Berklee’s Grace Kinstler wows ‘Idol’ judges with a spectacular audition

By Cary Shuman

There is only one word to describe Berklee College of Music student Grace Kinstler’s audition for American Idol – amazing.

That’s exactly how celebrity judge and country music star Luke Bryan described it for the millions of fans watching the ABC-TV premiere of American Idol’s 2021 season on Feb. 14.

After Kinstler showed her superb range and immense vocal talent on her rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” the incomparable mega-star Katy Perry declared, “Grace, what a voice!”

Legendary singer and songwriter Lionel Richie gave Grace a standing ovation after she lit up America with “Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin.

The whole beautifully produced segment was worthy of an Emmy itself. The performance, the reaction by the judges, and the sheer emotion of Kinstler’s story was compelling and captivating. Kinstler dedicated her audition to her father.

“My biggest supporter was definitely my dad,” Kinstler said on the show. “He passed away last February very unexpectedly so that was really hard. I know he would be here right now with me if her were still here.”

Kinstler, 20, earned a ‘Golden Ticket’ to Hollywood where she will pursue the goal of becoming the 19th season’s ‘American Idol.’

‘A Crazy Whirlwind’

Since her appearance on the show and her return to Boston, Kinstler has received hundreds of congratulatory messages from friends, high school classmates, and the Berklee College community.

“It’s really exciting,” said Kinstler, who is a third-year student at the renowned college. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity. It’s been a crazy whirlwind since the show aired.”

Kinstler was asked about the judges’ stunning reaction to her performance, especially that of Bryan, whose eyes welled up with tears.

“It was pretty unbelievable for me because he’s been in the industry and knows so many talented people and he’s witnessed so much talent on the show,” said Kinstler. “To have someone who hasn’t had that reaction before to have that reaction to me kind of validated all the reasons why I do music. To have that effect on someone of that caliber was just extremely rewarding for me.”

Studying at Berklee

and living in Boston

Grace Kinstler is in her third year at Berklee. She took all of her classes online for the fall semester.

“That was interesting. It’s not something we’re used to, especially at a performing school,” related Kinstler. “But I think they’ve done a good job of accommodating to that. I think the professors have to work extra hard to do that. My first semester went very well.”

Kinstler thanked Berklee Assistant Professor Tom Baskett, for his guidance and mentorship. “He’s my voice coach and he’s just been an extremely amazing mentor to me,” said Kinstler. “He’s always been super supportive of everything and super accommodating for me when I had the loss of my dad last year. He’s someone who’s always been on my side consistently and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.”

Kinstler lived in a college dormitory for her freshman year. She currently has an apartment in the city.

“I love Boston – it has so much character.” said Kinstler. “I came from a suburb in Illinois so to come to Boston is so cool because we’re right by The Pru (Prudential Building) and there’s just so much to see. And there’s still things that I want to go to see here. Boston is just such a beautiful place.”

Kinstler has visited Fenway Park, which is within walking distance of Berklee.

“I actually went to Fenway with my parents and my brothers before I became a student at Berklee,” said Kinstler. “It was fun to come back and to have Berklee be so close to Fenway. Anytime I walk around, I can see it.”

Kinstler initially thought about not attending college, but her parents encouraged her to have a concrete plan for her future.

“So I applied to Berklee where I had attended summer programs in 2016 and 2017 which I really enjoyed,” said Kinstler. “It was actually the only school that applied to, and luckily I got in.”

The next ‘Idol’

Luke Bryan compared Kinstler’s audition to that of first-season American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson and 2004 season finalist Jennifer Hudson, who went on to win an Academy Award and two Grammys.

“It was super cool to be able to go in there and be compared to people like Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson whom I’ve always looked up to my entire life,” said Kinstler. 

American Idol fans nationwide have been reaching out to Grace Kinstler on social media. There have been autograph seekers in Boston and viewers are enthusiastically anticipating the show when host Ryan Seacrest (also seen in Boston on the Live With Kelly and Ryan Show) welcomes Kinstler and other aspiring Idols to Hollywood.

“The reaction has been really crazy,” said Kinsler. “Going into it I didn’t expect that much of a positive reaction, but my social media accounts have been blowing up and I’m so grateful that people did have that reaction to me.”

Grace Kinsler has captured the attention of the national music scene. She will now head to Hollywood in hopes of capturing the coveted title of American Idol.

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