Prospect teen sings in Garden of Dreams


Prospect teenager Alyssa Casson, 13, sings Christina Aguilera's ‘Beautiful’ during the Garden of Dreams Spring Talent Show at Radio City Music Hall April 5. Casson beat rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft muscle tissue cancer. -AVI GERVER/MSG PHOTOS

PROSPECT — Singing helped carry 13-year-old Alyssa Casson through a very difficult part of her life. Her vocal flair not only provided her with an escape but a beautiful method of sending a powerful message.

Last week, Casson sang her message from one of the grandest stages — New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

“It was completely full, and it was really awesome,” said Casson, a Prospect resident and eighth-grader at Long River Middle School, about singing at Radio City Music Hall.

Casson was one of 20 youths chosen to perform at the Garden of Dreams Spring Talent Show April 5. The talent show is put on by MSG Entertainment and the Phoenix Foundation. The show provides an opportunity for children, who have overcome obstacles in their life from illness to poverty, to set aside their troubles for a night and showcase their talents.

At the age of 9, Casson was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft muscle tissue cancer. Casson battled and beat the cancer. St. Patrick’s Day marked the third year Casson has had a clean bill of health.

Along with medical treatments, Casson’s weapon of choice in her battle with cancer was song. One song in particular struck a personal chord with Casson — Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”

Casson said “Beautiful” is very inspirational song and has personal meaning for her. The cancer treatments made Casson lose her hair at a time in the young girl’s life when her peers were becoming more concerned with their appearance.

“I would sing a song and start feeling beautiful — hair no hair, treatment no treatment,” Casson said.

The message of “Beautiful,” that, “You are beautiful no matter what they say,” is one that Casson carries with her.

“You need to keep your head held high because we’re all different,” she said.

So, when Casson heard about the talent show through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which she serves as co-event chair of the Walk For Wishes, she jumped at the chance to not only perform but spread her message.

“I wanted everyone to see I turned out fine, and I want to keep singing,” she said.

There was never any doubt what song Casson would be singing.

In March, Casson auditioned in New York City for a panel of judges by singing “Beautiful.” Casson was the first audition overall and admitted she was a little nervous early on. After some advice from the judges, Casson found her stride.

“They said, ‘You’re really good, and sing like you not nervous,’ and I sang a lot better,” Casson said.

Casson was told immediately after her audition that she had made the show. While a lot of people may have been nervous about the thought of performing at Radio City Music Hall, Casson was more excited than anxious.

“I was just more excited to get my message across more than anything,” Casson said.

Last Thursday, Casson stepped on the stage in front of a packed house at Radio City Music Hall and sang her beautiful message.

“It felt like a dream on stage. It was crazy. … I definitely think I got my message across,” Casson said.