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Quiana Lynell Wins First Prize at the 2017 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition

Isaiah McClain
Quiana Lynell and WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton

It has been my pleasure to host the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition every year since its inception in 2012. It’s always a thrill to see young vocalists inspired by The Divine One, and eager to further her legacy.

And the winner of the 2017 Sassy Award — announced on Sunday night at NJPAC as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival — is Quiana Lynell, who showed some range in her material, and engaged the audience with her stage presence.

Lynell was born in Tyler, Texas and now lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As part of her first prize, she’ll receive $5,000 and a recording contract with Concord Jazz.

The competition was stiff this year: WBGO’s Gary Walker told me that he and his fellow judges debated for quite some time before reaching their final decision. Tatiana “LadyMay” Mayfield was awarded second place, and third went to Christine Fawson. All of this year’s competitors — including Tiffany Austin and Fabio Giacalone, the first male singer in the competition’s history — have bright futures ahead of them.


Credit Rhonda Hamilton
Backstage at the competition, left to right: Mark Wexler from Concord Records, WBGO's Gary Walker, Quiana Lynell and T.S Monk

Speaking from experience, 2013 Sassy Award winner Jazzmeia Horn gave some encouraging words on stage when she reminded the contestants about the importance of working hard and holding on to your dream. Dreams do come true. Congratulations, Quiana!