Alyssa Allgood has been on a trajectory toward stardom, since the day she was christened with that great show biz name. It also helped that her dad was a blues lover and her mother a music therapist. A young girl with an old soul, Alyssa performed her first solo in third grade and appeared in a high school musical as a fourth-grader. She will be making her Forest Park debut at the Historical Society’s Fo-Pa Palooza on Jan. 24.

Actually, Alyssa had an earlier gig in town. When she was 12, she sang a scat version of “Summertime” at a local competition. At the time, Alyssa was learning her craft at a jazz camp at North Central College led by her mentor, Janice Borla. This is the school where she would later win DownBeat Magazine’s Best Collegiate Jazz Vocal Soloist Award. 

However, we can’t skip over Alyssa’s high school career, where she starred in musicals and sang with the jazz choir. Her jazz ensemble won a district contest to go downstate to the state competition in Peoria. Recently, Alyssa got to judge a district vocal competition, so her career has come full circle.

At North Central, Alyssa earned degrees in Jazz Studies and Communication. She sang with the school’s top jazz combo and was president of the women’s chorale group. Alyssa worked hard to train her voice and fine tune her performance. She took private lessons four times a week. She was so busy during this period that the workload she’s facing in the “real world” doesn’t faze her. 

Although she studied operatic singing, Alyssa much prefers jazz. She loves swinging and scatting and making a song her own. Scatting allows her to use her voice as an instrument and develop a rapport with her band. She scats songs that have words and writes lyrics for instrumentals. She enjoys improvising and interpreting lyrics in her signature style. To further put her stamp on the music, Alyssa writes her own arrangements and original songs. These talents are on display on her brand new CD “Ladybird.”

The album marks the recording debut of The Alyssa Allgood Quintet. I was fortunate to catch their first gig at Fitzgerald’s. There was a table full of Alyssa’s neighbors there and I thought they were from her native Westmont. However, these were Forest Parkers who had gotten to know Alyssa at block parties. 

Alyssa chose to live in Forest Park a year ago. She was seeking a town with an urban feel that was convenient to the city and suburbs. So far, Forest Park has been a perfect fit. Like many artists, Alyssa has pieced together part-time jobs. She gives individual voice lessons, performs at private events like weddings and pinch-hits for performers who are overbooked. She feels honored when a singer asks her to stand in. 

Despite all of her accomplishments, Alyssa does not have the demeanor of a diva. She is down-to-earth and easy-going. At the same time, she dreams big. She was thrilled to hear that someone in Japan had bought her new CD. Jazz, our greatest export, may be a bit challenging for Americans accustomed to pop but it’s embraced overseas.

What’s next for Alyssa? She recently entered the Sarah Vaughn Competition, where she went up against 500 singers worldwide. Alyssa didn’t win the coveted Sassy Award that comes with a record contract and $5,000 cash but she did finish in the top forty. Not bad for a young woman whom I first saw singing her heart out at Circle and Madison.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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