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Sarah Vaughan Competition Announces 2021 Finalists

Five vocalists will face off in Newark, N.J., on Nov. 14

Samara McLendon, winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition
Samara Joy McLendon, winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (photo courtesy of NJPAC)

The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition has announced the five finalists for its 2021 edition. Andrea Miller of Costa Mesa, California; April May Webb of Edison, New Jersey; Arta Jēkabsone of Jersey City, New Jersey; G. Thomas Allen of Chicago, Illinois; and Viktoria “Vik” Gečytė of Paris, France will compete for the “Sassy Award” at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on November 14.

The Sarah Vaughan Competition, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a prestigious talent contest that pays tribute to the titular singer (who was born in New Jersey and whose career began when she herself won a 1942 talent contest at New York’s Apollo Theater). It is open to solo jazz vocalists of all nationalities who are 18 years or older and not currently signed to a major record label. The 2021 finalists were culled from 160 submissions across 25 countries.

A panel of judges—including vocalists Jazzmeia Horn and Sheila Jordan, pianist Renee Rosnes, guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli, and WBGO radio president and CEO Steven Williams—evaluates the contestants based on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and ability to swing. The prize for the winner is $5,000 and exposure to the wider jazz world, which highly anticipates and scrutinizes each year’s competition.

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