Alisa Galper (高以愛) competed in Taiwan’s equivalent of American Idol “One Million Star” (“超級星光大道”) as a challenger after high school graduation in Los Angeles; her Broadway-western singing and performance style caught the attention of the judges, which won her a perfect scores, defeating the winning contestant Rachel Liang Wen-Yin. Her surprising win was widely reported by the Taiwan’s media, and the largest record label company Universal ended up signing a record label with her.
Born on March 11th, 1988, in the United States, Galper always was passionate in singing, and she joined show choirs, school event’s and solo competitions, including ETTV Asian Idol Competition in 2005, and she won first place in the LA region and then winning first place in the United States. She went on to the international competition in Taipei Taiwan after that.
In 2006, she was asked to be in a singing competition in Shandong, China. She competed with hundreds of singers for 2 months. And in the end, she was one of the lucky ones to get an offer from Warner Music China.
In 2007, she was asked to be one of the challengers to the contestants on “One Million Star.” She was the first person in the second season to get a full score, a total of 25 stars. After winning two challenge shows, Universal Music Taiwan signed her on.
This past Christmas, Galper came to the San Francisco Bay Area to perform and give her testimony at Tree of Life Bread of Life Church’s Christmas Sunday service. In an interview with The Gospel Herald, she shared her experiences of going to Taiwan, winning the singing competition, and her conversion to Christianity, which she testified has changed her life’s perspectives in so many ways.
R: Can you share with us your conversion to Christianity?
A: I grew up in an environment where religion didn’t play a big role, and I never felt that I needed to understand the Bible. Being Jewish is like an identity. You are born Jewish and that’s what you are. We didn’t really have to go to temple or study Hebrew and Torah. It was kind of like the upbringing, where you celebrate the holidays. My Dad is Jewish, but he is more spiritual and more Chinese than most Americans, since he lived in Taiwan for more than 15 years, where he met my Mom. He is very into Tibetan Buddhism and is vegetarian and does his chants - that was my upbringing.
When people talk to me about Christianity or church, I didn’t give it much attention until going to Taiwan, getting into these singing competitions, and signing a record label with Universal. Going through all those experiences, I kind of got a taste of what the real world is like. I started to feel the pressure of having to meet certain expectations and I was weighed down and getting depressed for not being able to meet them. At Universal or any other record label companies, they want you to look a certain weight, be a certain size, and sing a certain way.
Singing for me has never been a problem, but singing Chinese for the first time, learning how to pronoun certain words in Chinese when singing, and trying to change the way that I sing were very frustrating and I became emotionally traumatized by all the stress.
To answer your question, couple friends of mine started to see my downfall into depression and invited me to a home study group. They didn’t call it a church. They tricked me, kind of, but they said that they were having lunch at so and so’s house and there is a couple of friends that I want you to meet. At that point, one of the people there asked in Chinese if she can pray for me. Up until that point, I had felt so helpless. I didn’t know who to talk to. I didn’t want to worry my parents with all the stress that I was going through, so I said okay. Then, she started praying for me. I started crying for no reason. I never cry around people that I don’t know. So for me that was a new experience – a wave of warmth kind of came over me. She started saying these things that nobody had really known about me, private things that she revealed to me that God had told her. For me, this was a new concept. This was my first exposure to Christianity. Afterwards, I was so moved and touched that I started going to church.
Q: After coming to faith, what were some of the things that you need to adjust in your life?
A: Um…everything. I thank my parents for giving us a great upbringing and teaching us the right morals and values and respect. I think because singing for me always came so naturally, I was so used to hearing people saying nice things to me and complementing me that I had a kind of pride. I didn’t let people too close, and I had a wall up. I carried myself a little bit differently. It wasn’t until I became a Christian that God showed me my ways and where I needed work. They say that it is like the light revealing. I started changing how I speak to people, how I allow people into my life, how I share things with people…how I speak with others in general. It brought to light a lot of little things that most people wouldn’t notice in your day to day life.
For example, just getting on to a taxi, I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I wouldn’t speak with people who I didn’t associate with. I started speaking to clerks, taxi drivers, and I became more open to friendships, because I saw how God accepted me in my weakest of moment. I saw how God loved people that didn’t deserve to be loved. I saw how undeserving I was, but so many people loved me and gave me the room to grow and change, so I needed to give that grace to others. For me, it was a lot about just changing my day to day life and mentality of how I treated others and how I wanted to be treated. It just leads to a more full and happy life. I think you become aware of the little pleasures and happiness and things that matter.
