NJPAC Announces Launch of 9th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

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NJPAC Announces Launch of 9th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

For the ninth consecutive year, singers from around the world will compete in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (aka "The Sassy Awards") - a 21st-century version of the amateur night at the Apollo Theater that helped launch the career of a gifted teenager from Newark, Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan, more than 75 years ago.


The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents the contest as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival - an annual celebration that fills both NJPAC's campus and venues throughout Newark with jazz performances in a vast array of styles. The Festival is supported by TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank®.

"Sarah Vaughan's artistry and unforgettable voice had an unparalleled impact on the world of jazz. Her work continues to inspire young performers, and we are proud to honor her memory by shining a spotlight on some remarkably talented emerging vocalists," said John Schreiber, NJPAC's President and CEO.

The SASSY Awards are a truly international competition and one of the only truly global vocal competitions of its kind. In recent years, finalists from Italy, Lithuania, Russia, England and Denmark have triumphed in the competition's preliminary rounds and made their way to Newark to perform live at the contest's culminating event, a joint concert held in front of an audience of jazz enthusiasts and a panel of judges including producers, industry executives and acclaimed performers.

"One of the pleasures of hosting the Sassy Awards over the past decade has been witnessing how 'America's classical music' is thriving in every corner of the globe," Schreiber added.

The competition has become a platform for a single outstanding jazz singer to gain widespread recognition in the music industry. Past winners include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn (winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition), Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell and Laurin Talese.

Samara Joy McLendon, the winner of last year's competition, will also appear at the 2020 edition of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC, performing solo at one of the Arts Center's beloved Dorthaan's Place Jazz Brunch events, named for another Newark jazz legend, producer and WBGO founder Dorthaan Kirk.

Vocalists can enter the competition by submitting recordings of at least three songs at sarahvaughancompetition.com. Originally limited to female singers, the contest is now open to musicians of all genders who are 18 years old or older, and who are not presently signed to a major record label. Singers must submit audio and/or video clips online at sarahvaughancompetition.com by September 8, 2020 at 5pm.

Five finalists, who will be announced on Oct. 13, 2020, will perform at NJPAC before a panel of judges that will include multiple GRAMMY-winning bassist Christian McBride, GRAMMY- Award-winning jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy, vocalist Vanessa Rubin, WBGO Interim President and CEO, Robert Ottenhoff, and the previous head of two major labels, Chuck Mitchell. The competition culminates in a celebratory performance by the five finalists on Nov. 22, 3pm at NJPAC's Victoria Theater at the conclusion of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival.

The judges will look for all the attributes of a great jazz singer: Vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation - and the ability to swing. The grand prize winner of the coveted SASSY Award will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

The incomparable singer Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark in 1924 and was known as "Sassy" throughout her life for her vibrant personality. After winning the top prize of $10 at the Apollo Theater's amateur night at age 18 in 1942, she went on to record with the greatest names in jazz, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine and countless others.


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