STORY WRITTEN BY M. ENGLISH
For Digital First Media
Alyssa Garcia’s dad, Anthony, is beyond modest when asked about his music talents:
“My musical talent?” he laughs. “My wife’s? We sang to the kids when they were little and signed them up for (music lessons), but that’s about it.”
Daughter Alyssa? An entirely different story. The younger Garcia is set to open the 2015-16 season at Jillian’s Café, an in-house venue at Conshohocken United Methodist Church, on Sept. 12 — that, following a summer that’s been packed with performances throughout the area. Just as exciting, hearing her “Loved Actually” played on Helen Leicht’s Philly Locals show on WXPN radio — Garcia’s first air play — and releasing her third album.
At 15, the Conshohocken-born singer, songwriter, pianist and ukulele player has racked up an impressive resume. On Aug. 16, she appeared at Bethlehem’s popular Musikfest, one of several stops on the tour she earned as a winner in Philadelphia Songwriters Project’s 2015 competition. Garcia was also PSP’s 2013 Young Songwriters contest winner and has been a repeat finalist in the Norristown-based Montco Idol competition. She has self-produced two albums, “Music is my Life” and “Memories & New Beginnings,” and her most recent, “Looking Glass,” (recorded and produced by Chris Cachuela at Chaplin’s in Spring City) debuted in July.
“I’m also recording with Kettle Pot Tracks in Lafayette Hill as part of my prize from the (PSP) contest, but Chaplin’s is my usual recording studio,” says Garcia, who describes her style as alternative pop.
In the works, too, a music video based on her favorite song — “Better Life” — which she calls “my personal story.”
“‘Better Life’ was originally a reflection poem I wrote to myself in sixth or seventh grade — actually the song that got me to win the Philadelphia Songwriters contest,” Garcia says.
Jillian’s Café and CUMC will figure prominently in the new video. So will the dramatic neo-Gothic interior of nearby St. Matthew Catholic Church, the Garcia family’s home parish. “We already have permission from Father Heron, and the basic idea (revolves around) my life being guided by a guardian angel which, for me, is my music,” Garcia says. “St. Matthew’s is such an amazing church with its high ceiling and lighting and beautiful altar. It should look great.”
She calls writing “a big part” of her life — poetry, books, short stories, she’s tried her hand at all three — and explains “With my songwriting, I like to think I’m setting my diary to music, and drawing from such (personal) material is my way of connecting with the audience.”
A rising 10th grader at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford, Garcia is “dedicated to school and my academic work” and believes “my studies and my music go hand-in-hand.” Still, the PJPHS presidential scholar concedes, “When it comes to writing music when I get an idea for a song, I pretty much stop and drop.”
Garcia, whose family now lives in Norristown, started studying at Music Training Center’s Conshohocken branch in Plymouth Square Shopping Center when she was five and considers MTC’s Stu Shames, her primary mentor.
“Stu is an amazing performer and songwriter himself, and I’ve learned so much from him,” she says. “He’s taught me so much, and I owe so much to him.”
Garcia initially had no intention of adding “singer” to her dossier.
“I didn’t set out to be a singer, but I started singing along to my own music and covering songs in 2011,” she said. “I’ve taken an occasional voice lesson at Music Training Center, but I’m basically self-taught.”
These days, sister Maya, 11, also takes piano lessons at MTC, and “Maya and I teach our younger sister, Amy, what we’re learning,” Garcia adds.
When she’s not writing, practicing or producing music, she “(loves) the whole superhero fandom.”
“I’m really into the Marvel and DC Universes — comics, TV, movies,” Garcia notes at www.alyssaggarcia.com. “I love reading. I’m also very immersed in the fandoms of some of my favorite authors’ – John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Veronica Roth, etc. — books.
“My favorite TV shows are probably ‘The Supernatural,’ ‘Sherlock,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Daredevil,’ ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ ‘Once Upon a Time,’ ‘The Flash’ and several other series. I spend way too much time on Netflix.”
Not surprisingly, Garcia concludes her website’s “Who I Am” section with a nod to music:
“As a music artist, I’m lucky enough to have grown up with a love of music and music education. It has become a crucial part of who I am. As a songwriter, I really try to connect with my audience by writing about my personal life experiences that people may be able to relate to.”