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Five Finalists Chosen For 3rd Annual Sarah Vaughan Competition
(Published: October 12, 2014)

In 1942, a teenage Sarah Vaughan won the Apollo Theater's amateur singing competition in a legendary performance that served as a launching pad for a career that transformed one of America's original art forms and elevated the craft of jazz vocal music. Now in its 3rd year, The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, also known as the SASSY awards, honors the talent and tradition of the competition's namesake as the only international jazz vocal competition of its kind, providing a platform for one outstanding jazz singer to launch a career within the music business. Previous winners include Jazzmeia Horn (2013) who will be performing at the Jazz and Soul Show at NJPAC on November 13th and Cyrille Aimee (2012), the first-ever winner of the competition, whose major label debut in August 2014 was called "a bravura turn, presented with a smile," by The New York Times.

The first two years of the competition saw nearly 1,500 total song submissions, which music fans from around the globe shared, listened, voted, commented on, and liked nearly one million times online. Furthermore, the competition received over 2 million hits during last year's competition, making it the world's most visible jazz vocal competition.

This year, online voters listened to songs submitted to the contest over 66,000 times. Today, NJPAC, JAZZ ROOTS™ and WBGO Jazz 88.3 announced the five competition finalists who will receive airfare to the finals to perform at the TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival in NJPAC's Victoria Theater on November 16, 2014 before a panel of judges comprised of some of the leading jazz vocalists today as well as others in the jazz and recording industry. The Grand prize winner will be presented an offer to receive a Concord Records exclusive recording contract and a $5,000 cash prize. The 2nd Place Winner will receive a $1,500 cash prize and the 3rd Place Winner will receive $500.00. Judging the finals at the performance will be Grammy Award-winning bassist Christian McBride, WBGO morning jazz host Gary Walker, multiplatinum-selling artist and composer Ann Hampton Callaway, multiple Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon and legendary producer Larry Rosen from JAZZ ROOTS™.

Through three preliminary rounds, public voting on the IndabaMusic.com website (with 4,525 votes cast), members of the Jazz Education Network (JEN) and Larry Rosen narrowed down the field to five finalists in an effort to discover vocalists who embody Sarah Vaughan with swinging, thought-provoking and inspiring performances reflecting their own understanding of the work. Contestants were judged on vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, artistic interpretation and ability to swing.

The finalists:

Kathryn Christie is a New York based vocalist who seamlessly blends her jazz background with both Brazilian music and singer songwriter roots. Her warm inviting tone will draw you in, and her musical storytelling will leave you coming back for more. Kathryn truly uses her voice as an instrument, whether she's singing jazz standards, bossa nova, or her intriguing original music. After completing her masters in Jazz at the University of North Texas, where she was a scholarship recipient, teaching fellow, and a Student Downbeat Award winner several times over, Kathryn is now making her mark in New York city, and can be found gracing both intimate jazz clubs, and indie music venues such as Rockwood Music Hall with her mesmerizing voice.

Kate Kelsey-Sugg is an Australian pianist, vocalist, saxophonist and composer based in Brooklyn, New York. For Kelsey-Sugg music is in the genes, growing up with father, jazz saxophonist Andy Sugg. Kelsey-Sugg made a formidable emergence onto the Australian music scene at a very young age performing regularly in her father's band. At age 25, Kelsey-Sugg has received numerous prestigious awards including: the James Morrison Vocal Scholarship, the Marion Isobel Thomas Award for excellence in piano playing, second prize at the National Australian Jazz Awards for voice at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival and most recently winning the Melbourne Music Prize and an artist residency at the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne University.

Sarah McKenzie has been described as an Australian national treasure, an acclaimed jazz vocalist and pianist whose album Close Your Eyes won "Best Jazz Album" at the 2012 ARIA Awards (Australian Grammys). She has performed throughout Australia and Europe, has toured with Michael Bublé and Chris Botti opened for John Patitucci, and Studied with NEA Master Johnny Mandel. Now based in Boston, Sarah had the honor of being invited to perform her own material with The Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. After her highly praised performances at Melbourne International Jazz Festival, the Umbria Jazz Festival, The Boston Arts Festival, Stonnington Jazz Festival, she has been invited to play the Monterey and Dizzies Jazz Club NYC in 2014. Sarah recently graduated from Berklee College of Music on a full tuition scholarship.

Shacara Rogers, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been singing and performing since the age of five. Her secondary instrument is the piano. She has recently graduated with her Bachelor of Music Degree from Howard University under Professor Jessica Boykin-Settles and continued her Jazz studies with Professor Connaitre Miller as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. She has been a member of the Afro Blue Jazz Ensemble since the spring of 2010 and is now a soloist for the group. She has also served three years as a member and soloist of Howard Gospel Choir, and is the lead vocalist for the groups GWN (Group Without A Name) and Ebony Rose. She has performed at many different arenas with artists like Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kim Waters, Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves, Al Jarreau, Patrice Rushing, Esperanza Spalding and many others. She was recently awarded a 2014 DownBeat Award for Graduate College Outstanding Performance: Vocal Soloist.
Ashleigh Smith, first runner-up in the 2012 Sarah Vaughan Competition, hails from the small town of LaGrange, Georgia but is no stranger to the stage. On scholarship as a vocal jazz major at the University of North Texas, under the instruction of Rosana Eckert & Dr. Timothy Brent, music has always been Ashleigh's passion and first love. She is making her mark on the Dallas Fort Worth area performing with many of Dallas's top bands such as the TOP Band (lead female vocalist), Professor D, Domino Effect, Downtown Fever, & The Knice 2 Know Band (K2K), and The Krewe of Swing. In 2011, she was awarded the prestigious Downbeat Student Award for Best Undergraduate Jazz Vocal Performance and the Outstanding Undergraduate Vocal Jazz Soloist in 2012. She is a member of the world renown Jazz Singers 1 with whom she has also won a 2012 Downbeat Award. Most recently, she was awarded the opportunity to do background studio work for Grammy award winning artist Chrisette Michele.

About the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition
The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition is part of The TD 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 Jazz88.3FM, the Moody Festival will run from November 9-16th at NJPAC and in other venues around the region.

The Festival will feature several unique performances, beginning with one by NJPAC's new Brick City Jazz Orchestra collective of the most gifted high school jazz musicians in Greater Newark (November 9). Additional performances include sensual singer Michael Franks ("The Lady Wants to Know") and singer-guitarist Raul Midón ("State of Mind") (November 16) and the star-studded Jazz and Soul concert (November 13) featuring an electrifying lineup of Grammy winners Fantasia and Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire and one of today's hottest jazz singers, José James, along with the Christian McBride Big Band and Jazzmeia Horn, winner of the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. For a full listing of performances during the Festival, please visit njpac.org/moodyjazz.

The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition is presented as part of NJPAC's JAZZ ROOTS series with producer Larry Rosen. The TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival's

The title sponsor is TD Bank, the presenting sponsor is The Prudential Foundation, and is sponsored, in part, by Kia Motors America, Inc. and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. This program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

More Information: http://www.njpac.org/events/detail/sarah-vaughan-international-vocal-competition

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