Grace is a nationally-recognized expert at teaching improvisation to students.  She brings vast knowledge from her history of working with many Jazz Masters such as Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, and many others. Utilizing dozens of techniques and strategies, she will enlighten and inspire your students to present themselves confidently. She is a positive and motivating festival adjudicator and all-purpose jazz ensemble clinician who can help your bands take giant steps toward the next playing level.

WS-1 – Improvisation

In this workshop we explore different aspects of improvisation.  I’ll be teaching my concepts to the students along with hands on exercises during our time together.  Many of the techniques/concepts will be explored to the depth that is appropriate for the level of musicianship of the class I am teaching.

WS-2 – Connecting the melodies in your head to your instrument

One of the hardest things about improvisation is translating the ideas you have in your head (melodies, rhythms, chord changes, notes) and simultaneously playing it on your instrument.  Improvisation shouldn’t just be about theory. It’s not just about moving your fingers.  Improvisation is about the musical ideas in your head (along with the theory you’ve learned) and spontaneous interactions with the band.  Overtime I have learned how to translate the music I’m hearing in my head to my fingers.  It’s a slow process that involves practicing ear training, and singing out your ideas THEN finding the notes on your horn (or whatever instrument you play.)  I’ve done a lot of workshops where I present my own ear training exercises to musicians I’m working with and they are very surprised how simple they are and yet very challenging at the same time.  It’s amazing how a whole new musical world opens up when you can truly PLAY what you are HEARING.   Playing/singing melodic phrases and voice leading are key musical elements that are like the “connective tissue” for me when I’m improvising.

WS-3 – Creating “Magical Musical Moments” with your band

How do we create that “spark,” that indescribable moment when you and your band are truly locked in?  It almost feels as if you’re reading each other’s mind, it’s a type of synchronicity that feels higher than high.

Improvisation is all about spontaneity and listening it’s also about telling a story.  We’ll dive into exercises that make you and your combo sound much tighter as a BAND.  We’ll work on exercises that show you how to shape your solo, work dynamics into your song/improvisation and interact with your band members on a deep level.  It doesn’t matter what “level” you are. I can improvise with my band on one note and get some fire behind it. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from my mentor and saxophone legend Lee Konitz.  He talked about true spontaneity when playing with others. It’s a frame of mind one has to be in along with an openness and willingness to experience the moment.

While teaching past workshops it’s been exciting to see student combos evolve  (and very quickly too!) There have been times I’ve watched a combo play a song and then after throwing them some new ideas and techniques I watch them play the same song in a completely different light. It’s great to see the students walk away buzzing with excitement and new ideas.

We’ll also go through improvisation techniques for one to practice alone in their everyday practice schedule. By practicing these concepts a little everyday your improvisations will get stronger.  Just like a visual artist it’s important for us to have our toolbox.  We want to expand our palate, have more choices so we can ultimately feel FREE when we’re doing the actual music making.

WS-4 – Saxophone Techniques

The saxophone since the age of 10 has fascinated me, which is when I first picked it up.  It continues to fascinate me every day and the possibilities are endless.  In this workshop I will be talking about techniques I use on the saxophone.  I’ll also be talking about “finding your personal sound, bringing out the versatility of the instrument, and influences of mine.  The workshop will be formatted to the level in the room.

WS-5 – What is jazz?

In this workshop I’ll be talking about my story and how I got to where I am now. I feel like I’ve been breathing and playing music ever since I could talk.  I started singing when I could talk, classical piano lessons at 6, wrote my first song at 7, saxophone at 10 and performing/recording professionally since the age of 12.  In the past I’ve structured this workshop so there’s lots of playing in between talking and plenty of room for conversation.  If the workshop is geared towards beginners I like to talk about jazz, what improvisation is, and why as a young person I have found a fascination for studying this genre.

If we have more intermediate advanced students in the workshop I like to get more in depth about my musical inspirations, techniques, how I go about practicing and addressing any specific music questions students have.

Miami Valley Jazz Camp

Thank you so much for joining the Miami Valley Jazz Camp via FaceTime and interacting with over 60 students yesterday.  Your patience and understanding, combined with a really great connection with every student who asked a question, served to create an experience these students will remember for a lifetime.

In fact, the session was so completely successful that we are contemplating repeating it, perhaps even on an annual basis.  We’ve been doing this Jazz Camp for over 25 years, and during that time there have been few experiences for our kids that have made the impact you did in one brief hour.

Your social media and web presence connects extremely well with this next generation of jazz musicians, and they really responded to your creativity, energy, and experiences.

Please accept my highest congratulations on a wildly successful session, and rest assured we will be promoting our students, again and again, to interact with you through social media and visiting your website.  You are always up to something creative and fun, and these kids can take a lot of inspiration for all the things you do.

Thanks again, Grace, be well, safe travels, and keep jammin’!

Hal Melia
Artistic Director
Miami Valley Jazz Camp

University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Grace Kelly is one of those rare persons who understands that a desire to TRULY communicate is THE most important ingredient when performing and teaching jazz and improvisation. At a recent lecture/master class at Umass-Amherst, Ms. Kelly clearly communicated and demonstrated the art and joy of improvisation through her explosive performance, her thoughtful words and her open and generous attitude! Our students and faculty left the master class feeling uplifted, and enlightened.”

Thomas Giampietro
Lecturer, Jazz Studies/Drum Set

Amherst College

“Grace visited our Jazz Theory/Improvisation class and found wonderful ways to share her knowledge with the students.  We had students of differing levels playing a blues and Grace showed great understanding of their levels and shared information well-suited for their individual needs.  She was willing to demonstrate her ideas by playing her saxophone and singing, and this was also beneficial for both our vocalists and our instrumentalists.”

Bruce Diehl
Director of Jazz Performance

Current and Past Residencies, workshops and clinics given at:

Middlebury College, Middlebury VT

Worcester Polytech Institue, Worcester MA

Ithaca College, Ithaca NY

Wooster College, Wooster OH

Jacksonville Jazz Festival

Pilgrim School, Los Angeles CA

Medfield HS, Medfield MA

Quad City Arts, Rock Island, IL

Miami Valley Jazz Camp, Kettering OH

Berklee College of Music  Boston, Massachusetts

Kennedy Center, Wash DC

Jazz Arts Group, Columbus OH

Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, CA

Juneau Jazz and Classics, Juneau, AK

Clarkson School District, Idaho

Boise State University Boise Idaho

Salem State University Salem Massachusetts

Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Moscow, ID

Ball State University Muncie, IN

Outpost, Albuquerque, NM

Alamogordo H.S. Alamogordo, NM

Indiana University – South, New Albany IN

Millersville University Millersville, PA

Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

Montana Jazz Festival, Bozeman, MT

Andover Academy

Natick School High School

Wilson Middle School Natick MA

Trinidad Jazz Festival Trinidad Tobago

Nisville Jazz Festival in Serbia

Festival International JAZZUV Veracruz, Mexico

Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival Missoula, MT

JFK Elementary School, Billerica, MA

Savannah Jazz Festival, Savannah, SC

Roxbury Latin High School, Boston, MA

Dedham High School, Dedham, MA

Xalapa Jazz Festival, Xalapa, Mexico