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Winner Announced: Congratulations Quiana Lynell!

Check back in May 2018 for more information on the
2018 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

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.

Now in its 6th year, The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards, honors the talent and tradition of the competition’s namesake as the only international jazz competition of its kind, providing a platform for one outstanding jazz singer to launch a career within the music business.

Previous winners include Deelee Dube (2016), Arianna Neikrug (2015), Ashleigh Smith (2014), Jazzmeia Horn (2013) who also was the 2015 winner of the Thelonious Monk Competition, 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.


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.


Sarah Vaughan – Biography


Sarah Vaughan – Fever


Sarah Vaughan – Come Rain Or Come Shine

2017 Competition: Winners Announced!

Hosted by


Rhonda Hamilton

2017 Judges

2017 Contestants

Past Competitions

Want to learn more about the various finalists? Click on their image to see their introduction video!

2016 Judges

2016 Finalists

2015 Judges

2015 Finalists

2014 Judges

2014 Finalists

2013 Judges

2013 Finalists

2012 Judges

2012 Finalists

Sponsored By:

© 2017 Sarah Vaughan Competition

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Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves Four-time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves has recorded and performed extensively with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis, who said of the singer, “She has one of the most powerful, purposeful and accurate voices of this or any time.” She was the first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the first singer to perform at the famed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Reeves appeared throughout George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck and performed every song on the Grammy-winning soundtrack.

Sheila E. Anderson

Sheila E. Anderson

The host of Weekend Jazz After Hours on WBGO Jazz 88.3FM, Sheila E. Anderson is the author of three books, most recently The Little Red Book of Musician’s Wisdom. She is the curator of the Newark Museum’s Jazz in the Gardenseries and a Columbia University Scholar. In 1977, she was elected to the NAACP’s National Board of Directors, a position she held until 1981.

Christian McBride

Christian McBride

NJPAC Jazz Advisor Christian McBride, the recently named Artistic Director of the Newport Jazz Festival, is a five-time Grammy Award-winning bassist-composer who, since the early ‘90s, has recorded over 300 dates as a sideman and released albums as a leader since ’95. Aside from various stints with Sting, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, John McLaughlin and George Duke, among others, McBride tours consistently with his trio and his quintet, Inside Straight. He also fronts the Christian McBride Big Band, whose album The Good Feeling won a 2012 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

Mark Ruffin

Mark Ruffin

A former musician and songwriter, Mark Ruffin worked for over 20 years as Jazz Editor for Chicago Magazine and has written more than 500 articles on jazz, broadcasting and African-American culture. He also spent years involved in television journalism, winning two Emmy Awards for his efforts in bringing stories about jazz on WTTW-TV/Chicago.

Sheila Jordan

Sheila Jordan

Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining country, Sheila Jordan began singing as a child and was working in Detroit clubs by her early teens. Her uncompromising style and unique musical trademarks include frequent and unexpected sweeping changes of pitch. She is recognized for her collaborations with bassist Cameron Brown in performance and the recording studio.

Deelee Dubé


An accomplished singer-songwriter, born and raised in London, Deelee Dubé often performs on London’s live music circuit and is the resident singer at saxophonist Rentao D’Aiello’s “Acoustic Jazz Lounge” at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. She has been featured on several collaborative projects with renowned artistes and musicians, such as guitarist John Jallow, with whom she released the successful single, “Rainy Day Blues.” Dubé’s versatile and soulful voice has been heard by audiences throughout Europe and the U.S., and her sound has been compared to such greats as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. She is currently working on original material and projects with other musicians and producers.

Sinne Eeg


Sinne Eeg has earned a loyal and rapidly growing fan base in her native Denmark and around the world for her distinctive vocals and original compositions. Born into a musical family, she studied at the prestigious Danish Music Conservatory and has received numerous awards, including the DR P2 Jazz Prize, four Danish Music Awards (Denmark’s GRAMMY®), the Ben Webster Prize (sole female recipient for the past 30 years), and the Prix du Jazz of the French Academie du Jazz. Eeg has made her mark in Japan, China and throughout Europe for her exquisite live performances and award-winning studio recordings. She cites Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan as her influences.

