Thursday, November 17, 2016


Produced by NJPAC and WBGO Jazz 88.3FM
Part of TD James Moody Jazz Festival

WHEN: Sunday, November 20, Performance at 3:00pm
New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Victoria Theater, 1 Center Street, Newark NJ
Tickets Start at $29

Jazz all-stars Dianne Reeves, Sheila Jordan, Sheila E. Anderson,  Mark Ruffin and Christian McBride will choose the winners of the 2016 SASSY Awards, founded in honor of Newark's "divine" jazz icon, Sarah Vaughan

On a Wednesday night in 1942, Newark teenager Sarah Vaughan went to the Apollo Theater to compete in an amateur singing contest. It was the chance to win $10 and a weeklong engagement performing on the Apollo stage. Instead, Vaughan's win launched her career and forever changed the art of jazz vocal music.  (Above: Left to Right: Deelee Dubé, Lauren Bush, Lauren Scales, Sinne Eeg, Teira Lockhart Church)

Now in its fifth year at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards in a nod to Vaughan's nickname, has announced the five jazz singers who will perform for the top prize honor on Sunday, November 20 at 3:00 p.m. in NJPAC's Victoria Theater. This international jazz vocal competition for women, the only one of its kind, honors the talent of its namesake by giving one outstanding performer a platform to embark on a career in the music business. The competition was established in 2012 by NJPAC and legendary jazz music visionary Larry Rosen.

The 2016 finalists of this international competition are London-based vocalists Lauren Bush and Deelee Dubé, Sinne Eeg of Denmark, Teira Lockhart Church of Los Angeles, and Detroit native Lauren Scales, who is currently a student at New York University. The five finalists will perform before a panel of judges as the culminating event of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival (Nov.1 - Nov. 20) at NJPAC.

Previous SASSY Awards recipients include Arianna Neikrug (2015), who performed this summer at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal; Ashleigh Smith (2014), who recently released her debut album on Concord Records; Jazzmeia Horn (2013), winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015; and Cyrille Aimée (2012), the competition's first winner, who now performs all over the world and has several critically-acclaimed recordings to her name. 

The panel of judges includes award-winning vocalists Dianne Reeves and Sheila Jordan; radio personalities Sheila E. Anderson (WBGO) and Mark Ruffin (Sirius XM); and five-time Grammy award-winning bassist and NJPAC Jazz Advisor Christian McBride.

For the second consecutive year, jazz fans can vote for their favorite vocalist starting on Monday, Oct. 24 by logging onto, where they can listen to audio tracks submitted by the five finalists. Voting closes on Nov. 16.   

The grand prize winner is offered an exclusive recording contract with Concord Records and a $5,000 cash prize. The second-place winner will receive a $1,500 cash prize and the third-place winner will be awarded $500.

Through three public rounds, via public voting (with over 7,500 votes cast) on, the field was narrowed to these five vocalists. Contestants were judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and the ability to "swing".  Submissions were received from 23 countries, including Brazil, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Mexico and South Africa.

The TD James Moody Jazz Festival's title sponsor is TD Bank. The festival is also generously supported by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Special program support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.