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Sixteen And Soulful Merchant’s Summer Show Calendar Quickly Filling Up
ava grace
Oakdale High School’s Ava Grace Merchant will be kept plenty busy this summer as she performs at a variety of events throughout the Valley including Patio Fest in Modesto this Saturday and the July 4th Celebration hosted by Oakdale Enrichment Society on June 29. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Summer is proving to be anything but lazy and laid back for local teen Ava Grace Merchant.

The incoming Oakdale High School junior, however, is far from complaining as she looks to a list of upcoming gigs which has her putting her vocals to the test this summer. Ava Grace is a solo performer, as well as vocalist with the group Gravel and Grace.

At just 16 years of age, the vocalist shared she couldn’t be happier with the venues and opportunities offered to her and her band to share their music in the coming months.

“I’ve always really liked music, so I’ve been singing since I don’t know how old I was,” the singer said, recalling penning her first song around the age of five or six years old.

In addition to taking vocal and piano lessons, Ava Grace has been active in school choir since elementary school. She is currently a member of the OHS Show Choir, as well as the Drama Club.

The young performer is also very self-aware. Self-described as shy, introverted and not one to be surrounded by a lot of people, one might think performing live in front of an audience would be a bit overwhelming for a young person.

“I’m not the most outgoing person, naturally,” she shared. “I don’t have a ton of friends. I think it’s a way to get my point across and talk about what I want to talk about. Spread a message.”

She likens her music and sound to that of Etta James, mostly blues, soul and a little rock.

“That’s my style and that’s what my voice fits the best. It suits me a lot,” she said.

As the newly formed band Gravel and Grace gains more exposure so, too, does their following. On Saturday, June 15 they will perform at Deva Café Modesto for the annual Patio Fest event. They also have upcoming appearances planned at Rivi’s, Oakdale’s Concerts in the Park, as well as the inaugural July 4th Celebration, June 29 hosted by Oakdale Enrichment Society.

“That’s really exciting,” she stated. “It’s a good opportunity. Gravel and Grace hasn’t played in Oakdale yet and that’s my city.”

She’s looking forward to the chance to perform for a hometown crowd.

“We’re always going to do covers but a lot of us write music,” she added, sharing that as the popularity of the band grows so do requests for certain songs. “There will be a lot of originals coming up.”

Going forward, Ava Grace shared while performing solo, as well as with her band is rewarding and fulfilling, her focus remains on completing her education and pursuing her dreams of a career in music. Upon completing her high school education, she hopes to continue her education at a performing arts college majoring in Musical Theater and Music Theory.

“I could easily do this for the rest of my life and be super happy,” she said of performing live with her band, as well as writing music.

“Trying to be in musical theater as much as I possibly can, that would be amazing as well, but I also know I would be content playing my music and being in shows and just doing what I love wherever I was,” she added.

Upcoming performances and information on Ava Grace and Gravel and Grace can be found on social media pages: Ava Grace Music, on both Instagram and Facebook.