Alyson Cambridge '97

An Artist who refuses to "Stay in Her Lane".

Alyson Cambridge

by Sarah Valente Kelso '01


Whether it’s defying the naysayers who try to pigeonhole her into a single musical genre or swerving off a country road to save her life, Alyson Cambridge ’97 has found that following a prescribed path will never be part of her story.

Last July, Alyson took a break from her busy performing and producing schedule to celebrate her brother Daryn ’99’s birthday with an extended bike trip through the mountainous back roads of West Virginia. Approaching a dicey pass, Alyson realized that her bike was moving too fast to navigate an upcoming blind turn. She had three options: risk running head-on into unseen oncoming traffic, slam into the wall of a mountain, or barrel off the road altogether. She assessed the options in an instant…and ended up yards off the roadway, hidden from sight by a culvert. “I don’t really remember the accident,” she says, “but I remember thinking that staying on the road could mean death.” 

As a result of that split-second decision, Alyson says, she’s now “full of metal.” Her shoulder and arms took the brunt of the impact; after several surgeries, she has two plates and 14 screws in her left arm and three plates and eight screws in her right. She will never have 100% use of her left shoulder and arm again – a challenge for a vocalist known for her expressive gestures in the title roles of operas, such as the castanet-clicking, habanera-dancing Carmen. 
Like every project she undertakes, Alyson tackled recovery with laser focus and fierce determination. “Physical therapy was my main job for months,” she muses. Remarkably, Alyson was able to return to the stage in mid-October, 

Performing as Baroness von Schraeder in The Sound of Music at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Just one week out of her cast and sling, still unable to manage much of the show’s choreography, Alyson collaborated with the creative team to find workable modifications for her part. She says, “Thankfully, the rest of my body is fine, and the role allowed me to sing boldly with just a simple cocktail glass as a prop.” 

A Modern-Day Renaissance Woman

Alyson Cambridge flowers

Operatic soprano, Broadway singer, model, actor, producer of musical extravaganzas, and avid athlete, Alyson Cambridge has always pushed back against boundaries. She reflects, “My deep-seated desire not to be ‘just one thing’ began to emerge about the time I was in middle school.” A gifted pianist from an early age, Alyson talked her parents into letting her set aside the demanding hours of keyboard practice to pursue other talents and hobbies, such as soccer and dabbling in “all things fashion” with her friends. 

She did not, however, sideline music completely. A fan of multiple musical styles, Alyson began to “fake opera sing” to get laughs out of her classmates. One of her mother’s friends heard something beyond the comedic and encouraged Alyson to explore her range more seriously; she began formal voice training at DC’s Levine School of Music at age 12. Alyson recalls, “My coach told me, ‘You are not going to sing like Madonna or Whitney Houston. You have a classical operatic voice.’” 
Alyson made her professional debut with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra while earning a double degree in sociology/ pre-law and vocal performance as an undergraduate at Oberlin College and Alyson branched out with award-winning, critically praised performances as Julie in Show Boat and Vi in Gershwin’s rarely performed jazz-opera Blue Monday. She has also released three albums: From the Diary of Sally Hemings, a classical song-cycle; the jazz-based Until Now; and Sisters in Song, a compilation of opera and spiritual duets with fellow soprano Nicole Cabell. 

