Young CH singer takes inspiration from the past

Alyssa Boyd singing at Quintana's Speakeasy.

Alyssa Boyd began singing when she was about 6 years old. Now she’s 24, and singing is the focus of her life. She regularly performs with Seth Boyle, an acoustic guitar player, and with a local band called the Rifferees that performs jazz and big-band classics.

“I grew up with a lot of music,” Boyd said. “My grandmother played piano, and my dad loved soul music, rock and roll and the blues. But no one in my family ever pursued music as a career.”

Boyd was born in the Philadelphia area. When she was a sophomore in high school, her family moved to Cleveland Heights. She attended Heights High, graduating in 2011. She gives the school a lot of credit for developing her singing skills. “The Vocal Music Department at Heights High really changed my life,” she said. “I was given opportunities to do solos. I got into the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, and I got to sing at Severance Hall. I also took vocal lessons at Heights High, and my vocal coach really helped me understand music theory.”

Boyd also was a member of the Heights Honors Ensemble choir, and the All-State Choir. While she was in high school, she also appeared on WJW TV, singing with the high school choir; and she sang a solo, accompanied by a harpist, during her high school graduation.

After high school, Boyd attended Cuyahoga Community College for two years, majoring in liberal arts, but she did not graduate. “School was always something I thought I should do,” she said, "but it became clear to me that what I wanted to do in my life was music."

Much of Boyd's repertoire is devoted to the songs of singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday—unusual, perhaps, for a musician of Boyd's age. Boyd, once again, gives credit to her teachers at Heights High for informing her about these artists. “It was through school that I learned about Billie Holiday,” she said. "We watched a documentary, and I was intrigued by her life.”

Boyd also likes many contemporary artists. At a June show at Quintana’s Speakeasy, she sang two songs by Amy Winehouse and one by Stevie Wonder. Other contemporary artists she admires include Lianne La Havas, Kat Edmonson, Erykah Badu and Esperanza Spalding. “I really resonate with female vocalists,” she said.

A CD that Boyd recently sang on, by a local band called Wasted in the Basement, is due out later this month. She has not yet recorded her own CD, but said, “That’s my real hope. I would love to record a CD of my own.”

Meanwhile, Boyd, who still lives in Cleveland Heights, frequently plays shows around the Cleveland area.

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley. He is on the board of FutureHeights, and he is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee.

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Volume 9, Issue 8, Posted 6:00 PM, 07.29.2016