October 25, 2021

Crystal Lake teen wins national vocal competition

A trip to Boston and a first-place win in a national voice competition isn’t a bad way to start a summer.

Grace Kinstler, who just finished her sophomore year at Crystal Lake Central High School, was one of more than 1,300 singers nationwide to compete in a vocal competition hosted by Classical Singer Magazine.

On May 28, she earned first place in the “Musical Theatre High School” category of the National Classical Singer Convention, taking home a cash prize of $1,200 and a scholarship for a visit to New York to take part in a private seminar with a panel of Broadway directors and casting agents.

It’s just another notch in the belt of the 15-year-old, who has her own YouTube channel featuring both covers and originals and a couple of songs on iTunes, has landed starring roles in various musicals, including the upcoming “Big Fish” – opening July 21 at Madison Street Theatre in Oak Park with Surging Films and Theatrics – and hopes to appear on NBC’s “The Voice” this fall.

(Nothing definite yet, but she’s already gotten a couple callbacks for the TV show, she said. “I’m not allowed to share any dates just because it’s all confidential, but I have some good stuff coming up,” she said.)

Inspired by Christine Aguilera, Adele and her Crystal Lake Central voice teacher, Michelle Hackman, Kinstler dreams of a future career in music and on Broadway.

“I try to make my songs, not to be cheesy, but I like to make them have a message, because I feel like some of the songs today are about these inappropriate things like sex, drugs or alcohol, and I hear a lot of that on the radio,” she said.

“I don’t know, I have this idea that I want to change the standard of what music is and go back to storytelling.”

The latest song she wrote, “Make A Choice,” reflects that sentiment.

“It’s basically about when you’re put down, you have to keep moving because if you don’t, you’re not going to get anywhere, and that’s just the mindset you have to have,” she said.

Kinstler entered the Classical Singer Magazine competition by submitting an online video in the 14- to 19-year-old age range of the competition. She then advanced through several rounds to become a finalist and attend a convention in Boston, where finalists had the chance to take part in three days worth of classes and concerts presented by professional singers, schools and more.

Among her audition songs were “The Life of the Party” from “The Wild Party,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from “The Little Mermaid” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables.”

As for the cash prize, she said, her parents, Sherry and Mitch Kinstler, would like her to save it, but she might put it to use recording another song in a studio.

Writing daily and a fan of pop music, she’d like to put together enough originals to create an album, but she’s also focused on theater, auditioning for as many area productions as possible.

“I would love to do both [singing and Broadway],” she said.

“A lot of stars are stereotyped. I see a lot of people being changed by Hollywood. They go from these role models to what society would view as not the best role models, and I would love to kind of change that standard and be someone that kids can always look up to and they are never let down.”

Working with her for the past two years at Central, Hackman said Kinstler’s been anything but a let-down.

“I knew it was a very special instrument and that it was very powerful for someone of her age and something special for sure,” she said of the first time she heard Kinstler’s voice. “It’s a gift. She has a very, very wonderful gift.”