HARRISONBURG — When a California number appeared on Allison Lyttle’s phone on March 4, she knew it was either a spam call or a dream come true.
A quick follow-up email confirmed that it was the latter — she would be a contestant on "Jeopardy!", a quiz show the Harrisonburg resident has followed since her childhood.
“I couldn't believe that I was actually receiving the phone call,” said the James Madison University music librarian.
Her "Jeopardy!" debut will be tonight on ABC affiliate WHSV-TV3 at 7:30.
Lyttle grew up watching "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" during her childhood in Williamsville, N.Y.
Today, she regularly attends events, such as Wednesday night trivia at Pale Fire Brewing Co. in Harrisonburg.
“I've been doing this trivia stuff for forever,” Lyttle said.
To be on "Jeopardy!", contestants must perform in a series of trials, she said, including extensive tests and an audition.
It wasn’t the first time Lyttle had applied to be on the show. When she was a freshman at Ohio’s Denison University at the age of 18, Lyttle took the online test and did the audition but never heard back from the show.
“I was 18 — it was fine,” she laughed.
She went on to finish her undergraduate program at Denison and earn her master’s degree in music and a master’s of library science at the University of Indiana-Bloomington.
Lyttle started the application process again in May of 2017 and was asked to audition in February 2018.
And this time, she was called back.
In the last week of March, Lyttle and her mother, father and sister flew to Los Angeles for the filming of the episode at Sony Studios.
“All of us knew we shared this big experience and we couldn't talk about it with anyone else for 10 weeks,” she said.
Though Lyttle couldn’t divulge details about the episode, she was able to share highlights about the experience.
“It was very strange because I realized I was standing on a set I was seeing for years,” she said.
Her experience as a French horn player helped her to not be nervous in front of the crowd, which like the studio, was smaller than she imagined.
“This is real” she said. “This is happening — millions of people are going to be watching me when this airs.”
And she did make an effort to not be immortalized on the internet for some sort gaff, she laughed.
“I better not do something to make myself a meme,” Lyttle recalled thinking.
The show’s crew and host, Alex Trebek, were “wonderful,” she said.
Guests of "Jeopardy!" are only allowed to be on once, unless otherwise invited back for a certain tournament, Lyttle said.
“This was my time,” she said. “I had a lot of fun.”
Lyttle is about to start working on a doctorate of musical arts in horn performance, pedagogy and literature at James Madison University and continues to advocate to others to at least try to take the free online tests to get on the show.
“You never know," she said. "You may find yourself on television."