Friday, May 3, 2019

NJPAC Announces Launch of 8th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

For the eighth consecutive year, singers from around the world will gather online to compete in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (aka the "SASSY" Awards) – a 21st century version of the amateur night at the Apollo Theater that helped launch the career of a gifted teenager from Newark, Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan, more than 75 years ago. New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) presents the contest as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival – an annual autumn celebration that fills both the NJPAC campus and venues throughout Newark with a vast offering of jazz styles. The Festival is supported by TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank®.

"Sarah Vaughan's artistry is timeless and irreplaceable. The great joy of this jazz vocal competition is discovering the extraordinary voices who will carry her legacy forward," said John Schreiber, NJPAC's President and CEO.

The SASSY Awards are a truly international competition and one of the only global vocal competitions of its kind. In the past few years, finalists have included Oleg Akkuratov (Russia), Deelee Dubé (England), and Sinne Eeg (Denmark). "We're thrilled that every season hundreds of singers from around the world, each in their unique way, advance the future of the music by entering this competition," Schreiber added. "We couldn't be happier that Sarah Vaughan continues to inspire musicians and music lovers via the SASSY Awards."

"'Sassy' had a divine voice that inspired so many people throughout her career up to today. Her instrument, the voice, is the basis for the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Opening the competition to all voices, regardless of gender, seemed like the natural progression," said Tony- and Grammy-winning singer DeeDee Bridgewater, who also served as a judge in the competition's first year.

The competition has become a platform for a single outstanding jazz singer to gain widespread recognition in the music industry. Past winners include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn (winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition), Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell, and last year's winner, Laurin Talese, who will be performing at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival as part of her triumphant win in last year's competition.

WHEN: Singers must submit audio and/or video clips online at by Sept. 9 at 5pm.
Vocalists (all genders welcome) can enter by submitting recordings of at least three songs at

The public can vote for their favorites; songs have been played, commented on, and voted for, hundreds of thousands of times over the course of the competition's existence.

Five finalists, who will be announced on Oct. 15, will perform at NJPAC before a panel of judges that includes multi-Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, Grammy- and Tony Award-winning jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater, vocalist Jane Monheit, WBGO morning show host Gary Walker, and award-winning producer Matt Pierson. The competition culminates in a rousing performance by the five finalists on Nov. 24, 3pm at NJPAC's Victoria Theater at the conclusion of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival.

The competition is open to all vocalists who are 16 years old or older, and who are not presently signed to a major record label.

Think you have what it takes? The judges are looking for vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation – and the ability to swing. The grand prize winner of the coveted SASSY Award will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

The incomparable singer Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark in 1924 and was known as "Sassy" throughout her life for her vibrant personality. After winning the top prize of $10 at the Apollo Theater's amateur night at age 18 in 1942, she went on to record with the greatest names in jazz, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine and countless others.

Tickets for the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition are on sale now at, or 1.888.GO.NJPAC (1.888.466.5722).