News / USA

Teen Musical Prodigy Earning Acclaim in Jazz World

Jazz saxophone player Grace Kelly (center) on stage
Jazz saxophone player Grace Kelly (center) on stage

Multimedia

Ernest Leong

She shares a name with a former Hollywood star and Princess of Monaco, but her talent is all her own. This Grace Kelly is a jazz saxophonist who has won multiple awards, toured around the world, and played with famous jazz musicians.  And to top it all off, she's only 18.  

She has played to packed houses of jazz fans, sometimes even getting to jam with her childhood heroes.  For Grace Kelly, the life of a jazz musician can be fun and fulfilling.  

But it also takes work.  Long before she takes the stage, she prepares through a daily ritual of listening to music on her laptop and taking notes.

Music has been a part of this prodigy's life since early childhood.

"I think it just started by singing," said Kelly.  "Because that was so natural to me.  Ever since I was little, if I could talk, I would sing."  

Grace began her musical career studying classical piano, but while doing her daily piano exercises, she and her family discovered her true calling.

"I would make up my own songs rather than practice the pieces, so my parents would walk in and go, 'that doesn't sound like the piece.'  And I realized early on, maybe they shouldn't push me in this classical realm, because I wanted to make up my own songs," Kelly recalled.

The result was a career in jazz and worldwide acclaim for her performances on the saxophone.

Grace grew up in the northeastern state of Massachusetts.  She was born Grace Chung, but took her stepfather's name, Kelly, when he adopted her.

There was always music playing in the Kelly house, including jazz.  It was the perfect setting to nurture the talents of a developing saxophonist.  

Grace now follows a grueling schedule, which revolves around practice, recording and touring, but she also takes time out to act like a normal teenager.

"I can go to school and hang out with my buddies, and it's great," she said.  "At the same time, I get to tour and do this whole thing so I feel very blessed to get to do both."

Grace is not the only hard worker in the family.  Her stepfather Robert performs many roles behind the scenes to help with her career.

"I'm her agent, her manager, her roadie, her dad, her confidant, her schlepper - anything that needs to be done," he said.

As a saxophonist, singer, composer and arranger, Grace has released five CD's to date, including one with her teacher, Lee Konitz.

She has performed around the world, in diverse venues, before celebrities and politicians. But of all the places she's been, her favorite place remains the stage.

"Doesn't really matter where," she said.  "I feel most comfortable up there [onstage], and it's funny how, a minute before [I] go on, I can feel nervous.  But as soon as I'm on, I feel like it's home."

And it was onstage that one of her most memorable moments took place.  While she was performing with jazz great Phil Woods at a 2006 concert, Woods took off his hat - an iconic symbol to jazz fans - and placed it on her head.

"It was just really, really flattering, because Phil Woods is one of my idols," Kelly recalled.

It was literally a "crowning moment" and Grace Kelly's fans hope there will be many more to come.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs