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Ella Fitzgerald Vocal Competition Set for April 24 in Washington

Originally scheduled for last October, the event was canceled due to the COVID pandemic

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, circa November 1946 (William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress)

The Blues Alley Jazz Society (BAJS) has announced that the Ella Fitzgerald International Jazz Vocal Competition will take place at 6 p.m. EDT on April 24 in Washington, D.C.

The contestants include American vocalists Taisha Estrada, Ariana Stefanidis, and Lucy Wijnands; German vocalist Atrin Madani; and South African vocalist Naledi Masilo. These five finalists were originally selected from a pool of 65 entrants to participate in the competition in October 2020. However, the lockdowns associated with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s competition to be canceled.

Blues Alley—the legendary jazz club with which the BAJS is affiliated—remains closed. Instead, the competition will take place at the National Press Club in downtown Washington.

The Ella Fitzgerald Vocal Competition is a component of BAJS’ annual Big Band Jam!, a summer festival of youth and school jazz ensembles. It is open to male and female singers ages 17 to 25. The competition celebrates Fitzgerald, a jazz legend known as “The First Lady of American Song,” by requiring its participants to sing to arrangements from some of her classic recordings. The 2020-21 competition had as its theme the 1964 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Song Book, with contestants asked to choose from among five of the charts Fitzgerald used on the album (“Midnight Sun,” “Day In, Day Out,” “I Remember You,” “This Time the Dream’s On Me,” and “Early Autumn”).

The judges for the competition will include singers and vocal professors Alison Crockett (George Washington University), Darden Purcell (George Mason University), and Jessica Boykin-Settles (Howard University). The three judges will also perform in a livestream concert (with the competition winner) beginning at 8 p.m.


The first-prize winner will also receive $1,500 and a booking at Blues Alley. First and second runners-up will each receive $500, and the other finalists will receive $250 each.

For more information about the Ella Fitzgerald Vocal Competition, visit its website.