UTalent artist Modern Sophia discuss piano playing roots, recent single

Sage Dunlapp, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 5, 2022 flipbook.

After struggling onto the bench, 6-year-old Sophia Nance struck her grandmother’s piano for the first time, mashing the black and white keys into a dissonant melody. The sound caught the attention of her mother, who quickly enrolled her in piano lessons. 

“Music became the one thing that reaffirmed myself,” Nance said. “I felt good about myself when playing piano.”

From taking piano lessons, creating covers of her favorite songs and eventually writing her own, Nance fell in love with music. Now an electrical engineering junior, the rising popstar signed with UT’s student-run record label, UTalent Records, this year under stage name Modern Sophia. After serving as the label’s songwriting chair during her sophomore year, Nance resigned in the fall to promote her dream-pop solo work.

Lauren Stephens, a marketing sophomore and UTalent marketing vice chair, partnered with Modern Sophia as her marketing representative to help coordinate live performances, develop press kits and promote her music. 

“She performed at Pearl Street the other day for their Women in Film party, and it was super cool watching her play her songs,” Stephens said. “Everyone loved her set so much. It was nice to see her get the credit she deserves for all the hard work she’s been putting in.”

After building her foundation on piano, Nance graduated to the violin in middle school and joined her school’s orchestra. There, she met her best friend Victoria Canales. The pair remained inseparable throughout high school, bonding over school gossip, friend groups and most importantly: a shared passion for music.

As high school sophomores, the two found their respective musical interests. Nance embraced the singer-songwriter role and Canales picked up the bass. The two began performing live shows together their senior year of high school and continue to share the stage to this day.

“(Sophia) was the first person I shared a stage with,” said Canales, an English and Plan II junior. “It makes things a lot easier to not have to worry so much, (because) I’m standing next to my best friend.”

Currently roommates, Nance and Canales support each other in both shared performances and individual musical endeavors. While Canales performs with her own band called Mishi Mishi, Nance continues to release solo songs with UTalent, including her April 1 single “Man.. I’m too old for this,” an empowering, upbeat track about refusing to let love interests waste your time.

When free from the shackles of her engineering homework, Nance performs for audiences on and off campus, soaking in stage lights and bravely sharing intimate lyrics with roaring crowds. However, the soloist said garnering her confident, vibrant stage presence was not always an easy task.

“The only way I ever felt in touch with my confidence (was) when I was performing,” Nance said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been as confident in myself. I was born with a desire to express myself creatively. Music is a good tool for that expression that I happen to really enjoy.”