NAPERVILLE – About a month before graduating from North Central College, Alyssa Allgood's singing career hit a high note.
The 21-year-old senior, who majors in organizational communication and music with a concentration on jazz studies, recently won the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award for best collegiate jazz vocal soloist in the nation.
In December 2013, Allgood, a Westmont native, recorded two jazz standards with her ensemble, the Alyssa Allgood Quartet. When she received the June issue of DownBeat Magazine on April 29, she was overcome with happiness to see her name listed among the winners.
"I was so excited and happy, I was nearly in tears," Allgood said. "Especially after waiting for so long, it was such an amazing reward. Although I felt that my submission was very strong, you never know because judging is somewhat subjective and you don't know exactly what the judges are looking for.
"To have my music appreciated and valued that highly is very empowering."
The singer's passion for jazz music began when she was young, listening to blues and Motown music with her father, Steve Allgood.
"My dad is a big blues fan, so I used to listed to artists such as Aretha Franklin and Stevie Ray Vaughn when I was very young," she said. "I always loved to sing, and when I was in junior high, the jazz band was looking for people to perform with them, so I joined."
Allgood was then introduced to a voice teacher, who referred her to the North Central College Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp. She attended her first summer camp at the college as a 12-year-old and has returned every year since.
From there, her passion blossomed.
"I really fell in love the depth of jazz music," Allgood said. "I have always been drawn to the depth of the lyrics, harmonic information that is happening in the music and the improvisational nature of jazz."
Allgood attended Westmont High School and sang with the high school jazz band for four years. She also participated in the school's madrigal and jazz choir and performed in multiple high school musicals.
North Central College recognized her singing prowess and classroom achievement by offering Allgood both music and academic scholarships.
She has since sung with college's top jazz combo, which consists of a rhythm and a horns section and vocalists, and has worked extensively with the head of the North Central jazz program. She currently sings with the vocal jazz ensemble and recently began writing her own jazz composition and lyrics.
"The more I perform with music ensembles at North Central, the more I'm reassured of my love for jazz music and desire to become a professional musician," she said. "This means marketing myself as an artist, performing as often as possible and teaching privately."
Allgood submitted pieces for the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award contest two years ago, but was not among the award winners. So she decided to again submit two composed songs, "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "You Don't Know What Love Is."
"I thought that it couldn't hurt to try again," she said. "It was such an amazing surprise. Collaborating with professional musicians and making a professional recording was an incredible opportunity."
Other members of the Alyssa Allgood Quartet include pianist Dan Chase, 24, of Forest Park; drummer Matt Plaskota, 25, of Naperville; and bassist Andrew Vogt, 24, of Forest Park.
About Alyssa Allgood
What: Jazz vocalist; recipient of the Downbeat Magazine Student Music Award
Education: Music and organizational communications major at North Central College
Profession: After college, Allgood plans to move to Forest Park to be closer to Chicago's bustling music scene. She hopes to land singing gigs in the city and possibly teach singing classes.
Learn more: visit www.alyssaallgood.com
About DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards
In its 37th year and considered one of the top student music competitions in the world, the Student Music Awards offer categories for junior high, high school and university music students and bands. The judges, comprised of professional musicians and educators, assess entrants based on a range of criteria, such as musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement and authority. The awards were announced in the magazine's June issue, released April 29.