Growing up near Readong, Pennsylvania, Phillips ‘played piano by ear non-stop as a child’, later studying piano and voice. She attended Oberlin College, singing in her freshman year with the college big band. She had her own radio show, singing and playing on the college station, and sang with a college trio that was the supporting act on the occasion of Dave Brubeck’s famous Brubeck At Oberlin concert. After attending the New England Conservatory of Music, she relocated to New York City. There, she performed on a number of live television shows as a member of two of the best known choirs, the Ray Charles Singers and the Norman Luboff Choir. She also sang demonstrations for songwriters such as Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon.