Jazz Sensation Grace Kelly Performs Concert For Avedisian School Children

The Grace Kelly Quintet

Grace Kelly is a saxophonist, singer, songwriter, composer/arranger from Brookline, MA. Having studied saxophone since the age of ten, she is rapidly making her way up in the jazz music world. Trumpeter and Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis was so impressed with Kelly’s three-night stand as guest of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, that he invited her to join the ensemble at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D.C. Harry Connick, Jr. heard Kelly in a master class on a December afternoon and brought her on stage to sit in with his band that night. Since then, Kelly has been voted “Best Jazz Act” in Boston for four consecutive years in the FNX/Phoenix Best Music Poll, received the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composer’s Award in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 and won “Jazz Artist of the Year” at the Boston Music Awards in both 2008 and 2010.  The 2009, 2010 and 2011 Downbeat Critics Poll added her to the list naming her one of the “Alto Saxophone Rising Stars”, the youngest ever to be named so.  Grace graduated from the Berklee College of Music in December.

             On January 21, the Grace Kelly Quintet performed at a fundraiser for the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA. The event, which was attended by over 200 people, benefited The Avedisian School in Armenia.  In an email to her fans, Kelly explained her support for school children in Armenia:  “Yes, it’s true. I am of Korean descent, have an Irish name and Armenian relatives.  Educational opportunities for all is a cause I truly believe in.”

This was an extraordinary night with Grace displaying a prodigiously virtuosic mastery on not just the alto sax, but the soprano saxophone as well. Combine that with an incredible voice and you have some idea of the maturity and depth of her talent. Her vocal style is one that includes scat singing which alone would have been extraordinary, but she stretched further and during one scat segment added an improvised tale on the spot relating to the evening and The Avedisian High School. That was not to be believed. Needless to say, the audience fell apart and a vociferous audience reaction greeted her at the end of the number. There aren’t enough words to define her musical gifts as she also composes deeply sensitive words and feelings in her compositions as was shown in her song “Eggshells.” From there she was equally at home in her rendition of Thelonious Monk’s, “Round Midnight.” Grace and her Quintet again brought the house down with that old standard that we all know as “Down by the Riverside.” It should be noted that the Quintet was equally impressive as the audience was treated to extended solos by guitar/ bass/trumpet and drums. What a night for music!

Plans are underway for a similar benefit concert by Ms. Kelly in Philadelphia.  The Lexington, MA event was organized with the help of the Boston University Armenian Student’s Association, the Avedisian family, Daniel Hagopian, Seta Kalajian, and Jeanmarie Papelian, Esq. (who proudly acknowledges that she is one of Grace Kelly’s Armenian relatives).

Jeanmarie Papelian, Esq., (chair of AMAA Development Committee), Pamela Avedisian (Avedisian School benefactor), Saxophonist Grace Kelly and Edward Avedisian (Avedisian School benefactor)

The Avedisian School in Malatya-Sepastia, Armenia was founded by a generous grant from the family of Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian under the stewardship of Edward and Pamela Avedisian. The first Armenian Evangelical School in Armenia, The Avedisian School was established in an existing building given to the (AMAA) by the Armenian government. After much renovation to the building, the School opened its doors on September 20, 1999 as a tuition-free kindergarten with 75 students in three classes.

Students from economically disadvantaged homes and some single parent homes were accepted into the School. They were hungry for the chance to explore and learn. The Avedisian School, under the direction of the AMAA, is now the educational jewel of Armenia and is home to nearly 300 students as well as 56 staff members, including 32 teachers. As part of the curriculum, the School teaches English, Russian and French to students in kindergarten through ninth grade. In both 2009 and 2010, the School’s Russian language team won first prize in Russian language competency, competing against all schools in Armenia. In 2010, the School won first place in the countrywide competition for French language competency. In addition, the School and its principal Melania Geghamian received a gold medal in 2004 from the Minister of Education for the best school administration in Armenia. This prestigious award is given only once every five years.

The primary objective of The Avedisian School is to bring up the present and future Armenian generations in a nurturing environment where students receive a well-rounded education. The School provides this environment by offering a high quality education, cultural ­spiritual-moral training, three nutritious meals each day, summer and winter uniforms and health care. The School also instills a sense of civic responsibility and cultivates morality by awakening the love and desire to learn.

Because of the School’s exceptional reputation in Yerevan as a tuition free, quality school, there is a long waiting list of families wishing to register their children.

A recent engineering report found that the present school building is structurally unsound and cannot be repaired. In addition, the School only teaches up to the ninth grade, leaving the students to seek the last four years of secondary education elsewhere.

The Avedisian family and the AMAA together are committed to ensure that our young people in Armenia have the opportunity for a quality education that will provide a better future for them, their families and for Armenia. The Avedisian family has pledged up to $5 million dollars in matching funds to make this dream of building three buildings, containing kindergarten through grade 12, a reality.

The Avedisian School is slated to be the first LEED Certified Building in all of Armenia exemplifying Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Building and construction techniques will employ the latest advancements in solar and energy design systems making it both earthquake resistant and less costly to operate.

The Hrant Dink Library and Research Center at The Avedisian School will be the repository of an extensive collection of the life and works of Hrant Dink. These materials will be available for scholars, students and the public on site as well as through digital access worldwide. The Center will be the only one of its kind in Armenia honoring Hrant Dink.

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