Lauren Scales


Detroit native Lauren Scales, the daughter of acclaimed jazz artists Charles and Gwen Scales, has been performing most of her life. A graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied with Geri Allen, Ellen Rowe and many other artists, she is currently a songwriting and composition student at New York University. Scales received national recognition for her compositions in the 2016 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center. Blending her jazz background with soul, R&B, pop and classic rock influences, she enjoys taking classic tunes and re-harmonizing them in her own eclectic style. In addition to performing, composing and writing lyrics, Scales is an avid student of poetry.

Teira Lockhart Church


Teira Lockhart Church was a finalist in the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. A jazz and contemporary singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles, she has been honored by the Los Angeles Spotlight Awards (first place, 2007), the Reno Jazz Festival, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts’ YoungArts Competition, and UCLA’s Spring Sing Competition (grand prize, 2015). She has performed at some of the best known venues in L.A., like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and LACMA, and collaborated with Ted Case on the album Purple Crayon. Church is an arts educator and social activist with Young Angels of America, which fosters a culture of philanthropy in adolescents.

Lauren Bush


Born and raised in Canada, Lauren Bush relocated to London to pursue music on a new level. She recently released her debut album with the help of award-winning vocalist Ian Shaw as producer. Daughter of an accomplished jazz trumpeter father and music teacher mother, it is no surprise that she grew up with an aptitude for singing. Some highlights of her extensive travels around North America include opening for Maynard Ferguson, sharing the stage with Bobby McFerrin, and performing with her quartet at the Corpus Christi Jazz Festival two years running. In London, she played in Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room, among other venues.

Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway is one of the leading champions of the great American Songbook, having made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host and producer. Her unique singing style blends jazz and traditional pop, making her a mainstay in concert halls, theaters, and jazz clubs as well as in the recording studio, on television, and in film. She is best known for her Tony-nominated performance in the hit Broadway musical Swing! and for writing and singing the theme song to the hit TV series The Nanny. Callaway is a Platinum award-winning songwriter whose songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand’s recent CDs. The only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, she has also written songs with Carole King, Rolf Lovland, and Barbara Carroll to name a few. Ann’s 2014 release was The Sarah Vaughan Project: Live at Dizzy’s

Will Downing

Vocalist Will Downing has one of the smoothest, most sophisticated voices in contemporary rhythm-and-blues. This Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter is known for his emotive, honey-smooth baritone, as well as impeccable phrasing and vocal agility that blends R&B with jazz. “After 28 years in the music industry, he still knows how to mesmerize a crowd,” Soul Train wrote of a recent performance. Downing’s musical sensibility and mastery of romantic ballads has earned him the title of “Prince of Sophisticated Soul.”

T.S. Monk

Bandleader, composer and drummer T. S. Monk is the son of iconic jazz pianist Thelonius Monk. As leader since 1992 of the T.S. Monk Sextet, he’s appeared in clubs around the world, at the JVC Jazz at the Bowl festival, and on ABC Television, in “A Celebration of America’s Music,” hosted by Bill Cosby. In 1997, he received the New York Jazz Awards First Annual “Recording of the Year” award and Downbeats’ 63rd annual Album of the Year Reader’s Choice Award for Monk on Monk, an 80th birthday tribute to his father that featured Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Arturo Sandoval, among others. To honor his father’s legacy, Thelonious formed the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which offers everything from scholarships for aspiring musicians to after-school programs.

Vanessa Rubin

Vocalist Vanessa Rubin possesses a voice hailed for its crystalline clarity, warmth and playful lioness sass. The Cleveland native’s passion for rich musical stories is evidenced throughout her eight albums thus far. After gigging around Cleveland’s clubs in the 1980s, Rubin graduated to playing in New York City with the likes of Pharaoh Sanders, Frank Foster and Barry Harris. In 1992, Rubin signed to Novus/RCA Records, recording five albums, three of which reached #1 at radio. Her debut recording Soul Eyes (1992) was produced by the venerable Onaje Allen Gumbs. In addition to singing and recording, Rubin has for several years performed the play “Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday,” a one-woman show about the life and music of the legendary jazz singer. Rubin continues to be a favorite at clubs and festivals, and her work as an educator both in community settings as well as in institutions worldwide is ongoing.

