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Jazz innovator to light up the Middlebury stage

Grace Kelly wrote her first song at seven years old, recorded her first CD at 12, orchestrated and performed her original composition with the Boston Pops Orchestra at 14, and performed at President Obama’s inauguration at 16. At only 25 years old, this jazz phenomenon and vocalist has released 10 albums and headlined more than 700 shows in 30 countries. This musical star will shine at Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 16.
Performing Arts Series Director Allison Coyne Carroll first saw Kelly while at a house concert in Harlem. She recalls noticing a hush falling over the boisterous crowd.
“The audience was completely rapt in Ms. Kelly’s delivery, energy, and grace (no pun intended),” said Coyne Carroll, who knew that a Middlebury audience would also be wowed.
Kelly has performed or recorded with Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Emma Stone, Lin Manuel, Esperanza Spalding, Lee Konitz, David Sanborn and Gloria Estefan to name a few. In recent years, she has been featured on Amazon’s Emmy-nominated TV show Bosch, CNN.com, Glamour Magazine, Forbes, Billboard, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, and in many appearances on NPR. As a songwriter, she has won multiple ASCAP Composer Awards and International Songwriting Awards.
In efforts to bring jazz to a younger audience as well as to bridge music, cinematography, and her joyful personality, Kelly launched a new weekly video series called “Grace Kelly PopUp” on social media, which has racked up over one million views in less than a year.
“I think everybody comes to life with a calling,” Kelly said. “I’ve been super blessed that my calling in life has been music and that I found it from an early age. But what I really hope my music brings to people is healing. There’s nothing that makes me feel better than when somebody, after a show, says ‘You lifted me up.’”
Is it the main reason she plays? Her response comes without hesitation: “It’s the only reason.”
At Friday’s concert Kelly will lead a hand-picked quartet of outstanding young musicians including pianist David Linard, who earned his master’s degree from Juilliard in 2015 and has performed with such greats as bluesman SaRon Crenshaw, Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Tucker and the bad mofos, Gracie and Rachel, and more. Playing bass and singing background vocals will be Julia Pederson, who has performed globally and at venues like Lincoln Center, Joe’s Pub, Bowery Ballroom, The Carlyle, and Highline Ballroom, as well as on Broadway shows Mamma Mia!, Jesus Christ Superstar, Ghost and Matilda. Rounding out the quartet will be drummer Connor Kent. While studying with world-renowned drummer and educator Ed Soph at the University of North Texas, Kent was a member of the seven-time Grammy nominated One O’Clock Lab Band. Since graduating, he’s been working with “Blue” Lou Marini (Saturday Night Live, Blues Brothers) on his project “Take the Blues Train” and traveling to China to perform the world premiere of “Crossing Chinese Opera with Jazz.”
The show begins at 8 p.m. on Friday in Robison Hall at the Mahaney Center for the Arts in Middlebury. Tickets are $28 for adults; $22 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, emeriti and alumni; $10 for youth 18 and under; and $6 for Middlebury College students, and are on sale by calling (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or at middlebury.edu/arts/tickets.

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