Q: What was the reason that you entered into the competition and what happened that got you the record label contract with Universal?
A: Because of that competition, I stayed in Taiwan. Prior to that it is just a chance to perform, I was in Hong Kong with my aunt. They said that competition was so big. And I thought well I don’t have school now and I just graduated from High School, I said that I will just take a year off and explore Asia. When they told me about this competition, I decided to give it a shot. I wasn’t the contestant, but the challenger on the show, who comes in and tries to kick off the contestant.
I waited for the competition and ended up battling the girl who everybody thought would win. Everybody thought it was a big show down, since she is going to kick off the girl who we all thought was going to win and it did happen that way and I think that’s what got all the attention was because it was her and she was so good. We’re friends now and she ended up coming to our church in Taiwan. We still stay in touch. At that time, it was a big deal. The media blew it up and Universal was working with the winner and the winner was going to have a contract with universal.
One of the agents from that department was there and she was the one scouting the contender to go into the show. She threw the audition process and found people to be the contender for the show. And I was picked. When that competition was well-received, then there was negotiation for the contract, and when I won, then I was quickly signed and she became my agent.
Q: What was the reason that you decide to return back to Los Angeles and to school?
A: My two week stint turned into five years, so I haven’t seen my family nor have I talked to my friends for a long time. We did talk on Skype, but I was so disconnected and a part of me was really lonely. At that point, it had already been two years since my album came out. I was just feeling home sick. I prayed about it. God, should I stay here, should I go home…health wise, even though I was in a more mentally stable place, but I was still going through my eating disorders. I think my emotional loneliness was keeping me from achieving good health, because I wasn’t mature enough as a Christian to see the problems. I just needed to be home again after leaving at such a young age. In a way, I was still a young girl and not really fully mature.
In our contract deal, if I didn’t have a second album, then our contract would be annulled. Since we already had that as a prerequisite in the contract, we just decided to go our separate ways. My agent ended up being saved, because of our mutual friends from our church. She has an amazing testimony of how God changed her life, and she brought so many other artists into our church as well. It is New Life Church in Taiwan.
Q: Is that the same church that Jay Chou attends?
A: Yes, Will Liu, Jay Chou’s good friend, is one of my leaders actually. There are a lot of great people that took care of me and showed me that you can actually have passion for music and Christ and meld it into one life and how through leading by examples. Having those role models in church is amazing. It really made me missed my family more, since they are so much like my family. At that time I think I needed to be home and give myself a break after five years. I came back last year in July and I’ve been going to school for music and working a day job.
I think through it all God is teaching me to be humble and to serve, and I think God is slowly building me back up once again from the beginning with nothing and working for something and appreciating my gift and opportunities that came my way. In the beginning, it all came to me so fast that I didn’t get it all in and appreciate it. I think God is really taking me back and helping me learn to love him and have a relationship with him at my own pace. I think these last couple of years has definitely been rewarding and I am excited for what is to come.
Q: Which church and school do you currently attend?
A: Right now, I’m going to a community college near my house called Pierce College, which is a very nice school with great music program, located in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve been working a lot with my vocal instructors doing Christmas shows and spring shows and learning more about music theory, composition, piano, and guitar. A lot of stuff that really still applies to what I still wanted to do. Eventually, I will be getting my AA in music and possibly transfer if I have time. I’m going to work and attend school if I have time.
As for church, I don’t know if you heard of Phil Pringle. He has a really big congregation in Australia called C3 Church. They have one in North Hollywood that I’ve actually found online after having gone to a CHC conference held in Singapore with Pastor Kong Hee. And Pringle was there at that conference. After hearing him and knowing that they have a church nearby I was just hooked. I went there and just felt in love with the church and the people. There are great pastors and young people on fire for God. It is a charismatic church, very spirit-filled. Love the music. After a while, they ask me to lead worship. That’s where I am serving and got really involved. I’m really happy there.
Q: Since you have made a name for yourself in Asia…
A: Well, I don’t know if I would say that. I guess people who have seen the competition know me better from the competition than they actually know me from my album, because Universal spent a lot of time and money on this album and they really want to push me into Jolin Tsai-level stardom. They had such high expectations and hope for me that sometimes I let them down, but I might have been ready in that time of my life to be at that level. However, we waited so long before releasing the album, a lot of fanfare kind of die down. It took a while for the album to come out.
