By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
Whether she’s performing, composing, staring on a television show, serving as captain of her high school tennis team or practicing with the jazz band, Alissa Musto, 17, is happy.
“A lot of people ask me how I balance everything, but the truth is it’s really not that hard,” said Musto, a nominee for “Best Female Vocalist” in the 2011 Limelight Magazine Music Awards. “If you like the things you are doing, they don’t really become chores. They aren’t things that you have to do – they are things that you get to do and that makes it so much easier.”
Musto, who lives in Rehoboth, Mass., is a senior at Providence Country Day School in East Providence. Classically trained in piano, she recently landed a Saturday night residency at Scampi’s Restaurant in Portsmouth, R.I., where she performs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. each week.
She’s also putting together a new album, a follow-up to her self-titled, four-track E.P., which was released in May 2011. The E.P. featured “Doesn’t Matter,” the award-winning track that earned her a slot in the top three at the 2011 national Music On & Up Showcase grand finale.
“I have some originals that I’ve been working on, not only that I’ve written the words to, but the musical parts on the piano, too,” said Musto.
Additionally, Musto has been building her portfolio, as she’s played at venues such as Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and Hard Rock Café during the last year. While she’s undecided about what she wants to study, she’s thinking about going to college for music locally, and is interested in continuing to gig in the area post high school.
“I’m hoping that if I stay around here for college, I’ll still be able to play out on weekends,” she said. “I’ll be 18, so I’ll be able to play more venues.”
And the greatest thing about performing, said Musto, is the challenge. Having the support of fans doesn’t hurt, either.
“It’s not just representing the songs that I’m playing – it shows all the hard work and time that I’ve put into it, from the thought process of picking the songs, to the years of piano training that made it possible for me to learn those songs,” she said. “Going up there and performing and knowing that people appreciate what you do means so much.”
In fact, Musto’s fans have publicly praised her skills in the comment sections of her YouTube videos. Some of her admirers describe her as a female Elton John and the next Debbie Harry (of Blondie).
“I can only hope and wish to achieve some of the success they have,” said Musto. “When people make comparisons from across the country or across the world, it means so much to me knowing that they think I have the potential to be great like them.”
But Musto doesn’t let the praise go to her head. Perhaps, she learned to be modest from her father, Billy Musto, a well-know local artist.
“He’s been in this area’s music scene for a long time and it’s amazing how humble he remains throughout the whole process,” she said. “We don’t go anywhere without somebody recognizing him.”
Aside from her dad, Musto cited Bruce Springsteen as one of her biggest influences. The most amazing thing about “The Boss,” she said, is his voice.
“He doesn’t exactly have this voice that a lot of people would think is great, but it fits with what he does and I feel like I’m the same way,” Musto said. “I don’t have this big, strong opera-like voice that a lot of these girl singers of today have, but I think I have a unique voice.”
Not only does Musto view him as a superb songwriter and musician, she loves his performances. In August, she got the opportunity to see him live for the first time.
“Just the way he can get a crowd going for four hours straight was just so amazing,” she said “He’s such a great entertainer. He’s the whole package – it’s not just one thing.”
Yet, considering Musto’s resume, she’s the total package, too. As noted, she’s very versatile, as she began taking piano lessons at age five. She also dabbles with the guitar and harmonica, and is able to juggle her music career with school, tennis, jazz band, and Teenage Critic, a culture and arts show for teens that airs on PBS.
“We cover all types of cool things that would appeal to teenagers,” said Musto. “We did the Limelight Magazine Music Awards, different cultural restaurants, art events. It’s helped me so much, not only with interviewing, but as a performer, too. It’s good to be well-rounded because you never know when other things will help you in life.”
In terms of TV exposure, NBC aired a special on Musto in 2004 as part of the “Spotlight on the Student Artist” series. The same year, when she was nine, she was featured on “America’s Most Talented Kids,” earning bragging rights of being the youngest performer to appear on the show.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience being in front of a camera at that age, but it was a really good experience and I think it helped me so much in moving forward,” said Musto. “I came back from that doing a lot of other local competitions.”
Some of the competitions include the “Kidz Star USA Talent Search,” which attracted more than 45,000 entries during Summer 2011. For this competition, she was selected as a top ten finalist.
Further, she won first place in the 12-and-under category at “New England Performs,” a festival in 2011 that showcased more than two hundred young artists from all six New England states.
Musto also competed and won other competitions, including “Rhode Island’s Got Talent” in 2008, “Talent Quest TV Show” in 2009, and was a runner-up in “Taunton’s Got Talent” in 2011. She performed on multiple New England-based shows including “The Rhode Show” and “Community Auditions: Star of the Day.”
In 2010, she was named “Piano Act of the Year” in the international “Golden Ribby Awards” sponsored by Wonderworld TV. She played live for an audience of more than 2,000 viewers.
The same year, she partnered with GreenSchools, a non-profit environmental organization, and earned the title of “Green Rocker Ambassador”, or spokesperson. Through the program, she is a featured performer at schools, fairs and other events throughout New England, with a main goal of raising awareness about the importance of being eco-friendly.
“I wrote a theme song for them that I performed at the [Massachusetts] State House [last year] and play at a lot of other functions they have to try to get the message out there for environment,” Musto said. She was also awarded a citation from the State of Massachusetts and House of Representatives for musical achievement and involvement in the community.
For a full list of Musto’s accomplishments, as well as more information, visit alissamusto.wix.com.