Join The Year-Round Celebrations Honoring Centennial Of Harlem Fave “The Sassy” Sarah Vaughan

September 28, 2023

Known as the anchor cultural institution for the city of Newark and the state of New Jersey, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) today announced its year-round celebrations in honor of the centennial of Sarah Vaughan’s birth. 

Born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 27, 1924, Sarah Vaughan became one of the most successful jazz vocalists in the history of American music. The power, range, and flexibility of her voice made her known as “Sassy” or “The Divine One.”    

She helped popularize the art of jazz singing, influencing generations of vocalists following her. NJPAC continues its longtime dedication to preserving and honoring Vaughan’s music and impact with this week’s star-studded Women@NJPAC Spotlight Gala followed by the renowned Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, a special citywide celebration on her 100th birthday in 2024, and more. 

Sarah Vaughan’s impact is unique and incalculable,” says John Schreiber, CEO & President of NJPAC. “She’s an icon of Newark’s long history as a home for jazz music. And she continues to inspire both our local community and jazz artists around the globe today, a century after her birth. NJPAC is proud to do our part to keep Vaughan’s music and legacy alive. This year of celebrations is our way of saying: Happy Birthday, Sassy!” 

The upcoming 2023-24 season of tributes is just the latest in NJPAC’s longtime dedication to Vaughan. In 1999, NJPAC officially proclaimed the street in front of it as “Sarah Vaughan Way.” Since 2011, NJPAC’s TD James Moody Festival has produced the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition which has served as a springboard for some of today’s leading vocalists including Samara Joy (“Best New Artist” 2023 Grammy Award winner), Jazzmeia Horn (NAACP Image Award winner), and more. 

“…she won amateur …(Night)… at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.”

Legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughan was born in Newark in 1924. She started piano lessons at age seven. She sang in the choir at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church here until she was 15. She then spent many nights learning her craft and performing as a pianist and singer at a number of New Jersey nightclubs. Partway through high school, Vaughan transferred from East Side High School to Newark Arts High School, but she dropped out as a junior to focus on her singing career. In 1942, still a teenager, she won an amateur singing contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem – a triumph that would connect her to the leading jazz artists of the day, and launch her spectacular career. A contralto with a range of three octaves, she came to be regarded as one of the greatest of all jazz singers. She won four Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. She was given an NEA Jazz Masters Award in 1989. Vaughan moved to Englewood in the late 1950s. She died from lung cancer at the age of 66 on April 3, 1990. Her funeral was held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Newark. She is buried in Bloomfield, New Jersey, at Glendale Cemetery.

NJPAC Celebrates Sarah Vaughan (subject to change):

SAT 9.30 @ 5:30 p.m. Women@NJPAC Spotlight Gala: Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Sarah Vaughan

At its annual fundraising Spotlight Gala, NJPAC celebrates Sarah Vaughan with an unforgettable evening of music hosted by Women@NJPAC. Sassy’s praises will be sung (literally) by performers whose careers were launched by NJPAC’s lasting tribute to Vaughan: The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Grammy Award nominee Jazzmeia Horn and French-Dominican chanteuse Cyrille Aimée — the first two winners of the Competition — will perform. They’ll be joined by two vocalists beloved by NJPAC audiences: the honey-voiced Gregory Porter and New Jersey-born The Voice and American Idol finalist Wé Ani. NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor, Christian McBride, will serve as the evening’s musical director, fronting an All-Star Band. Location: NJPAC. Tickets + Information: https://www.njpac.org/event/2023-spotlight-gala/. 

SUN 11.19 @ 3:00 p.m. NJPAC’s Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition


“The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition is rightfully one of the most anticipated events in jazz.” – Christian McBrideNJPAC’s Jazz Advisor

As part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival, NJPAC hosts the 12th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition also known as “The SASSY Awards.”  This annual competition, which has launched the careers of a number of successful jazz artists include 2023 GRAMMY Best New Artist winner Samara Joy, culminates with a  performance by competition finalists at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater. This year’s Top Five Finalists (to be announced in October 2023) will perform in front of a live audience and before a distinguished panel of judges including singer-songwriter Madeleine Peyroux, acclaimed vocalists Lizz Wright and Jane Monheit, NJPAC’s Jazz Advisor and multi-Grammy Award-winning bassist Christian McBride, and three-time Grammy Award-winning producer and executive vice president of Mack Avenue Records Al Pryor. Hosted by WBGO Radio’s Pat Prescott, this special event will also include performances by the 2021 winner of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition G. Thomas Allen. Past winners include Cyrille Aimée, Jazzmeia Horn, Ashleigh Smith, Arianna Neikrug, Deelee Dubé, Quiana Lynell,Laurin Talese, Samara Joy, Gabrielle Cavassa and Tawanda Suessbrich-Joaquim, G. Thomas Allen, and Lucía Gutiérrez Rebolloso. Location: NJPAC’s Victoria Theater. Tickets + Information: https://www.njpac.org/event/sarah-vaughan-international-jazz-vocal-competition-3/.

NJPAC knows how to party! NJPAC, along with its sister restaurant, NICO, will host a special birthday party for The Divine One. Local dignitaries and businesses will join hands in celebration of Sarah Vaughan’s 100th birthday. Live music, special guest appearances, and more to be announced soon. Location: NJPAC + NICO. Tickets + Information: TBA.

FRI-SAT 4.19-20 @ 8:00 p.m. Sarah Vaughan Centennial Concert Hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater

Celebrate Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan, whose formidable vocal range, sublime musicianship, and daring interpretations have inspired all subsequent generations of jazz singers. Hosted by TONY Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, this special concert series features performances by past winners of NJPAC’s Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition: Cyrille Aimée, Lucía Gutiérrez Rebolloso, and the  2023 winner. Special guests include Jazz House Kids All-Star Alumni band and more. Co-presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. Location: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall Theater, New York City, NY.  Tickets + Information: https://2023.jazz.org/sarah-vaughan-centennial. 

WED 3.27 Newark Celebrates! 100th Birthday Party

NJPAC knows how to party! NJPAC, along with its sister restaurant, NICO, will host a special birthday party for The Divine One. Local dignitaries and businesses will join hands in celebration of Sarah Vaughan’s 100th birthday. Live music, special guest appearances, and more to be announced soon. Location: NJPAC + NICO. Tickets + Information: TBA.
 
FRI-SAT 4.19-20 @ 8:00 p.m. Sarah Vaughan Centennial Concert Hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater

Celebrate Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan, whose formidable vocal range, sublime musicianship, and daring interpretations have inspired all subsequent generations of jazz singers. Hosted by TONY Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, this special concert series features performances by past winners of NJPAC’s Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition: Cyrille Aimée, Lucía Gutiérrez Rebolloso, and the  2023 winner. Special guests include Jazz House Kids All-Star Alumni band and more. Co-presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. Location: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall Theater, New York City, NY.  Tickets + Information: https://2023.jazz.org/sarah-vaughan-centennial. 

Photo credit: NJPAC.


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