(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 9th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition made history this year by naming two winners who will each take home the prize of $5,000. The distinguished panel of judges and pillars of the jazz community awarded Gabrielle Cavassa and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim with first-place prizes in the 9th Annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. The finalists performed live before the esteemed panel of judges and the event was streamed on NJPAC's FB Page.
The four finalists took to the stage with magnificent performances, Hailey Brinnel (Philadelphia, PA) performed a rendition of Cole Porter’s “Easy to Love.” Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim (Los Angeles, CA) lit up the stage with her rendition of “’T Ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” by Porter Grainger, Everett Robbins. Then there was Benny Benack III, (New York, NY) performing the Duke Ellington, Milt Gabler classic “In a Mellow Tone” and Gabrielle Cavassa (New Orleans, LA) performed “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” by the great Frank Loesser with NJPAC’s house trio. NJPAC's 2019 Sassy Awards Winner, Samara Joy McLendon of New York City, made her way to the stage performing a medley “Star Dust” Hoagy Carmichael, Mitchell Parish “Jim” Caesar Petrillo, Edward Ross, Nelson Shawn.
As the first-prize winners of the SASSY Awards, Gabrielle Cavassa of New Orleans and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim from Los Angeles will both receive a $5,000 cash award. Benny Benack III, who was the runner-up, was awarded a $500 cash prize.
Pulled from over 600 submissions, the four finalists performed on the Betty Wold Johnson Stage before the distinguished panel of judges, including multi-Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy, vocalist Vanessa Rubin, producer Chuck Mitchell, and WBGO's interim president & CEO Robert Ottenhoff - all selected this year's winners. WBGO's morning show host, Gary Walker, served as this year's guest emcee.
The competition recalls the humble beginnings of legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughan 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 Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn (also the winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition), Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell, Laurin Talese, and Samara Joy, the SVVC winner from 2019 who performed at this year's competition.
Those that aspire to sing like Sarah Vaughan can Enter Now for NJPAC's 10th Anniversary Sarah Vaughan Competition on November 14, 2021, by visiting SarahVaughanCompetition.com.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located at One Center Street in downtown Newark, N.J., is America’s most diverse performing arts center, and the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey – where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state’s and the world’s best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted nearly 10 million visitors (including over 1.7 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.
Photos by Anthony Alvarez
TOP PHOTO - (L to R) Grammy Award Winning Jazz artist Christian McBride, SVVC Winner First Place Winners Gabrielle Cavassa, Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim and NJPAC Producer Carl Griffin
BOTTOM PHOTO - (L to R) SVVC Esteemed Panel of Judges, Grammy Award Winning Jazz artist Christian McBride; WBGO Morning Show Gary Walker (host); Jazz Singer Carmen Lundy: WBGO's interim president & CEO Robert Ottenhoff Robert Ottenhoff; Vocalist Vanessa Rubin and producer Chuck Mitchell.