The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) announced the top five finalists of the 11th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Pulled from over 200 submissions from over 25 countries, these gifted young contestants from around the world represent the next generation of great jazz singers. The Top Five finalists comprise two international singers Kristin Lash of Bratislava, Slovakia, and Lucía Gutiérrez Rebolloso of Mexico, and three Manhattanites: Harlem-based Allan Harris and Ekep Nkwelle (originally from Washington, DC), and Lucy Yeghiazaryan (originally from Armavir, Armenia).
On Nov. 20, the finalists will compete at NJPAC in front of a live audience and before a distinguished panel of judges, including premier jazz violinist Regina Carter, NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor and multi-Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, drummer T.S. Monk (Thelonious Monk, Jr.), NEA Jazz Master Maria Schneider, and WBGO Radio personality Pat Prescott. Hosted by WBGO Radio’s Gary Walker, this special event will also include performances by the 2021 co-winners of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim and Gabrielle Cavassa, and more to be announced soon. The first-prize winner of The SASSY Awards will receive a $5,000 cash award, second-place $1,500, and third-place $500.
The competition recalls the humble beginnings of legendary jazz singer/NEA Jazz Master Sarah Vaughan (1924-1990) who, back in 1942, was a Newark teenager and winner of an amateur singing contest at the Apollo Theater. That memorable night helped launch the lifework of one of the most successful, influential jazz vocalists in the history of American music. Past winners include Cyrille AiméeJazzmeia Horn,Ashleigh SmithArianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell, Laurin TaleseSamara Joy, Gabrielle Cavassa and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim, and G. Thomas Allen.
The Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, also known as “The SASSY Awards”, is open to singers over the age of 18, of all genders and nationalities, from anywhere in the world, and not signed by a major label. Entrants are judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation, and ability to swing. What has become one of the top annual vocal competitions in jazz, The SASSY Awards offers outstanding jazz singers a one-of-a-kind platform for embarking on a career in the music business—and offers audience members a chance to discover the jazz stars of tomorrow. For more information about The SASSY Awards, visit

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