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The Pulse: A word with the finalists in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition

Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition Finalists 2021

It's no surprise that the five finalists for the 10th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition are teeming with talent. The prestigious competition garnered submissions from over 25 countries, with the final five being Andrea Miller (Costa Mesa, Calif.), April May Webb (Edison, N.J.), Arta Jekabsone (New York, N.Y.), G. Thomas Allen (Chicago, Ill.), and returning contestant Vik Gečytė (Paris, France).

The Pulse featuring the 2021 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition Finalists

Last year's competition was historic in that it yielded two first-place winners, Gabrielle Cavassa and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim.

This year's competition takes place on Sunday, Nov. 14 at NJPAC, and will be hosted by Christian McBride and Dianne Reeves. The panel of judges include pianist Renee Rosnes; WBGO's President and CEO Steven A. Williams; a past winner of both the Sarah Vaughan and Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competitions, Jazzmeia Horn; guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli; and renowned singer and NJCU professor Sheila Jordan. The first-place winner will take home $5,000, and the second-place finisher will receive $1,500. Third-place prize is $500.

On this episode of The Pulse, I chat with all five finalists of the 2021 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition about how they're preparing for the big night, what they hope to take away from the experience, and the road that led them to the Sassy awards.

Keanna Faircloth is a Washington, DC native and comes to WBGO getting her start on-air at WPFW 89.3 FM in 2003, most recently as the host of Late Night Jazz: The Continuum Experience. She is a graduate of Howard University having majored in Music History with a minor in Classical Piano. Keanna has written for NPR Music, and worked for Radio One as an on-air personality, producer and voice-over talent. She is also the creator and host of Artimacy Podcast, where she has interviewed artists like Wynton Marsalis, Matthew Whitaker, Jonathan Butler, and Dionne Warwick. As a result, she was recognized by Radio Ink Magazine as a 2019 African American leader in radio.