Finalists Announced for Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

Five contenders from three countries will compete in New Jersey on Nov. 24

Laurin Talese performs during the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition finals
Laurin Talese performs during the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition finals, Nov. 18, 2018 (photo: Anthony Alvarez)

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) has announced the finalists for the 8th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY Awards, which will be held on November 24, the final day of Newark’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival.

The finalists, chosen out of nearly 600 singers who submitted songs via the competition’s website, are Samara McLendon of the Bronx, N.Y.; Christine Fawson of New Mexico; Viktorija Gečytė of Paris; Vivian Sessoms of Jersey City, N.J.; and Daniela Spalletta of Mazzarino, Italy.

They will be judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and ability to swing by a panel including three illustrious jazz musicians—Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Jane Monheit—along with producer Matt Pierson and WBGO broadcaster Monifa Brown. 

The winner will receive $5,000 in cash as well as a performance slot at the 2020 Newport Jazz Festival.

Past winners of the competition include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn, Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell and, most recently, Laurin Talese.

The competition will begin at 3 p.m. on November 24 at the NJPAC in Newark.

For more information about the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, visit the competition’s website.

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