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Youngblood takes home her second GRAMMY

LOS ANGELES - Prior to the Recording Academy's 49th Annual GRAMMY Awards televised evening show on Feb. 11, most of the winners of the 108 categories were awarded their golden gramophones during the afternoon pre-telecast.

Flutist Mary Youngblood, 48, won her second GRAMMY, this time for her album ''Dance with the Wind,'' which falls under the Best Native American Music Album category.

As Youngblood accepted her award at the pre-telecast, she thanked the Creator, her family and her friends for their ongoing support. And before leaving the stage, she said, ''Success is a journey, not a destination,'' a catchphrase that she proudly displays above her first statue.

When she picked up her GRAMMY in 2002, she was the first Native woman to win. ''It's a noteworthy win,'' she said, during a press conference.

This was her third nomination.

Youngblood, a Sacramento resident, said she drew inspiration for her fifth album from a series of severe thunderstorms that plagued northern California last year. As she watched from her window, the turbulent winds bent the powerless trees in extreme directions.

In her eyes, the trees were accepting the challenge and dancing with the wind. Notwithstanding, she felt this paralleled her own life, as she was dealing with her own personal challenges.

''It was an analogy and metaphor for me,'' she said. ''The winds are challenges, and I learned how to dance with the wind.''

''Dance with the Wind'' features three vocal pieces. The song ''Play With Me'' reflects her spiritual connectedness to trees and inspiration for the album: ''Trees have given a voice to me/The voice that sings to me now/All I have and all I'll ever be is inspired by a child and a tree.''

Youngblood described the entire album as ''very eclectic and versatile.''

''You can't really put my music in a box,'' she added.

And she's right. While most of the pieces encompass the melody of the contemporary Native flute, there's also the noticeable influence of the classical flute, jazz and blues. Additionally, the song ''Dance With Me'' has a playful, Celtic sounding beat.

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Youngblood, of Aleut and Seminole ancestry, was adopted and raised by non-Native parents. They inspired her to classically train on multiple instruments. She began with piano lessons at age 6 and classical flute lessons when she was 10. She also managed to squeeze violin lessons into her busy schedule, and later taught herself how to play the guitar - all as a pre-teen.

''I am very blessed,'' she said. ''For me, the arts were important and have been healing.''

Her success story is inspiring and part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a child, she had dreams of winning a GRAMMY; during her waking hours, she envisioned it.

In 1986 she met her birth mother and siblings, and has fully embraced her Aleut culture. ''It has been a incredible journey,'' she said.

And speaking of inspiration, Youngblood didn't pick up the Native flute until her 30s. While working at a gallery, she ventured across the street to a New Age store and picked up a Native flute and started playing. Unbeknownst to her, she attracted an audience; to her surprise, they clapped when she finished playing.

Even her first performance was a coincidence - but more likely her destiny.

Youngblood said it all began when a friend was coordinating an event at a local college. A Native drum group had canceled, and her friend, well aware of her talent, asked her to play even though she had no songs. She played for 20 minutes, and from then on, her passion blossomed into a full-time career.

As a GRAMMY winner, she said it's important to ''use these awards and accolades to do some good.'' She plans to participate in the ''GRAMMY in the Schools'' program to mentor young, aspiring musicians.

Encouraging Native youth musicians and young girls to play the flute tops her list. But she does have some immediate words of advice to young, aspiring musicians.

''If I would encourage young people, I would tell them to dream big and daydream,'' she said.

Excellent advice from an artist who turned her dreams into a reality.

Four other talented nominees competed to win in the Best Native American Music Album category - the only category for Native musicians - including Jana (under the Standing Stone Records label) and Black Eagle (under the Sound of America Records label). Northern Cree and Friends, as well as Robert Tree Cody and Will Clipman, rounded out the nominees.