/ Modified apr 3, 2014 7:03 p.m.

USC Music Director Sings, Pays it Forward for Music Ed

Tucson native Kathleen Grace recently returned to the Old Pueblo for a one-night performance at Plush.

Tucson native, Kathleen Grace directs the vocal jazz department at the USC Thornton School of Music.

She’s also a seasoned performer, who has traveled the world sharing her country, folk and jazz inspired music with audiences.

But, “as I’ve become more and more of a writer and a songwriter, I find that it’s home that I end up writing about –and home for me is Tucson,” Grace said.

Grace came home recently for a one-night performance at Plush, where she featured songs from her new album titled “No Place to Fall.” She said the ten tracks on the record found her turning toward her Tucson origins for inspiration more than any previous recordings.

“I’ve been touring for years but I kind of have always found myself in other states… California, New York, and other countries, ” Grace said. “I haven’t had many opportunities to bring my music home, but there’s something about my latest record that has allowed me to take my jazz roots and move towards roots music a little bit.”

During her visit to Tucson, Grace conducted a master class with students at San Miguel High School. It’s the type of work she likes to do with young people whenever she’s on the road, she said.

“With teaching and working with young people you just want to find a way to have a few moments of connection with them,” she said. “The goal is not change their lives and show them how ‘music is the answer,’ but it’s just getting them excited and introducing sound to them.”

Grace said music played an important role in her life as a young person, and she credits the arts for keeping her engaged in school.

“Art is what connected me to school,” Grace said. “I feel pretty passionate about the fact that (music) is a huge part of what it means to have a great education system."

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