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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora