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 a career that would transform America’s original art form and an icon who elevated the craft of jazz vocal music and garnered the respect and adoration of millions. It's time for history to repeat itself.

2015 Competition begins

April 17, 2015
Starting April 17th, female vocalists can submit applications online.

Compete at NJPAC for $5,000 and amazing exposure

Deadline for entry is

September 14, 2015 at 5:00pm
Singers must submit audio clips online through an interactive platform powered by Indaba Music, by September 14, 2015 at 5:00pm.

October 13, 2015
The public can vote online to help select the finalists who will be announced on October 8th.

Live Performance & Competition

Sunday, November 15, 2015 - NJPAC, Victoria Theater
Five finalists will be chosen to perform in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater on November 15th before a panel of judges that includes American jazz bassist and 4-time Grammy-award winner, Christian McBride along with additional celebrity judges, to be named at a later date.

  • Watch the Video

  • NJPAC: The Place for Jazz

About Sarah Vaughan

In 1942, a teenage Sarah Vaughan won the Apollo Theater’s amateur singing competition in a legendary performance that served as a launching pad for a career that transformed one of America’s original art forms and elevated the craft of jazz vocal music. Now in its 3rd year, The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards, honors the talent and tradition of the competition’s namesake as the only international jazz vocal competition of its kind, providing a platform for one outstanding jazz singer to launch a career within the music business. Previous winners include Jazzmeia Horn (2013) who performed at the Jazz and Soul concert at NJPAC on November 13th and Cyrille Aimee (2012), the first-ever winner of the competition, whose major label debut in August 2014 was called “a bravura turn, presented with a smile by The New York Times.

  • Sarah Vaughan - Fever

  • Sarah Vaughan - Come Rain Or Come Shine

For the 4th year in a row, singers from around the world will gather online to compete for the coveted Sassy Award, tops honors in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

The Sarah Vaughan Competition is the only international jazz vocal competition of its kind and provides a platform for one outstanding jazz singer to launch a career within the music business. The first three years of the competition saw nearly 1,500 total song submissions, which music fans from around the globe shared, listened, voted, commented on, and liked nearly one million times online. Furthermore, the competition received over 2 million hits during last year’s competition, making it the world’s most visible jazz vocal competition.

2015 Competition

The competition is open to solo female vocalists of all nationalities who are not signed to a major record label. Singers will be judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation and ability to swing; winners will receive cash prizes of up to $5,000.

Hosted by

Rhonda Hamilton


  • Vanessa Rubin

  • Cyrille Aimée

  • Christian McBride

  • Michael Bourne

  • Edward Arrendell

Past Competitions

2014 Judges

  • Ann Hampton Callway

  • Christian McBride

  • Nnenna Freelon

2014 Finalists

    • Ashleigh Smith
      1st place - The Sassy Award Winner
    • Shacara Rogers
      2nd place
    • Sarah McKenzie
      3rd place
    • Kate Kelsey-Sugg
    • Kathryn Christie
    • Nnenna Freelon

2013 Judges

  • Larry Rosen

  • Al Jarreau

  • Gary Walker

  • Gretchen Parlato

  • Janis Siegel

2013 Finalists

    • Jazzmeia Horn
      1st place - The Sassy Award Winner
    • Barbra Lica
      2nd place
    • Camille Thurman
      3rd place
    • Kate Davis
      Rising Star
    • Lydia Harrell
    • Teira Church

2012 Judges

  • John Hendricks

  • Dee Dee Bridgewater

  • Melissa Walker

  • Michael Bourne

  • Larry Rosen

2012 Finalists

    • Cyrille Aimee
      1st place - The Sassy Award Winner
    • Ashleigh Smith
      2nd place
    • Sandra Booker
      3rd place
    • Alexis Cole
    • Hilary Kole
    • Jazzmeia Horn
      Rising Star

Supported by