Gary Walker

For the past 22 years, Gary Walker has hosted WBGO’s morning show every weekday from 6 to 10 pm — and his enthusiasm for the jazz he plays has never flagged. His love of this music flourished as grew up outside of Detroit in the mid 1960’s. While his peers were listening to rock, Gary sought out recordings by Miles Davis, Ramsey Lewis and other cutting-edge jazz artists. As a finance major at the University of Texas, he remembers passing the campus radio station, and noticing that everyone in there seemed to be having so much fun. He soon abandoned finance and graduated with a degree in Mass Media. After moving to New York City, within five weeks he landed an announcer’s position on Saturday mornings at WBGO.

Tiffany Austin

Vocalist Tiffany Austin’s tradition-rooted yet modern style has established her as one of the fastest rising jazz stars in Northern California. Before earning a law degree at U.C. Berkeley, she performed on three continents; instead of taking the bar exam, she decided to devote her life to music. Austin’s artistry draws on such influences as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin; her nuanced delivery and fearless improvisation have caught the attention of eminent musicians she has joined onstage, like Roy Ayers and John Handy. Her debut recording, Nothing But Soul, received a four- star review from DownBeat magazine and a feature on NPR’s Fresh Air. Austin’s upcoming sophomore album was recorded with Cyrus Chestnut, Rodney Whitaker and Carl Allen.

Christine Fawson

Both a vocalist and trumpet player, Christine Fawson has performed all over the world – at festivals, on educational recordings, and as a sideman on several artists’ recordings. From 2002-2012, she was a member of the vocal jazz group Syncopation, which released three CDs and appeared regularly in the Boston area with Phil Wilson’s Berklee Rainbow Band, the Capitol Center Jazz Orchestra and the Boston Pops. Fawson played trumpet with the DIVA Jazz Orchestra at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater and Lincoln Center, and with artists John Pizzarelli, Maurice Hines and many others. A faculty member at Berklee College of Music for 14 years, she has three albums: Happy Talk (2003), My Side (2013) and Here Now (2016).

Fabio Giacalone

Captivated by music since childhood, Fabio Giacalone studied violin, piano technique and music theory at an early age. After participating in the Berklee College of Music Clinics at the Umbria Jazz Festival, he won a full scholarship to Berklee and graduated with a degree in vocal jazz performance. Last year, Giacalone took third prize in the world-renowned Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition in Montreux, Switzerland. He recently participated in the Montreux Jazz Academy 2017, where he worked side-by- side with outstanding musicians like Marcus Miller, Yaron Herman, Ziv Ravitz, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Elina Duni. Giacalone lives in New York City, where he continues to gig, explore jazz, and collaborate on many projects as a vocal producer and background vocalist.

Quiana Lynell

Singer and songwriter Quiana Lynell has performed as a soloist with jazz and symphony orchestras alike. Whether performing for a few or many, Lynell “takes the listener on a journey with the emotion of the blues, accompanied by the discipline of classical, topped off with the elegance of jazz,” noted a journalist in Europe. Studying vocal performance at Louisiana State University outfitted Lynell with the skills to store an impressive repertoire and to showcase her multi-octave instrument. She’s worked alongside masters of jazz and the American Songbook, such as Terence Blanchard, the Preservation Hall Band and Aaron Neville. “I see music as the soundtrack of life and I enjoy each opportunity to share memories and moments in the lives of those around me,” she says.

Tatiana “LadyMay” Mayfield

A jazz vocalist, musician and educator from Fort Worth, Texas, Tatiana “LadyMay” Mayfield has been singing and playing jazz music since the age of 13. In 2010, she was one of 12 semi-finalists to compete in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, and has opened for well- known artists such as Randy Brecker, Dave Valentin, Will Downing, and The Main Ingredient. LadyMay has performed with the legendary Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and upcoming is an appearance with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. She has recorded two albums – From All Directions and A Portrait of LadyMay – and is at work on a third. In addition to her vocal skills, she plays piano and trombone, composes, and teaches voice and music theory.