HUMBLE STAR: Focused West earned widespread respect before ‘The Voice’
Long before she debuted on NBC’s “The Voice”, was mentored by superstar Blake Shelton and earned the admiration of millions of music lovers around the globe, Canton native Grace West was a shining star in the lives of those who knew her best.
A unique blend of talent, humility and confidence, the young lady known as Grace Rembinski left a glowing impression on friends, teachers and family before she moved from Canton to Nashville weeks after her Plymouth High School graduation ceremony in June of 2021.
“When she was in our top choir, Grace was a fantastic talent,” said Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Choir Director Jennifer Neumann. “But one thing that consistently stood out about Grace was her humble and reserved demeanor.”
Neumann learned from Rembinski’s mom, Jill, that Grace periodically traveled to Nashville on weekends during high school to perform and write songs.
“At the beginning of the week, I’d say, ‘So, Grace, why don’t you tell the class about your weekend?’,” Neumann recounted. “And in a very respectful, soft-spoken way, she’d decline simply because she was so humble and she didn’t want anybody else to feel less than.
“When you’re as talented as Grace, you have to have a certain level of confidence. She’s confident, but without being cocky or arrogant, which is hard, especially for teenagers. But that’s who she is.”
Plymouth High School English teacher Evin Green has been equally impressed by West’s display of humility and diligence.
When West was a student in his 10th-grade American Literature Writing class, he was informed by Jill Rembinski that Grace may miss a few classes here and there due to her music-related trips to Nashville.
“A perfect example of Grace’s humility is that I heard about her singing talent from other teachers, not Grace herself,” Green shared, smiling.
“There would always be a handful of students who had permission to miss classes due to travel related to high-level hockey or other endeavors. Grace handled this as well as anyone.
“When she turned in her assignments (after missing class due to travel), you could tell she worked incredibly hard on it; she didn’t just go through the motions.”
While accompanying his wife and son to a hockey goalie camp in Nashville earlier this year, Green said he arranged to have lunch with West.
“Even though Grace has experienced all this fame and everything, she hasn’t changed one bit since high school,” Green said. “You’d never know she’s been through what she’s been through.
“What I thought was cool, too, is that she told me she still keeps in touch with friends she met in my class in 10th grade.”
No one knows better than Jill and Daryl Rembinski how much sweat equity Grace has invested in her dream of securing a career in the music industry.
Beginning as a 13-year-old student at Canton’s Discovery Middle School, Grace performed at nightclubs in downtown Plymouth and Northville.
“Here was this 13-year-old walking into a bar with her guitar and her sound equipment on Friday and Saturday nights and nobody would pay much attention to her,” Jill Rembinski reflected. “But once she started singing and playing her guitar, people’s jaws dropped. They couldn’t believe how good she was.
“Most of her Friday and Saturday nights throughout high school were spent performing at these establishments or in Nashville. She missed out on a lot of normal things high school students do — hanging out with friends, going to movies, things like that — but she wanted to perform as much as she could.
“I would call it sacrifice, but I don’t think she would. She was doing what she wanted to do.”
Jill Rembinski said her family’s pride for Grace is almost beyond words — and it started way before “The Voice” entered her daughter’s life.
A photo of 11-year-old Grace holding a Central Middle School “Student of the Month” certificate brings the Rembinskis as much joy as her recent national TV fame.
“We always told our kids (Abbey, Grace and DJ) every accomplishment they achieve, no matter how exciting it may be, is no less important than the others,” she said.
Grace’s stardom was predicted way back in 2014 by Debbie Maloni, her fifth-grade teacher at Allen Elementary School.
“They had a fifth-grade class project related to premonitions,” Jill Rembinski said. “And Ms. Maloni said her premonition was that one day she’d be attending a Broadway play to watch Grace perform. ‘The Voice’ isn’t exactly Broadway, but it’s in the same direction.”
Technically talented, too
West’s talent isn’t limited to singing, songwriting and playing the guitar. She was often tasked with setting up her own sound equipment at singing gigs across southeast Michigan and Nashville — skills that have helped seal her success.
“Learning the technical side of this has been so important to my career,” she said. “I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t learned everything that goes into performing — even the non-glamorous stuff.”
West said the 100% support of her parents and siblings has “meant the world to me”.
“Obviously, without my parents making the sacrifices they’ve made — moving to Nashville with me after high school so I could pursue this unconventional dream — I’d never be where I am today,” she said.
“And my sister and brother have always been so supportive of me. I’m just so appreciative of the love everybody has shown me.”
‘Anything is possible’
Neumann said she uses West as an example to her current choir students about how hard work can lead to success — even in the ultra-competitive world of music.
“I’ll show them clips of Grace and tell them, ‘She was a student in this same classroom you’re sitting in right now’,” Neumann said.
“She’s a great example of how if you work hard, you’re focused and you love what you’re doing, anything is possible.”
How to vote for Grace
On Monday at 8 p.m., West, 19, will perform live along with six other individual performers and one group on “The Voice” semifinals, with the top five advancing to the May 22 finals, based on viewer voting.
The Voice, which debuted on NBC in April of 2011, looks to find unsigned singing talent (solos and duets, amateurs and professionals) aged 13 and over drawn from public auditions.
The vote opens for all time zones during the ET/CT broadcast of The Voice at 8 p.m. ET. You can vote for your favorite artist via The Voice Official App or at nbc.com/VoiceVote during the vote window of the ET/CT broadcast only.
Follow @NBCTheVoice on Twitter for the latest information on when the vote is open. Or you can download The Voice App at nbc.com/VoiceApp and subscribe to push notifications.