BELLEVUE, Wash. — The mesmerizing sound of this instrument from India captivated Kaira Soin the instant she heard its hum.
"Once I heard the sitar and the way it sounded, and the way it resonated in the room, it was something that was very fascinating, it stood out to me,” the Sammamish 14-year-old said.
It started in third grade, when her science teacher, Randy Hollinger at Open Window School in Bellevue, used his sitar to demonstrate sound waves.
"Kaira, she just kind of saw it and she was just interested in it and I was like, ‘Well you can try it,'" Hollinger explained.
"And I was like, 'Yeah!' I was so excited,” Kaira said.
She started taking lessons from Mr. Hollinger at school. Her parents Ravi and Anu Soin remember when she got her first sitar. It was when she was eight, and it was bigger than she was. Kaira may have been small but her desire and discipline were mighty.
“Sitar is so formal that you really need to play it a certain way," Hollinger said. "It has to be learned properly, with a teacher. So Kaira would show up, she kept showing up, and she was really consistent."
"You feel the music, you're playing with your hands, and you feel it all through your hands and your whole body," Kaira said. "That music just resonates, and it lights up the whole room and it lights up your personality."
Kaira recently won first place in the Grand Prize Virtuoso, an international music competition for gifted students. She was the only sitar player competing.
But this instrument has given Kaira much more than competitive success.
It's helped her heal.
"I think music is a big way of showing your emotions — I was born with a lot of health issues so I've been in and out of the hospital and it's always been a way of healing and expressing myself,” she said.
“It's been very fascinating to just watch her grow and blossom and just fight all odds,” dad Ravi said. “It definitely makes us proud.”
“We're really excited for her, it's been a really wonderful journey,” mom Anu added.
This ancient instrument with a gourd for a body and up to 21 strings is designed to resonate.
And it clearly resonates with Kaira Soin.
“It's something special to be able to play the sitar and you feel it in every inch of your body and it's an amazing feeling."
Kaira Soin will perform in Salzburg, Austria at the 2022 Grand Prize Virtuoso Winner's Recital in July.