A lot of people didn’t really know me by the time that the album came out. In the era where music can be downloaded via the internet, my album did really do well and it does stand on its own, and I was nominated for the Golden Melody Award in 2010 as an incoming artist. I’m definitely proud of what I’ve accomplished, but most people knew me from the competition that they saw.
Q. What are some of your plans for your future career? If you do return to the entertainment industry, how can you become that positive influence to your fans and that those you interact with?
A: I’m planning to record a Christian album soon. It is not something that I’m announcing to the world but it is in the works now. I’m actually going to Taiwan and Korea, and we’re going to record the album in English and Chinese. This is definitely something from God, because I didn’t ask for any of it, and the opportunities just came.
I’m still praying about it and I don’t know how it is going to be going back there as a Christian artist in Taiwan. As for here, I’m actually in a band called West Quave. It is this one other guy, who is the lead singer, another girl, and me. It is kind of like a cover band. We do our own little twists on the music. We have a DJ and have the option of doing the live band with dancers. We just got this gig from Macau to perform at this big show at MGM with 22 people going there.
That’s going to be one of our starting points and we’re going to be going through it throughout the year and hopefully booking more gigs. A lot of people involved are from my church. It is just a great group of people with great group of energy. We pray before our rehearsals, we pray before we go on stage, and I think just because not everybody in our group is Christian, we are already showing by example how it is we lead a Christian life through the music business.
Everywhere we go, just the way we are to other people, and how we are with one another, I think by example people see it and tell us that you guys are like different. They ask us, “What’s so different?” Because they can sense that energy and light that we have just by how we carry ourselves. I think God is definitely going to use this group and it is something that I have not done before.
I’m really excited since the lead singer has been in this music business for over 10 years. If you look him up, his name is West Quave. He has a website and he has been doing this amazing job in all these amazing venues. He is in the production world and I’m really excited to be working with him. In the future, we’re talking about writing original songs and possibly producing something together. There are a lot of things that could happen from this and I just love the fact that I’m with people that I trust, that have a good heart, spiritually are attuned. I’m definitely really excited for the next year. It is off to a good start.
Q: Have you thought about entering the contest in American Idol?
A: Everybody ask me that the first time that they meet me or whenever they hear me sing. It is definitely something that has crossed my mind. I think with everything that God has showed me now. I’ve always disliked competitions. I don’t like that feeling that I have to beat somebody or make someone else cry or upsetting someone else, because I need to win.
Singing for me is never about winning. It is not about being the best, but it is expressing what music makes me feel, the lyrics, and the way that it all affects others and move them. That’s what I love about singing for God is that the words affect me so much that if I can put that emotions or help someone experience God through music, then I’ve done my job, but if I’m hurting someone or making someone try to like me more than the other person, that’s not my intent of singing.
For me, that’s just about showing off. It is there for people to appreciate. I just don’t appreciate that or want to do, but it definitely is an experience and it just depends on what you make of it. I think if the time comes and I pray about it and I have peace with it, then I will definitely give it a try.
R: In the Old Testament, after the Israelites crossed over the Red Sea, Moses' sister Miriam wrote a song of praise to God for saving them. For Christians, we sing songs as a praise of our thanksgiving to God's salvation through Jesus Christ, which is the reason why we sing. If you can go in line with that to sing songs and produce that Christian album, then I definitely think that it would be a wonderful journey.
A: For me the best part of church, not to say, I love the sermon and that is the meat of church, the moment that I connect is worship. Music is universal and it touches people in a way that sometimes words can’t. That is something that brings me closest to God. Especially when I am on stage and that music, the things that I can do when I am worshiping, I can’t do normally. That’s amazing.
I have great testimonies. Earlier this month, there was a concert held in Pasadena, Los Angeles, called “Love Changes Everything.” I was sick the whole weekend. We had four shows. I be horsed until I got on stage, sang perfectly, no problems, get off stage and horse again. I honestly think that I am battling with evil spirits and they constantly try to take away my voice, because the devil doesn’t want you to know God or experience God. They will do everything that they can to make sure that you are not going to be that light for God, but I believe that God is greater and that he is going to shine the great light of where he needs to be shown. With that belief and faith and prayer, every time I get on stage to sing, my voice always does something that amazes me. I’m singing and I would wonder how I am doing this when I am just horsed two seconds ago.
Every time I lead worship. I pray and I thank God for giving me the gift and when I get on that stage it is not me anymore. I’m representing the spirit and voice that he has given and put inside of me. If I can transcend myself and be that vessel for God, then that’s my main focus when I get on stage.