By Monica Stark
Sophia Wang, 17, of Elk Grove competed in the final round of “Cultural China-Water Cube Cup,” which has been likened to the equivalent of “The Voice” in China.
In this competition, ethnic Chinese singers were chosen after preliminary rounds held around the world to perform songs of choice in Chinese.
Prior to making the final round in Beijing, Wang competed in the regional prelims held in San Francisco. From there, recordings and her resume were sent to the judges who invited her to compete in the finals.
“It was like a really frantic and hectic time during the summer,” Wang said. “But it was really fun. I definitely gained a lot of insight on specifically Chinese songs because this was strictly a Chinese song competition only.”
Unfortunately for Wang and the other competitors, COVID-19 restrictions kept them from meeting each other.
“It was just so sad for me because, if it was like a normal year like previous years, I would have gotten the chance to meet so many new friends from other countries and I feel like that would have been so fun,” she said.
Choosing to compete in-person, rather than in a virtual option, Wang said she longed to be on the stage again.
“I used to do that often around here just locally, but it was kind of like something that I haven’t done in a while and I really, really felt like I could use that opportunity,” she said.
She asked her mother to drive her to San Francisco.
“It was really fun and refreshing for me...It was so fast,” the singer said.
With not much time to prepare, Wang said she pulled out a song that she did two years ago when she was in China and while she worked on it, memories of past performances came to mind.
“I used that song to compete in San Francisco and they had a stage and everything so it was really, really nice for me to get back into that feeling,” she said.
In San Francisco, Wang said she reached out to one of the judges there to help with her Chinese pronunciation.
“I definitely needed a lot of work on that,” she said. “So yeah, I had the honor to receive Chinese training as well as some vocal training from her, which is really cool because she provided a lot of different insights, definitely, culture-wise, and vocally. So that was really, really cool...I feel so much more connected to like my culture more now that I’m older, I understand so much more than when I was like, 14 or 13 (years old).”
For the first initial rounds at the international level, she chose a ballad, which translates in English as “Where Did All the Time Go?” While she usually sticks to upbeat pop songs, she challenged herself with a song that she needed to appeal to the audience’s emotions.
“That’s something that I’ve always been struggling with,” she admitted.
She showed another side of herself and another style of the song that she could do.
The song’s lyrics pull at her emotions, as it tells stories about how time flies, something that she is experiencing as she grows up.
As she explained: “Your parents getting older, and everybody’s just getting older around you and maturing and then you slowly are doing your own things and you also realize you grow older as well, while other people are growing old. It’s just this realization that you haven’t really gotten a chance to cherish the things, the people, that you love, and basically, just time flies by.”
Wang has been singing throughout her childhood and began taking singing lessons when she was about 12 years old.
“It was like a Chinese talent show and then I chose to sing instead of reading a Chinese poem and that’s what kind of got me into thinking maybe I should take lessons and learn how to sing properly,” she said. “So I think this is really interesting because if it wasn’t for that one specific Chinese talent competition when I was, in elementary school I don’t think I would have ever thought about taking vocal lessons. I would have probably just been in an elementary choir.”
A current student at Sac Valley Vocals, Wang was the finalist at the 2019 Elk Grove Teen Idol where she sang a cover of “Hurt” by Christina Aguilera.
Besides taking singing lessons, when she was in middle school, she performed in musical theater. But in general, music has simply been a stress reliever for her.
“It’s just something that helps,” Wang said. “It’s like the remedy to like a lot of things in my life, like boredom or stress. Whenever I’m bored, I can just listen to music or even sing myself.”
Wang’s upbringing aided in her singing Chinese, as her first language is Mandarin and she has acted as her parents’ translator in certain situations and learned English at school.
A junior at Franklin High School, Wang is in the school choir and is going to sing as much as she can while stressed with school.
“Right now I just want to enjoy the authenticity of singing, and I’m not going to try and let stress overtake the passion that I have in music,” she said.
Besides focusing on academics right now, Wang is working on a few songs in preparation for the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival. She says to look out for an Adele song at the festival.