Many teenagers spend their summers baby-sitting, scooping ice cream, or manning a register at the mall. Poughquag’s Jasha Woodall is recording an album. It’s all thanks to her victory at Mercy College’s “Discovered” competition in Dobbs Ferry this April. The nationwide search does just what its name proclaims: uncovers fresh voices. Contestants upload videos to a Web site; the public votes for their favorites; then a panel of judges offers input. The 10 performers with the most votes advance to a live round. Those same judges then select one lucky winner to receive the coveted record deal. Woodall was the youngest contestant this year and the competition’s youngest champion, though she didn’t realize it at first. “My mom pulled me aside and said, ‘Do you realize you’re the smallest one here?’ ” says the 15-year-old pop singer. Currently, she attends Arlington High School and Trinity Temple Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Poughkeepsie; she performs regularly at both places. Here, she tells HV all about her vocal voyage to the top.
When was the first time you sang in public?
When I was seven I learned the songs my mother sang at church — but I never sang them so anyone else could hear. Mom asked me to join her one morning, and after that I knew singing was what I wanted to do.
What do you sing at school?
I sang the national anthem at our homecoming game, but in general I’m always the first to audition for any kind of solo.
And you actually write your own original songs?
My next-door neighbor and I have been writing songs together since we were eight or nine. One of them, “Lyrics to Your Heart,” I sang at the Hudson Valley Young Artist Talent Search at the Towne Crier last year.
How did you decide to do the “Discovered” competition?
My dad heard about it on the radio shortly after I placed third in the Talent Search and told him I wanted to do more local performing.
What did you do to collect votes?
At school I stayed after classes, made myself little flyers, and went around every room in Arlington asking people to support me.
Is it true that at first you didn’t make the final round?
Yes. After the public’s vote, I was in 15th place. But later my dad called saying I got an email from the competition; the judges cast their votes, which bumped me up. I thought he was playing a joke on me. I looked, and there I was in ninth place. I was screaming on the bus, just so excited.
You sang Leona Lewis’s “I Will Be” for your final performance. Was that a challenge?
Let me tell you, when I got onstage — I don’t know where it came from, but I belted that song out. I don’t think I’ve had that much fun on any stage.
What happened when you won?
I put my head down and was so overwhelmed wondering if it really was me. The other contestants had to push me up to get the award. I was in shock for another couple of hours.
How did “Discovered” compare to other Valley competitions?
Every crowd is different. At “Discovered,” I had an attitude to be proud of whatever I did. For the Talent Search it was a more relaxed setting, so I was more relaxed. I connected with the crowd and with the judges.
You dedicated the summer to recording. What songs will you put on your album?
I’m definitely doing originals. They come from me, so they are the songs I connect with the most.
Will you still perform?
There are always events my church puts on, so I’ll sing there. I also got the position of vice-president of my school’s glee club; I’ll incorporate a concert through that and probably perform in the community.
We know you probably get this a lot, but what are your college and career plans?
I’d like to go further upstate; not too far, but far enough so I can be independent. I definitely want to continue with music, but career-wise I’d like to be a pediatric physical therapist.
Watch Jasha perform her original song, “Lyrics to Your Heart,” at the Towne Crier Café in Pawling in 2011: