Interviews With Grace


Asian American Life – Feature Video Story by Kyung Yoon


Pre-show Interview at Rockport Jazz Festival ( 8/9/18)

WGBH TV interview ( 5/23/16, 9 min)  –


September 2018






Chris Becker  5/13/16 LARB




Below you will find some of the more frequently asked questions Grace is asked in interviews:


Why did I choose the alto sax?

“I fell in love with the sound of the saxophone when I heard tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. When I was younger my mom used to play lots of recordings of Stan Getz in the house. I always thought his sound was the quintessential sound of the saxophone. I started alto privately, at age 10, not being patient enough to wait until they would allow me to study it in school. Once I played the alto for the first time I got a nice sound right away and it felt so right. I fell in love with the alto…the range fits my voice range perfectly and I feel like I’m “singing” through the horn. I never felt the need to permanently switch to tenor even though so many of my idols are tenor players. ”


What does it mean to me to play so many different instruments along with being a composer, arranger and singer?

Playing many different instruments are like tools in becoming a greater musician. Playing piano is a huge thing for my composition writing and knowing more and more instruments helps me write and arrange better. I took a little time to learn instruments such as bass and drums as well specifically to help my writing for the rhythm section. Beside the alto saxophone and voice I also play soprano saxophone, flute, and some clarinet and tenor saxophone. I really enjoy playing these because they act as different voices. They are all different ranges and different colors and depending on what type of song I’m playing, they may suit it better. Being a composer, arranger and singer are very important to me. They are the other aspects of me and playing my own music is extremely powerful to me. That is a side of me that cannot come out of improvising and is truly my feeling and memories wrapped up in a song. Singing my own songs or other composer’s songs is very enjoyable because I have the words to express many different feelings. Being able to meld singing and playing gives me many ways to express myself and I think about both of them equally but in a different light.”


Why did I decide to be a jazz musician?

“I have always been drawn to concept of improvising. I love the fact that in jazz you are creating music at the moment and every performance is different from the next. I can play the same song 200 times and each time it will be different. There is no other art form that you can do that and that is where I believe all the magical moments between musicians and memorable performances are made. When I was 6 years old I started learning music on classical piano but could never stick to the notes written on the page, I would always drift off and make up my own music. That’s when my parents and I realized maybe classical music wasn’t going to be my thing and started taking jazz lessons.”


Why do I want to play different musical idioms?

It’s really boring to me to just stick with one genre and only play one thing. When I was growing up I wasn’t just listening to jazz. I listened to a lot of Broadway and American Songbook. I also listened to a lot of contemporary music and old school pop like Paul McCartney, (the Beatles) Stevie Wonder, Sting, Billy Joel, James Taylor. I continue to listen to a big range and as much music of different types as I can today. I play jazz, heavy blues, rock, and funk, whatever I have the opportunity to do. I love it all and it seems natural that it all comes out in my music. It’s like a subconscious thing now when I’m writing for different genres to come out in my music. ”


How do I try to be different- as instrumentalist, and as singer?

“If I try to express who I am, and not copy someone else, that in itself makes me different. The biggest thing for me is to try to find my own voice. I listen to many different artists but when it comes to my own shows, I’m playing my own music and just trying to sound like me. I think the mixture of the horn and singing makes my music different and unique as well. It is a different sound and my writing and arrangements in general bring a new fusion to the music.”


What did I learn from Lee Konitz?

The first thing he taught me was the idea that you never stop learning. You will never know it all. You must be open to whatever is presented to you at the moment. There have been so many musical lessons I’ve learned from Lee Konitz and observations and ideas he throws at me even today. One of the biggest things I’ve picked up from him is his attention to small details in the music. There are lots of small new things that he picks out which he’ll tell me he didn’t like or that he enjoyed. Also, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from him is spontaneity is key. Every time I see him or listen to his recordings it’s really magical because he is constantly playing off the rhythm section or being in the moment. I don’t think that really settled into my head until really hanging out with him and hearing him talk and play, but now I realize it’s one of the most powerful things this music can bring us.”


Which jazz concert or collaboration do I remember the most?

One of the most memorable performances I have done was playing with the Boston Pops Orchestra opening for the Grammy award jazz singer, Dianne Reeves. She is one of my personal favorites as well. I played with the orchestra for 2 nights and we premiered one of my original compositions, “Every Road I Walked” that I orchestrated for the Pops Orchestra. It was my first time writing for strings and other instruments such as tubas, but after a lot of hard work I had my 40 page score done and Keith Lockhart said it looked great. We played it and it sounded really lovely and I was on cloud 9. They are the best Pops Orchestra in the world and being up there on stage padded with the beautiful sounds of strings and woodwinds while I was the soloist was like a dream.”


What else do I do besides playing music?!?

I really enjoy dancing, creative writing and just writing songs in my own house when I’m not performing. I love hanging out with friends and eating lots of good food. Music is really my life though so even when I’m not performing I am constantly listening and/or practicing and writing. But I do love watching movies and hanging out (I’m a fun person I promise.)”

Now the questions you really want to know…


Is your name REALLY Grace Kelly?

“Yes, yes it is. Some people ask me if my parents named me after the princess or if it’s just a stage name. At times I will answer this is not the case and they still don’t believe me. So here is my answer for the world to read written out in TEXT. Haha. My name is Grace Kelly. Really. However, it wasn’t always…

My birth name was Grace Chung. (This makes a lot more sense because yes, I don’t look Irish or even close to it.) My Mom got divorced when I was the young age of 2. A little later she met my stepfather Bob Kelly. When I was around 8 years old he adopted my sister and me and we became “Kelly’s!” Now here’s the funny thing…Ever since I was little I would watch old Grace Kelly movies. I simply loved her. I would go around telling my friends and teachers that I was “princess Grace Kelly.” I would even get in trouble in school because I would sign my name “Grace Kelly” on my papers when it wasn’t yet my name. Then as destiny would have it, it did change and is now my name.