From Smash-up to Mashup

While working to recover from her summer smash-up and preparing for her return to the stage in The Sound of Music, Alyson also continued to focus on her most ambitious project to date – a bold new musical called Rock Me Amadeus - Live, for which she serves as co-creator, co-producer, and headline performer. The show fuses opera and classical music with rousing rock, pop, and soul numbers. It’s just one more exciting example of how Alyson refuses to “stay in her lane.” The backstory: In 2019, Alyson landed the role of the Opera Singer in an innovative Broadway musical, Rocktopia. She says, “Though my focus had largely been on opera performance, I’d never abandoned my love for rock and pop music. So when the opportunity came to be in show that fused the genres, I jumped at the chance.” Rocktopia aimed to present opera in a way that was accessible to new and younger audiences, but Alyson’s peers in the classical world were skeptical, some going so far as to accuse her of selling out. “I told them, ‘No, no, NO!’” Alyson exclaims. “I was singing traditional operatic arias. They just happened to be mashed up with, say, Led Zeppelin or Guns N’ Roses.” Alyson’s instinct to push boundaries proved spot on; fans waited at the stage door, clamoring for her autograph. She recalls, “I kept hearing kids say, ‘I never thought I’d like opera, but when you opened your mouth, I couldn’t believe what came out.’” She adds proudly, “Without question, people who never would have come to a straight-up opera were now ready to take that plunge.” Rocktopia’s run was limited, but the experience stuck with Alyson. She felt that she had been part of something with real potential. In early 2020, she joined forces with a former castmate – a rock guitarist and musical arranger – to create and produce an all-new musical fusion show, Rock Me Amadeus - Live, which blends “greatest hits” from a surprising range of centuries and genres. From the grandeur of symphonic classical music to the opulence of opera and the hip-shaking rhythms of rock and pop standards, Rock Me Amadeus - Live combines the unexpected in one electrifying performance. Taking a show of this magnitude from concept to premiere is a lengthy project under the best of circumstances; toss a pandemic, busy work schedules, and a terrifying accident into the mix, and you come to appreciate Alyson’s astonishing perseverance. The show, which had its world premiere at The Straz in Tampa, Florida, this January, boasts an all-star cast with vocalists from the worlds of rock, pop, and opera, accompanied by a full rock band and a symphony orchestra. Iconic songs from bands like Journey, The Police, and Nirvana are paired with works from such “rock stars” of earlier days as Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky. Alyson says, “As co-creator and co- producer, I’ve learned what it takes to build a show from concept to full production. Fitting all the pieces together has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life…it’s a dream come true!” Future performance dates for the production are in the works, and Alyson is excited to see how far it will go. 

Alyson Cambridge


Alyson Cambridge


Alyson Cambridge


Feeling Grateful and Giving Back

Alyson, who attended The Potomac School through eighth grade, still maintains Potomac friendships and is grateful that former classmates and teachers always turn out when she performs at her “hometown stage,” the Kennedy Center. Asked what advice she would give young people who aspire to singing careers, Alyson is quick to answer: “You run into trouble when your passion ceases to be fun. So, practice moderation. Your voice is a muscle; don’t overuse it. Sing for 30 to 45 minutes a day, then focus on something else. Cultivate other interests, hobbies, and friends.

Alyson Quote

Stay balanced and enjoy the ride!” Busy as she has been building her career, Alyson has never shied away from encouraging the next generation and supporting important causes. She has performed, produced events, and taught master classes for a range of nonprofits, including Sing for Hope, the Fresh Air Fund, Daniel’s Music Foundation, the Humane Society, K9s for Warriors, Hope for Hearts Foundation, and the American Red Cross. She says, “If you have been blessed with a platform, as I have, you have a responsibility to pay it forward.” Alyson emphasizes that she doesn’t take anything for granted. As she reflects on this challenging year, she marvels that she still enjoys a full and multifaceted career. There’s a story she likes to tell that underscores how close she came to losing it all: “The surgeons probably thought I was crazy, because as injured as I was, as physically and emotionally shattered, I was adamant: ‘Do NOT stick a tube of any kind down my throat during surgery!’ At first, they didn’t take me seriously. But I persisted – no intubation and no internal interventions that could damage my vocal cords.” Fortunately, a female anesthesiologist intervened on Alyson’s behalf, defining how they could make such complex surgery work without intubation. Alyson says, “She, along with my brother, convinced the medical team that I was a professional soprano, that my livelihood and my identity were at stake.” Alyson is grateful for the medical professionals who put her broken body back together, for the love and support of her family and friends, and for a career that has allowed her to spread her wings and try the unexpected. Perhaps most of all, she is grateful for the generations of performers, composers, and artistic innovators on whose shoulders she stands each time the spotlight shines on her and she begins to sing. 

This article appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of The Term.

Read this issue

As a program director at NOAA for more than 12 years and the first female to occupy a leadership position in her division, Libby Jewett ’78 has made it clear: She’s committed to moving the needle on climate change.
Teddy Nemeroff ’97 is a leader in the complex world of international cybersecurity and technology policy.
Whether it’s defying the naysayers who try to pigeonhole her into a single musical genre or swerving off a country road to save her life, Alyson Cambridge ’97 has found that following a prescribed path will never be part of her story.
Author and illustrator Jamie Potter ’01 creates stories that spark the imagination of young readers and remind them that they have the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of challenges.
For Grant Hoechst Jackson ’14, flexibility is key. Whether he’s composing and playing music or leading game-design teams at Naughty Dog, Grant maintains an open and agile perspective – empowering himself
As president and CEO of Leading Harvest, Kenny Fahey ’04 focuses on harnessing the power of the business sector to drive positive environmental and social outcomes in agriculture.