors Concert Choir and The Muses allows Samaratunga to continue singing during the school year. Due to her schoolwork, Samaratunga is not able to attend out-of-school voice lessons as much as she would like.

“I’m not able to sing as much outside of school like I was able to when I was in middle school,” Samaratunga said. “Now, I don’t really have the time to take voice lessons anymore, but I’m in the Muses and Honors Concert Choir in school. I’ve also been doing some singing programs occasionally outside of school.”

Being a member of the Muses, Samaratunga spends a minimum of three hours a week working with her fellow Muses, sometimes more when there is an upcoming concert. Recently, the Muses had an a cappella performance on Feb. 10, where Samaratunga sang an arrangement of the song “Valerie.”

“I think the best part about being part of the Muses is when we finish a song after all the parts of the performance just click and we look at each other knowing that it sounded amazing,” Samaratunga said. “It’s an incredible feeling.”

At the beginning of February, Samaratunga traveled to New York City to perform with the Honors Performance Series, an opportunity that few students get to experience. Samaratunga was hesitant to apply, but with the encouragement of her choral teacher, she sent in a last-minute application and was selected as one of the finalists to go to New York City.
“I was not expecting to get in actually,” Samaratunga said. “It seemed like I wouldn’t get in because it’s a huge program, and I was just so shocked when I got in. It was an amazing experience to be in New York City learning under such talented conductors.”

While attending the Honors Performance Series, Samaratunga rehearsed alongside other talented finalists at Carnegie Hall in New York City. During the daytime, she focused on performance preparation under the leadership of master conductors. At night, Samaratunga was able to explore New York City sites and musical scenes.

“[Performing at Carnegie Hall] was incredible,” Samaratunga said. “The amount of talent in one room was unbelievable, and I would definitely do that again.”

Throughout her career in music, Samaratunga has received many achievements, such as being selected for Massachusetts Music Educators Association’s All-State Festival for her exceptional singing performance. However, along with these achievements comes obstacles that Samaratunga has overcome in her decade-long performing career.

“I’m trying to figure out what music really fits with my voice, and it is challenging,” Samaratunga said. “I mean, every singer goes through battles with their vocal range. Also, when I first started performing on stage I definitely dreaded it and had stage fright. It was the worst thing ever because I had such bad anxiety going up on stage.”

Although Samaratunga is only 16-years-old, she’s inspired by the impact that music has had on her life and the lives of others. To her, when she’s up on the stage, singing individually or with a group, that’s when everything comes together.

“I want to build my music and music career more, because when I’m performing in a group, it’s a lot better and a lot more fun,” Samaratunga said. “I’m sharing music with a bunch of people, and on top of that I get to perform with [the Muses.] I’m just so grateful for that opportunity.”