We had the good fortune of connecting with Alissa Stahler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alissa, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
So, I get asked “Do you give yourself a timeline?” more often than you would think. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been performing. I was 3 years old when I grabbed the microphone from Santa Clause singing all of the popular Christmas tunes at my dad’s office Christmas party-which is funny because I’m Jewish!
It’s just In My Bones. I’m most at home when I’m on a stage performing.
Everyone has this ideal timeline for their career, when they think they should hit certain milestones and move forward and upward as an artist. And, it’s really hard not to compare yourself to others in your field, especially with social media. But, as hard as it is to Not “compare and despair” it’s really the best for your mental health and your artist.
You also have to have that passion and drive and do what makes you happy. If it doesn’t bring you joy anymore, then it might be time to pursue something that does. If you keep working on your craft by investing in classes or taking private coachings and lessons, honing your skill set by taking workshops with Casting Directors and Agents/Managers, and being authentic to who you are you’ll be right on time for your own special timeline.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a jazz singer and an actor living in New York City!
I moved here almost 15 years ago, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to attend Manhattan School of Music to get my Masters in Jazz. But, I came here with primarily a background in classical music and majored in Vocal Performance for my undergraduate degree.
My Very First Audition in New York was for Showtime at the Apollo! I actually made it on to the show and made it through my round with only a moderate amount of “booing” -If you don’t know- audience members are allowed to boo contestants while they’re performing on stage and eventually this man called “The Sandman” comes down from his loft to tap you offstage with a literal hook. It’s incredibly nerve wracking and utterly terrifying , but it was when my “fight vs flight” kicked in. I got booed almost immediately after just walking out on stage. But, I just kept singing and help up my finger to the Sandman-as if to say, “I’m Not finished yet!” As I continued to sing, I had won over half of the crowd booing me and squinted to see them cheering me on with “Hey! This girl can sing!” After I finished singing, I took a bow and shouted “Thank You, Apollo!” into the microphone and walked offstage, with my hands shaking. It was equal parts Intimidating and Electrifying!
All of these years later, I think back on that experience and realize if I could make it past that-I really Can do anything .
I’ve been gigging with my duo, trio and quintet for about 8 years now all over New York, in jazz clubs, bars, and cabaret spaces.
As I said above, I’m also an actor. I’ve gotten to do a lot from filming a small role in a Japanese TV Movie (I’m actually on Japanese Wikipedia!), tour the country with a musical, perform in an Off Broadway play and musical, appear in a SpecialKcommercial, and record as a soloist for a musical titled, The Devil and the Deep, music and lyrics written by Graham Russell of the band Air Supply, in the iconic Avatar studios in New York.
It’s always exciting getting to do what I love and I just feel grateful, especially now that New York is coming back, any time I get to do it.
I’m really excited to say that I’ve recently signed with a Talent Manager and will have representation for the first time in my career. I’m really looking forward to working with my manager and seeing what comes next!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I used to work at The Rainbow Room, on the 65th floor in 30 Rockefeller Center, as a hostess. I still have a few connections there and if I have a friend or family member visiting from out of town I take them there, if nothing else but to see the views. There’s nothing like seeing the city 65 floors up and getting to take it in inside of the iconic Rainbow Room.
Since I’m a jazz singer I usually suggest catching a show at one of the iconic spots in town:
The Blue Note, Dizzy‘s, Birdland, Minton’s Playhouse, Village Vanguard, Smalls and Fat Cat. Sadly, we have lost some of my favorites due to the pandemic; Jazz Standard, Jules Bistro (where I first started gigging with my trio!) and 55 Bar. Before the pandemic I used to play the last Sunday of every month at Tomi Jazz with a quintet, and would always suggest coming to hear me there. It’s like a tucked away Japanese speakeasy, where you have to walk downstairs and ring a doorbell to get in, with authentic Japanese cuisine and drinks! I recently started working at this new club called Room 623 Harlem’s Speakeasy, which has been pretty fun!
My family and I have been eating at this Italian restaurant in Little Italy for 30 years, Pellegrino’s on Mulberry Street. It’s moved locations but the chef ,some servers and one of the Maitre’D’s is still the same. Both the food and service are impeccable, so I love to bring my friends to dine there as well.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by Amazing friends and family who have supported my dreams, back in Pennsylvania to my crew here in NYC today. It really is important to have people who show up for you, not just physically to your shows, but show up emotionally for you too. This is a tough business, and to have like-minded individuals pursuing the same career And be in your corner is truly truly important. And, I can say I am very rich in that area.
My brother, who is a sport and entertainment attorney, is also someone who has always had my back and needs a special shout-out. I’m very lucky he looks over all of my contracts and makes sure they are in my best interest. He also happens to be one of my biggest cheerleaders. Plus, he gives me the family discount!
To my voice teacher growing up, Victoria Rose, my voice teacher in college, the late Delia Wallis, and my grad school voice teacher, Peter Eldridge. Thank you for helping prepare me, provide guidance and be my important mentors throughout all of the various stages in my life. You provided me with the foundation, the support, the constructive feedback to help me grow and the praise to keep building my confidence. I was fortunate enough to have been able to study and learn from you all when I did.
Lastly, but Most Importantly, I have to thank my parents who have supported me from Day 1 with my interest in the Arts. From, taking me to voice and piano lessons, dropping me off for play and musical rehearsals, to driving me to my college and grad school auditions to driving into the city for my performances to this day. I owe so much to my mom and dad. I would not be where I am in my career today without their enthusiasm, never ending love and unwavering support.
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