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NJPAC announces finalists for Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) announced the five finalists for the 12th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, known as the SASSY Award, to be held Sunday, November 19, 2023, as the culminating event of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival. The top five finalists are: Daryann Dean (Los Angeles, Calif.), Bianca Love (New Orleans, La.), Tyreek McDole (St. Cloud, Fla.), Ekep Nkwelle (Washington, D.C.), and Emma Smith (London, UK). According to a press release received by WBGO, NJPAC received more than 280 submissions from vocalists from 37 countries.

The five will perform before a live audience and a judging panel consisting of vocalists Jane Monheit, Madeleine Peyroux and Lizz Wright, along with Christian McBride and veteran producer/record exec Al Pryor. The event will be hosted by WBGO’s Pat Prescott and will also feature a performance by G. Thomas Allen, winner of the 2021 competition.

The first-prize winner will receive a $5,000 cash award, second-place $1,500, and third-place $500. The winner will perform alongside past winners and special guests at the Sarah Vaughan Centennial Concert hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater on April 29-20, 2024, at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Past winners include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn, Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell, Laurin Talese, Samara Joy, Gabrielle Cavassa and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim, G. Thomas Allen, and Lucía Gutiérrez Rebolloso.

Learn more here.

For over 27 years, Lee Mergner served as an editor and publisher of JazzTimes until his resignation in January 2018. Thereafter, Mergner continued to regularly contribute features, profiles and interviews to the publication as a contributing editor for the next 4+ years. JazzTimes, which has won numerous ASCAP-Deems Taylor awards for music journalism, was founded in 1970 and was described by the All Music Guide, as “arguably the finest jazz magazine in the world.”