Humans of Harker: Transcending tradition

Aria Jain approaches her interests with love, dedication and originality


Lavanya Subramanian

“I want to be remembered as a person with varying interests that might not always align but I hope that [people] can see that this is what is important to me. When people look at me I hope they know the things that I value,” Aria Jain (12) said.

A couple of years ago, during one of her first weeks as a yoga instructor, Aria Jain (12) found herself facing a class of middle schoolers. Only, her new pupils seemed indifferent to her efforts to teach. Some lay down on the floor, disregarding her instructions about certain poses. One student tied her shoelaces throughout the entire class, Aria recalled, while another Judo-kicked his friend. This initial question of how to keep her students engaged during the 40-minute class puzzled her at first. Eventually, she found a way.

The summer before senior year, Aria began implementing her plan: blending traditional yoga instruction with discussion and games. She created a red light, green light activity inspired by “Squid Game,” where a student at the front of the room either called out red light and named a yoga pose for the others to hold, or green light, when the students would sprint forward towards the finish line. Through this experience, she realized she could infuse her creativity into even a discipline as old as yoga, to make it more accessible for her students to appreciate.

“That was really eye-opening, because you have this ancient practice of yoga, where the structures are rigid,” Aria said. “There’s so many different types of yoga, but how many yoga games are really there for kids? How many of those yoga sequences are really there to keep kids occupied?”

As in yoga, Aria adds her personal touch to singing as well, using a process she has developed over the years for learning new songs. She starts by researching the history behind song lyrics to understand the original purpose of the song. Then, she applies solfege, or sol-fa syllables, to the song, before finally learning the notes. As a singer since second grade, Aria joined Cantilena in her junior year. To her, singing serves as a form of communication or narration.

 “I really love [singing] because it embraces all of the topics that I really like,” Aria said. “It has culture in it. When you think about songs from different parts of the world, it has the voices of people who might not necessarily always be heard. There’s just so many aspects to singing which I really love and it’s, to me, a form of storytelling.”

For Aria, the contrasting yet complementary nature between the performance-centered preparation needed for singing and the steady, continual practice required for yoga further cultivates her interest in both. This contrast allows her to appreciate the distinctive aspects of each activity.

“[Singing] shows me some things lead up to one pinnacle of a moment, or one crescendo, and you’re reaching up for a sublime moment,” Aria said. “Versus for yoga, you’ve spent so much time and energy trying to perfect all of these things and it’s really drawn out and the amount of energy which you put into it carries on for the long term.”

While Aria treasures the experience of performance and the opportunity to explore diverse perspectives through singing, she also lets her own character shine through when performing. Upper school choral teacher Susan Nace, who has taught Aria for the past four years, noted her ability to express herself on stage.

“There are some people who can perform, but they are performing as somebody else or they’re performing a character,” Nace said. “Aria performs from her heart and her soul. What you see when she performs is the true her. Not a character, not somebody who’s putting on a mask, but just her.”

Aria’s authenticity and sincere nature are traits her friends have noticed as well. Close friend Namrata Karra (12), who met Aria in ninth grade, respects how Aria balances consideration for others’ feelings and opinions with assertiveness in expressing her own thoughts. 

“She thinks about people, but she will also always hold her ground,” Namrata said. “She never gets walked over — that’s one of the things that I admire most about her. She’s taught me you don’t always have to be a people-pleaser, you can be who you are, unapologetically. Aria definitely embodies that to the best.”

Close friend Anushka Mehrotra (12) also appreciates Aria’s kindness. Anushka, who has known Aria since ninth grade, commented on Aria’s empathetic nature and ability to form good rapport with others.

“[Aria is] very down to earth and very humble, but also very funny,” Anushka said. “And she gets people, she just gets people. She’s super empathetic. She’ll do things without expecting anything in return.”

Aria’s systematic approach to learning new songs, as well as her desire to sing flawlessly, has helped her cultivate patience with herself when learning a new piece. She acknowledged the challenges she faces during this process as motivation for her to persevere in achieving her goal. 

“Something that’s difficult for me when I sing is not being perfect [on] my first try around and not getting it completely right,” Aria said. “And that’s part of the process — knowing that you’re not going to be perfect but continuously striving for it and pushing yourself even when it’s hard on the first try.”

Despite the obstacles she faces while rehearsing, Aria finds immense joy in singing and considers it an important part of her life, as she does yoga. Through these activities, she gains new perspectives and insights, whether it’s performing songs from diverse cultures or empathizing with the needs of each yoga student. The small moments of happiness these activities bring, such as teaching her family yoga or singing with Cantilena without masks for the first time after the pandemic, are some of the reasons why she cherishes these pursuits.

“I want to be remembered as a person with varying interests that might not always align but I hope that [people] can see that this is what is important to me,” Aria said. “When people look at me I hope they know the things that I value.”