This past fall, I set out to find some of the most extraordinary college students from around the world – students who were pursuing passions at the same time as preparing for a degree. The people that I got to meet confirmed my theory: It is possible to do both. Henry Bird taught us the importance of receiving an education as well as impressing Paul Hollywood with a good bake. Filmmaker Bracia Dover inspired us with her ability to turn adversity into art. Daniela Negri encouraged students to step out of their comfort zone and make connections. Cooper Adams selflessly gives back to the community while studying.
As the semester is coming to a close, I am incredibly excited to introduce the final Sensational Student of the series: Grace Kinstler. Kinstler is a singer/songwriter, student at Berklee and current “American Idol” contestant voted into the top 10. She lights up the stage with both her powerful vocals and glowing personality. In fact, during Kinstler’s audition on “American Idol,” her incredible voice alone brought Luke Bryan to tears.
I got the opportunity to ask Kinstler some questions about what it’s like being a rising star and a college student.
Kate Luongo (DC): If someone was meeting you for the first time, how would you introduce yourself?
Grace Kinstler: I would say I am a singer/songwriter/actress and recording artist!
Kate Luongo (DC): What university do you go to/what is your major?
GK: Berklee College of Music, songwriting.
KL: Can you tell me a little bit about your daily life as a student? It is your ideal Saturday evening. What are you doing for fun?
GK: Aside from writing and doing theory homework, my ideal Saturday would be cooking for friends and family and playing some good old games – Quiplash, Cards Against Humanity, That’s What She Said.
KL: How long have you been singing/writing songs? Do you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a singer? What was the first song you wrote?
GK: I’ve been writing songs since I was in middle school, but my first release was when I was 14, my freshman year of high school. It was called “The World Doesn’t Wait.” I’ve known I wanted to be a singer since about 8 years old!
KL: How do you balance your music career with your studies?
GK: Luckily, my singing career is a big part of my schooling. When it comes to classes and homework, I just try to make sure I’m actually retaining information instead of just going through the motions and rushing to get the work done. I find that when I do that, I actually am able to enjoy the homework.
KL: How would you describe your style in one word?
GK: Music: Pop/soul, Clothing: Chill
KL: Did anyone inspire you to sing/audition for “American Idol”?
GK: My dad definitely inspired me to audition for Idol.
KL: What was it like singing in front of the judges for the first time? How did you overcome any fear/nerves, and how did this compare to facing intimidating professors?
GK: Singing in front of the judges for the first time was really surreal. They looked like porcelain dolls at first; I was just thinking, “Is this really happening?” It truly did not feel real. For me, avoiding nerves is just about focusing on what I love about what I’m doing (performing), rather than being afraid of what I might mess up. In all honesty, it didn’t really compare at all for me. Luckily I haven’t had any professors that have intimidated me all that much!
KL: Has music ever helped you get through something difficult?
GK: Music has always been an outlet that allowed me to express myself in a way that only words couldn’t. When my dad passed unexpectedly in the beginning of 2020, writing helped me process my emotions and helped me form new perspectives on all that had happened.
KL: What is your dorm/apartment like? Can you describe your ideal study space?
GK: My apartment is quite small and compact! Nothing special, but there are lots of pictures of my family and friends all over the walls, and some cute little quirky decorations to liven the place up! Including a little lavender octopus change jar that I painted at a pottery place. My ideal study space is clean, quiet, organized and stocked with lots of water and other cute things to draw inspiration from.
KL: What are your future plans after college (no pressure!)? Has your experience on “American Idol” impacted your goals?
GK: After college, I plan to start doing session singing, if I haven’t done so already. Session singers are vocalists who go in to record demos for songwriters who can’t/don’t want to sing the songs they write, but want their songs to be pitched to artists. It’s a great way to network and work your way up the chain!
KL: What has been the best unexpected part of being on “American Idol”?
GK: The friends I have made here have been very unexpected. I wasn’t sure what this whole experience would be like, but I definitely didn’t expect to walk out of it with life-long friends.
KL: What is your main goal as a singer/songwriter? Is there something that you want your listeners to take away from your songs?
GK: With every song, I want listeners to feel heard and seen in some respect. I want them to feel like they aren’t alone, in whatever fashion that may be. Whether happy, sad, nostalgic … whatever the feeling, I want my audience to walk away having connected with me and felt what I am feeling. I want to connect with people on a spiritual level; that’s what music is about, a universal connection!
KL: Do you have any advice for students who want to pursue a hobby/passion during university?
GK: Don’t compare yourself, and don’t ever let rejection stop you. Comparing yourself is when you lose yourself, and you can’t get anywhere if you just give up! Get some thick skin, and get ready for a wild ride! It’s all worth it in the end.
Thank you for letting me be a part of the series!
You can watch and vote for Grace Kinstler on “American Idol” on Sunday and Monday nights on ABC.