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New Date Announced for Annual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition

Jazz all-stars Christian McBride, Carmen Lundy, Vanessa Rubin, Chuck Mitchell and WBGO's Robert Ottenhoff will choose the winners of the 9th Annual SASSY Awards.

New Date Announced for Annual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center presents the 9th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition - The SASSY Awards, on Sunday, June 6, 2021, at 7 p.m. as a virtual event on NJPAC's FB Live page.

The show honors the self-determination and fearless spirit of Newark's own Sarah Vaughan, who as a teenager in 1942 traveled across the Hudson River to participate in an amateur singing contest at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. The prize was a then-princely sum of $10 and a weeklong residency at the theater. Vaughan won the competition, and the Apollo engagement launched her legendary career as one of the most celebrated jazz vocalists in history.

Just as the long-ago contest became a springboard for Vaughan, the SASSY Awards (an ode to her nickname) has become a steppingstone for this generation's best jazz singers.

Each of this year's four finalists, Hailey Brinnel (Philadelphia, PA), Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim (Los Angeles, CA) , Benny Benack III (New York, NY) , Gabrielle Cavassa (New Orleans, LA), will perform live with a house trio. Last year's 2019 Sassy Awards Winner, Samara Joy McLendon of New York City, will also perform. All performers will perform live in Prudential Hall that will be broadcast on NJPAC's Facebook page.

The panel of judges include multi-Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy, vocalist Vanessa Rubin, producer Chuck Mitchell, and WBGO's interim President & CEO Robert Ottenhoff who will choose this year's 9th Annual SASSY Awards winner and gift them with the grand prize of a $5,000 cash award. The competition is hosted by WBGO's morning show host, Gary Walker.

Past winners include Cyrille Aimée, who last year released her latest album, "Move On: A Sondheim Adventure"; Jazzmeia Horn (winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition and released the album "Love & Liberation" in 2019); Ashleigh Smith, who just released her new single, "In the Rain,"; Arianna Neikrug, lauded by Downbeat Magazine for her striking flexibility and startling soulfulness; Deelee Dubé, who recently performed an in-home concert as part of the Royal Albert Hall Home Series; and Laurin Talese, who in 2019 represented the United States as a cultural ambassador with American Music Abroad - an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; and 2019 winner Samara Joy McLendon, who is working on her first recording project.

Aspiring vocalists from more than 26 countries submitted hundreds of songs through the competition website The contestants were narrowed down to 4 finalists that were judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and the ability to swing.

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