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.
As part of the inaugural James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), JAZZ ROOTS™ and WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM will present the first Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, a search for the world’s next great female jazz vocalist. The contest will be produced by award winning producer Larry Rosen and powered by Indaba Music™, with the top five finalists being flown to NJPAC in Newark to perform in a special concert on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 3 p.m. in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater.
The Jazz Education Network (JEN), a U.S.-based organization dedicated to building the jazz arts community worldwide, will help to choose competition finalists. Judges for the final round at NJPAC will include legendary jazz vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jon Hendricks, WBGO announcer Michael Bourne, producer Rosen, and jazz singer and educator Melissa Walker.
“It is all kind of full circle,” said Paris Vaughan Courtnall, Vaughan’s daughter. “If not for a competition, I am not sure where my Mom’s career would have started in the first place…I think it’s wonderful that a young person can be sitting in their bedroom now, enter a contest, and have a dream to be a Sarah or Whitney or Cissy, all greats that came from Newark, New Jersey.”
NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber, who presented Vaughan at dozens of domestic and international jazz festivals through the years, said: “Sarah Vaughan was nothing less than a game changer for jazz vocalists. What better place than Newark, N.J., Sarah Vaughan’s hometown, to find the next game changer? We are proud to be hosting and presenting this competition that will give up-and-coming talents a world-class showcase. We will bring the best singers in the world to the Victoria Theater in October for one swinging afternoon of competition, and set at least one on the course to a Sarah-caliber career.”
“I’m honored to be working with NJPAC, JAZZ ROOTS, Indaba Music, JEN, and WBGO on presenting the debut of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition,” said competition producer Larry Rosen. “Sarah is so important to the history of jazz vocalists, she defined the genre by incorporating her church roots, her incredible vocal instrument, and her ability to swing. It’s in Sassy’s honor that we seek to give unique opportunities to young jazz singers from around the planet who will continue to bring this great American jazz tradition to a new generation of audiences.”
Cephas Bowles, President and CEO of WBGO, said “WBGO has had the privilege and pleasure to interview and broadcast the music of some of the greatest vocalists in the world, including the divine Ms. Sarah Vaughan. We look forward to hearing the competition entrants and hope they will one day be a staple of jazz radio everywhere.”
“The Jazz Education Network is excited to collaborate with Larry Rosen, JAZZ ROOTS and NJPAC in the launching of the new Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in identifying today’s top jazz vocalists” said JEN co-founder/president Dr. Lou Fischer. “JEN will share the news in the 20 countries where we have members as well as the U.S.A. Together we will promote performance, advance education and develop new audiences for jazz! We look forward to this new initiative and the potential to enhance the future of vocal jazz on a global front.”
The competition is part of The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, a celebration of jazz and the musical legacy of longtime Newarker and beloved jazz saxophonist and composer James Moody. Presented by NJPAC and WBGO JazzRadio 88.3FM, the Moody Festival will run from Oct. 16-21st at NJPAC and in other venues around the region. The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition is presented as part of NJPAC’s JAZZ ROOTS series with producer Larry Rosen.
To Enter: The Competition is open to solo female vocalists of all nationalities who are at least 16 years of age and not signed to a major record label. Applicants must provide three audio samples of their performances – a ballad, a medium tempo standard or blues piece and an up tempo standard that includes a scat/improvisational chorus. One of the three selections must be a cover of a song recorded by Sarah Vaughan.
One grand prize winner wins a $5,000 prize and will open for the February 2013 JAZZ ROOTS concert in NJPAC’s Prudential Hall. The first runner-up will win $1,500 and a second runner-up will receive $500. Contestants will be judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation and ability to swing. The goal of the competition is not to find the singer who sounds most like Sarah Vaughan, but rather to discover vocalists who embody Vaughan with intelligent, thought-provoking and inspiring performances that reflect their own understanding of the work.
To enter, contestants must create a free account on Indaba Music, already home to over 700,000 musicians from around the world. The complete rules and instructions can be found online at www.sarahvaughancompetition.com.
The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival will make a donation in the name of Sarah Vaughan to develop an enhanced jazz vocal training program at Newark Arts High School that will commence in Fall 2012. Sarah Vaughan was a proud graduate of Arts High.
“Our whole family is very excited about the Vocal Competition,” said Vaughan Courtnall. “It’s amazing that Newark keeps embracing Sarah over and over again. She obviously had such a love for New Jersey and Newark in particular. She would be just thrilled.”
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) is the artistic, cultural, educational, and civic center of New Jersey — where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. The largest cultural venue for performing arts in the state of New Jersey, NJPAC annually presents more than 350 concerts, plays, recitals, spoken word, and cultural events. The performance home of the critically acclaimed New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, NJPAC regularly welcomes the world’s foremost performers in every genre, from Itzhak Perlman, Tony Bennett, and Yo-Yo Ma, to Paul Simon, Youssou N’Dour, and ZZ Top; from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company to the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique.
Located in the heart of an emerging downtown Newark, NJPAC has been widely cited as a catalyst in the revitalization of New Jersey’s largest city, attracting more than seven million visitors since it opened in 1997. NJPAC’s arts education initiatives have reached more than a million Newark and New Jersey children with innovative programs including the Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens, The Star-Ledger Scholarship for the Performing Arts, The Young Artist Institute, and the Verizon Passport to Culture SchoolTime and Series.
NJPAC also offers in-school residencies in dance, theater, music, and the literary arts. The cornerstone of Newark’s cultural community, NJPAC’s free outdoor summer music series, Sounds of the City, is an annual highly anticipated event, attracting between 2,000 and 3,000 people to the three-acre Theater Square on Thursday nights during the summer months. To learn more, visit http://www.njpac.org.
JAZZ ROOTS – A Larry Rosen Jazz Series is a concert and educational program created for performing arts centers across America. The JAZZ ROOTS series, now celebrating its 5th Anniversary, was first launched in 2008 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, the series debuted in 2009 in Dallas at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, in 2010 in Carmel, IN. at the Center for the Performing Arts, and in 2012 debuts in Las Vegas at the Smith Center, in Atlanta at the Cobb Energy Centre, and in New Jersey at NJPAC, with additional PACs to be announced.
The JAZZ ROOTS series includes educational and outreach programs that organically connect to local community groups, art centers, and the local board of education. Mr. Rosen, co-founder of GRP Records is the award-winning producer of the PBS TV Series LEGENDS OF JAZZ, producer of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and is the creator and producer of RECORDING: The History of Recorded Music with hosts, Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone. http://www.jazzroots.net
Founded in 1979, Newark Public Radio, Inc./WBGO JazzRadio 88.3FM is a publicly supported cultural institution that champions jazz at WBGO 88.3 FM in Newark, New Jersey and worldwide via wbgo.org. WBGO is the recognized world leader in jazz radio and one of the most respected jazz presenters in the country, and offers award-winning news and innovative children’s programs. Beyond reaching 350,000 weekly listeners (including 17,000 contributing members) on air, online and via mobile devices, WBGO presents live broadcasts from prestigious jazz venues and produces acclaimed programs for NPR heard by millions. WBGO is Jazz Week magazine’s 2010 Major Market Station of the Year. http://www.wbgo.org
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