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Winners of First Annual Duke Ellington Center's Vocal Jazz Competition Revealed

The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts (DECFA) launched its 1st Jazz Vocal Competition at New York City's 40th Annual 52nd Street Duke Ellington Jazz Festival on Saturday, October 25, 2014. Performing under sunny skies on a beautiful fall afternoon in New York City, the 23 competing singers demonstrated their unique vocal talents in front of an appreciative crowd who cheered them on with great enthusiasm. In the end, the three winners were:

1) First Place Winner ($250) -- Charles Turner, a Los Angeles native who now lives in New York, , has performed in venues such as Dizzy's Club Coca Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center; Birdland Jazz Club; Smoke and performs every Wednesday at Mintons Harlem. In March 2014, he released his debut album, Dreamers.

2) Second Place Winner ($150) Noel Simone Wippler, born and raised in Harlem, NY, is finding her way into the jazz world - writing her own lyrics and composing. Learning and developing her own technique from jam sessions and Open Mics, she has made friends as well as colleagues for a life in music.

3) Third Place Winner ($100) -- Kathryn Holtkamp is a vocalist and actress with roots in New Mexico. Since relocating to NYC, Kathryn has toured North America performing iconic roles in shows like "Cats" and "Evita" and was hailed in Houston as having a "soaring and thrilling voice."

The Competition was held in two stages: All 23 singers performed one musical number during Stage One. Ten performers were then chosen by the judges to compete in the Final Stage where they performed another number. Rachel Kaufman played keyboard for all the contestants.

`The judging panel included noted dancer/choreographer Mercedes Ellington, founder and artistic director of DECFA; renowned jazz vocalist Antoinette Montague; award-winning songwriter, lyricist and arranger Larry Kerchner; and producer/critic Marilyn Lester, executive director of DECFA.

In addition to their cash awards, the three finalists were all invited to perform at The Duke Ellington Center's annual holiday concert and party - Ring Dem Bells! - which will take place on Monday, December 8, at the Landmarc on the Park, 160 Central Pak West, between 75th and 76th Streets. They will also have opportunities to be hired for future concerts and musical events presented by DECFA throughout the year.

The awards were presented by Mercedes Ellington, Duke Ellington's granddaughter, who praised all the performers for their professionalism and talents. "The Duke would be very pleased by today's competition," she said. "He always referred to jazz as 'American Music,' and he would be excited and honored to see that 40 years after his passing, his legacy lives on."

The 1st Annual DECFA Jazz Vocal Competition was produced by Mort and Ray Productions.

For additional information about The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts and the Ring Dem Bells! Holiday concert and party on December 8, visit:

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