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2016 Competition Begins

May 16, 2016
Starting May 16th, female vocalists can submit applications online.


Compete at NJPAC for a Concord Record deal and amazing exposure

Deadline For Entry: September 12, 2016 at 5:00pm

Finalists Announced: October 18, 2016

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 5th 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 Jazzmeia Horn (2013) who also was the 2015 winner of the Thelonius 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.

Live Performance & Competition

Sunday, November 20, 2016 – New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark NJ
Five finalists will be chosen to perform in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater on November 20th 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.


Sarah Vaughan – Biography


Sarah Vaughan – Fever


Sarah Vaughan – Come Rain Or Come Shine

2016 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; winner will receive a Concord Record deal.

Hosted by


Rhonda Hamilton

2016 Judges

(Click Here to learn more about the judges)

Past Competitions

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

2015 Judges

2015 Finalists

2014 Judges

2014 Finalists

2013 Judges

2013 Finalists

2012 Judges

2012 Finalists

© 2016 Sarah Vaughan Competition

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2016 Judge Biographies


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


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


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.