Music's been a part of Judy Willing's life since her father used to fill her Eastern Shore home with song on his return from his work in marine construction. Willing has long been on the periphery of the music business: church, school and community gatherings as a child; folk and rock groups in high school; open mikes at nightclubs after moving to the Washington area. Her basic repertoire has always been a bit different, though -- American popular song exemplified by such composers as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael and the Gershwin brothers.

Willing admits that such a repertoire means "there's less of a chance that I'm going to be swept up to stardom and be an overnight sensation." Aware of the musician's dictum "don't give up your day job," Willing has kept hers as a supervisor with a health-insurance claims division of GEICO. She has, however, put out an album of classical popular songs produced by Dave Drake for a new Washington record company, Lavenshan. With a record in hand, Willing says she's ready to actively tackle the local club scene.

"That was my major objective in doing the record, because I haven't really performed around here," she says. "If you don't have a lot of experience behind you, it helps to have a good record." The album is getting some airplay on WAMU and WMAL. Though Washington is receptive to pop songs and big band music, Willing knows that the road is marked by one spectacular irony: "I can't afford to give up my job without radically altering my life style to do the thing that I really want to do."