Loren Allred cannot remember a time when life had no music.
"My dad is a choral conductor, and my mom is a classical soprano and a voice teacher. So growing up, there were always voice lessons in the house. My dad would take me, as a little girl, to his choir rehearsals, and I would kind of sit there next to his music stand and just watch," Ms. Allred said.
So the young woman understands voices. But is she "The Voice"?
When NBC's reality ratings juggernaut goes to live shows this week, Ms. Allred will be there, riding a star-making performance in the previously taped knockout round, which aired last Monday.
The program's format is simple: Hopefuls sing, sight unseen, for the four celebrity judges. From there, the best are challenged in a series of head-to-head competitions that eventually yields one winner.
For Ms. Allred, 23, it has been a wonderful yet unnerving experience. Millions of people watch the show each week, and the live rounds begin Monday.
"When I auditioned, I thought 'What am I getting myself into? This is so scary and so risky,' " she said from Los Angeles during a rehearsal break. "When people sign up for something like this, they don't know if they'll be completely humiliated or if it turns into something they always dreamed about."
Happily, she said, it's been the latter: "It's been totally amazing."
The daughter of former Pittsburgh Bach Choir director Brady Allred and his wife, Carol Ann, a classical soprano and voice teacher who has a doctorate of musical arts in voice performance, Ms. Allred grew up in a family with mad musical skills.
She and her three younger sisters -- Megan, 20, Brennan, 16, and Karin, 13, all sing and play piano as well as a variety of other instruments.
"All four of our daughters learned to sing harmony in the bathtub as little toddlers," said their father, who has his doctorate of musical art in conducting and is the artistic director and conductor of the Salt Lake Choral Artists and Salt Lake Vocal Artists.
"I have fond memories of Loren and her next-younger sister singing duets at full voice in the backseat of my car -- along with my CD of Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion!" Mr. Allred said.
"All our girls used to love to sing with our recordings of 'The Lion King' and 'Wicked' when we had long drives in the van. And I especially loved when we all sang hymns together: a cappella in our living room, around the piano and around the neighborhood when we would go caroling."
The Allreds moved from Observatory Hill to Utah six years ago. Loren would go on to study musical theater at Weber State, then attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. But even if you take the girl out of Pittsburgh ...
"I miss Pittsburgh terribly; I loved growing up there," she said.
Her desire to become a professional singer was realized at a fairly young age.
"My wife, Carol Ann, and I were singing with the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France, and we took Loren and Megan with us to spend three weeks -- a week of rehearsals, a week of concerts in beautiful cathedrals, and then a week of recording for the Telarc label," Mr. Allred said.
"That experience, I think it just sparked something in me that I just knew I wanted to do something with music some day," Ms. Allred said.
On "The Voice," she has been referred to as "the wedding singer," something she began in college.
"There's nothing wrong with being a wedding singer, at all. I really loved doing it, but it is a lot of singing during people enjoying themselves, maybe paying attention for a moment, but maybe, [more likely] dancing, eating dinner.
"So being on the show and having all eyes on you, not just the audience, but all of America, and with the Internet and everything, it's very, very different," said Ms. Allred, who was working in New York City before trying out for the show.
Her first two "Voice" appearances were shown in short montage. It began with Ms. Allred capturing the attention of judges Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green during blind auditions; she chose to be in Mr. Levine's camp.
Then she survived a close Battle Round against teammate Brian Scartocci. Last Monday was probably the toughest challenge, when she went up against Vermont's Nicole Nelson in the knockout round. Ms. Nelson sang Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You."
"I knew there were a lot of really, really talented people on my team. So I needed to just hit it out of the park. When they put me with Nicole -- well, she's been the people's favorite.
"I had to put a spin on that Amy Winehouse song and take it to the next level."
She surprised the judges with the force of her vocals on "You Know I'm No Good."
Coach Blake Shelton was blunt: "Loren, I was expecting it to be a murder scene, and it just didn't happen." But he also said, "She just became what we are supposed to be looking for on this show. These moments happen now and then where a star is born on that stage."
"The Amy Winehouse song was just a sassy, sultry choice for me to do," Ms. Allred said. "I am someone who really overthinks things. So I'm really glad I went first."
Each of the four coaches' teams has five singers remaining. Beginning this week, viewers vote online at www.nbc.com, by text or phoning a toll-free number that will appear on the screen during the live show.
The two singers with the fewest votes in any given week will be eliminated.
Ms. Loren said she couldn't discuss her song choice this week -- "I don't think anybody really likes spoilers" -- but said she was excited about it. Trying to get America as excited by her performance will be the key.
Her father, who is in Spain judging a choir competition, said he has confidence.
"As her dad, I encourage her to think about her family, who loves her, and feel our love and support as she goes out to perform. I'm always promoting her success on my Facebook page and my 4,600 'friends' are all supporting her, too!"
"I am still on cloud nine at the response of [the knockout round]; it's really the most exciting thing," Ms. Allred said. "In just one day I gained more than 1,000 [Twitter] followers, everyone saying, 'Great job.'
"That was just crazy."
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published November 4, 2012 4:00 AM