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Chico State

Chico State Freshman Impresses Coaches on The Voice

Sophia Hoffman is photographed against a brick wall.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

(Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)

What does it feel like to sing your heart out to four of the world’s biggest names in music, hoping that at least one of them will recognize something unique and star-like about your voice?

Sophia Hoffman can tell you.

She has been dreaming of this moment since she was a little girl.

Tonight, the freshman from Chula Vista will make her international television debut on the hit talent show, The Voice.

Recorded several weeks ago, the episode features her blind audition in front of the show’s star coaching lineup: Chance the Rapper, Kelly Clarkson, Niall Horan, and Blake Shelton.

“You are very talented,” Chance the Rapper said to Hoffman. “It was fire. I loved it. I loved your interpretation. I hope that you keep at it, keep going hard—I see a bright future ahead of you.”

“You do have incredible tone, it was so beautiful,” said Kelly Clarkson.”

The show’s unique format showcases two games within a game: a singing competition, as well as a talent development challenge between the coaches. The five stages of televised competition include blind auditions, battle rounds, knockouts, playoffs, and live performances—as well as the season’s nail-biting end. To reach the blind audition phases, participants go through a lengthy screening process and several rounds of pre-show auditions.

“It’s a competition and game and that’s what makes it exciting to watch. So, being on the outside, you’re like, ‘Oh, is she going to get a chair tonight? Oh my god, Oh my god!’ But imagine playing the game, being inside of that and feeling those feelings—but being the player of the game. It’s a completely different feeling. It brought up feelings I’ve never felt,” Hoffman said.  

More than simply dreaming of this moment, she has also been working towards it for most of her life. Hoffman started singing at age four. In elementary school, someone noticed her unique and powerful vocals when she was playing with their karaoke machine. Her parents soon enrolled her in vocal lessons and encouraged musical theatre opportunities, which Hoffman said lit a fire in her heart.

“It was just like, boom! I took off and I found my love for singing,” Hoffman said. “Not just love, I found the passion for it and I found a new spark in me.”

Getting to this point—onto the show and in front of her heroes—was not easy or straightforward. Over the years, she has auditioned for The Voice, American Idol, and others, facing multiple rejections along the way. That is partly what makes this accomplishment so sweet. “I just kept thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I just proved to my little self that you did it!’” Hoffman said. “I heard a bunch of no’s throughout my life before I heard a yes. It was so liberating to know that you can absolutely do anything you want. I had a big dream and I did it.”

Hoffman is no stranger to hard work and overcoming obstacles. She has learned to manage a processing disorder that makes it difficult for her to take in large volumes of information gathered by her senses. Growing up, her disability made socializing and learning new things a challenge.

“It was hard to thrive and get good grades because I was told that I had this limitation,” Hoffman said. “Music was that safe place for me because that was one thing I knew that I was good at—that was one thing that I knew how to do better than anybody else in the room.”

She is excited to tell her story on the show and be an inspiration to others, especially young girls with big dreams. Even coming to Chico State was an opportunity for growth in and out of the classroom. “I wanted to learn to be able to step outside of my comfort zone. I really wanted to push myself and just fell in love with the trees.”

Now reaching the end of her freshman year, she has created a solid community on campus through dormmates in Whitney Hall, as well as regulars she works out with at the WREC, and faculty who supported her during this unique period. “They were supportive, kind, and they understood that I had to do this,” Hoffman said. Still undeclared but interested in pursuing music at Chico State, she is planning to bring more of her talents to campus and Chico, where she hopes to perform in the near future.

Ultimately, this is not her final destination; it’s a significant step in her journey. “I’m really excited for the doors that this show is going to open up for me. I’m excited to finally be recognized for my talent and my craft and something I’ve been working on forever.”

You can watch her stunning performance here.