Shyan Koul ’19 Shares Culture and History Through Singing

Leaning into the piano, Shyan Koul ’19 played a chord and began to sing, glancing over at his duet partner, Julia Pratt ’19. As the notes slowed, Koul’s voice became more powerful, earning cheers from the audience. Pratt and Koul performed “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley at Grasshopper 2017, which featured an early 2000s theme.

Koul said, “We had to sing a song that we grew up listening to, but we also made it our own a lot by arranging it very differently. It was really nice to sing with one of my friends in front of so many people, and to share that experience with someone else, who is also just an incredible singer. Also, it was just a nice musical song that we could really vibe with and get into, and we could really feel that connection with the audience.”

Koul has been singing as long as he can remember. With the emphasis his family put on musical pursuits, he began playing violin at the age of six. When he came to Andover, Koul decided to sing publicly for the fun of it.

“In middle school, I was in the school play… and that was a nice experience, but I really enjoyed being with other people and performing with other people. I also wanted to try out the waters and see if I could do something on my own and really explore. I feel like it gave a lot of opportunity to explore myself and find my own style, which I found really important,” said Koul.

According to Koul, he is heavily inspired by his close friends and family, especially his uncle. He says that he continued singing mostly due to the support of those around him.

“My uncle used to always sing for me, and he just had a really, really, nice, wholesome voice which I loved. He always pushed the musical side of me, and it was a great thing to have someone like that in my life,” said Koul.

Koul’s first performance at Andover was during his Junior year at Grasshopper. He sang “Yesterday” by The Beatles with Keynotes, Andover’s co-ed a cappella group.

“[Junior] Fall, I had a solo with Keynotes at Grasshopper, and I was frightened. I was so scared. When I was there, you could tell that I was so awkward. We were supposed to sway from side to side, and I was so nervous, I could barely do it. That was the first time I had sung in front of a lot of people, and it was at a new school. It was [Junior] Fall. I was just a tiny little kid,” said Koul.

Koul says that at the start of his singing career in Andover, he struggled with finding the confidence needed to get into the gifted musical scene at Andover. He wanted to share his own style of singing.

“One thing that was kind of weird was that my style wouldn’t be easily compared to other people, which really gave me a sense of anxiety, because normally when you hear someone’s voice you’d be like ‘Oh, they kind of sound like Sam Smith, or they give me vibes of Ed Sheeran,’ and I never got those kinds of comments. I really started to realize eventually that a lot of things that came from me came from where I come from, and what I do, and my history and background, that give me a different style,” said Koul.

Since then, Koul has gone on to sing in solos and duets at Grasshopper, Abbot Cabaret, and various Coffee Houses as well as performing in his first theater production at Andover, Ragtime. Koul sees singing as a way to momentarily depart from the stresses of Andover life.

“[Singing] gives you a space to really analyze what you want to express. That’s something that we don’t really take a lot of time to do, but I really like how when I sing or when I’m practicing, I can take that time to think about what I want and how I can execute that,” said Koul.