Alyssa Dunham began using her vocal cords for something more than speech three years ago.
"I've been doing acting and performing arts since the age of 5," she said. "I got to a point where I wanted to improve my singing voice, so I began using Broadway music and anything else I could get my hands on."
Alyssa, who is 14 and is an eighth-grader at Kingman Academy of Learning, will have an opportunity this summer to hone her singing skills when she goes on a five-week tour with The Young Continentals. They formed in 1967 as a non-profit, inter-denominational ministry and take powerful music and a message about Jesus Christ wherever they go, according to information on their Web site.
Alyssa, who is the daughter of Steve and Rachel Dunham, made a demo tape at Taylor D Recording Studio in Kingman as her audition for the group.
"I had to sing two songs, one fast and one slow," she said. "I chose 'Shackles' by Mary, Mary as the fast song, and 'God Bless the U.S.A.' by Jump 5 as the slow song."
Samantha Valora, a friend, told her about The Young Continentals and also auditioned. Both will be going on a domestic tour that begins with a week of intensive training in singing, dance, drama and choreography in Kentucky in mid-June, Alyssa said.
"When I was a kid in California, I went to see them," Rachel Dunham said. "They have such a good program, so I know she will get a lot of formal vocal training."
The itinerary for The Young Continentals includes engagements in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, plus two in Ohio.
In order to make the trip, Alyssa must raise $3,500. She needs a little more than $1,500 to reach that amount.
She performed in a Christmas concert in December at Kingman Christian church that raised much of what she has collected so far, Rachel Dunham said.
"People in the community have donated money to her and people in our church are supporting her," Rachel said.
Alyssa hopes to raise most of the remainder needed at the "Western Swing Chili Thing" to be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 5 at Manzanita Baptist Church gymnasium located at 2040 Golden Gate Ave.
There will be a chili cook-off, along with other contests, one of which will be "Best Dressed" in western attire. Drawings for prizes will be held with those tickets selling for $1 apiece.
Entrance donation to the festivities will be $5 per person.
Alyssa was asked what she thinks will be the most exciting thing about the tour.
"Getting to know more people and reaching out to others," she said. "I'll also learn more about singing."
Any business or individual wishing to contribute to the growing fund may contact Rachel Dunham at 530-2738.