Final Countdown For The 2015 American Traditions Competition

Winners of the 2014 American Traditions Competition
Winners of the 2014 American Traditions Competition

Savannah’s own world-renowned arts institution, The American Traditions Competition, is gearing up for another awe-inspiring vocal music competition, which will bring together 28 talented contestants and three distinguished judges for a week of excitement and dazzling performances.

The week-long celebration of Johnny Mercer, musical theater, jazz, opera, gospel, blues and more began at the Skidaway Island United Methodist Church with the contest quarterfinals and the semifinals were held last Monday through Wednesday.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, the competition heats up as the program moves into the Judges’ and Winners’ Concert phase, which begins at 8 p.m. at the Savannah Theatre, 222 Bull St. General seating tickets cost $35 each, and premium seats are available for $50. Free Masterclass will take place from 2:30-4:30pm on Thursday February 26, 2015 at the Historic Savannah Theatre on Bull Street. Kristen Blodgette, Musical Director and Conductor of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway will host this fascinating insight into the training of vocal artists

The action culminates with the finals at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, also at the Savannah Theatre. Judges’ concert ticket prices apply for the finals as well.

The contestants will perform various classic American music pieces as they compete for the Courtney Knight Gaines Foundation Gold Medal Award, which is worth $12,000, and represents over 25 percent of the total prize fund of $40,000. Other awards include the silver and bronze awards for second and third place, the Johnny Mercer Award for the best song performed from his repertoire and The Ben Tucker Jazz Award to honor this legendary Savannah musician who was an original ATC board member. In addition, there are two People’s Choice Awards. The first will be the audience’s favorite singer from the quarter-finals who is not chosen to be one of the 12 contestants selected for the semifinals. The second People’s Choice Award will go to the audience’s favorite singer from the semifinals who is not chosen to move forward as one of the final five.

“We are going from strength to strength, and the number and caliber of applications increases every year. The board is very excited about the range of singers and the varied and interesting programs that they have submitted, ranging from Broadway and opera to country and western, gospel and more,” ATC President Susan Kleine said. “We actually have five contestants returning from last year and one from 14 years ago, which proves how much artists enjoy being a part of Savannah’s unique competition.”

This year’s contestants are: Jessica Baldwin, Bobby Belfry, Jessica Ann Best, Kacey Cardin, Kimberly Christie, Angelique Clay, Kaitlyn Costello, Maximus DeFrancesco, Stephen Dobson, Alexander Edgemon, Damian Wayne Faul, Jazmin Gorsline, Melanie Helton, Nicole Joseph, Carly Kincannon, Meredith Lustig, Clare Maloney, Caitlin McKechney, Antoni Mendezona, Christia Nastasi, Rebecca Odorisio, Kevin Rose, Jacob Lewis Smith, Rachel Sparrow, Tichina Vaughn, Katherine Walker, Jorell Williams and Nicole Zuraitis. The judging panel includes singer/composer Jim Wann, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and served as the lead composer/lyricist for the Tony-nominated (Best Musical) “Pump Boys and Dinettes”; Broadway conductor and musical director Kristen Blodgette, who has overseen numerous Andrew Lloyd Webber productions around the world and actor/ vocalist Ron Raines, a Texas native. He was a three-time Emmy and Soap Opera Digest Award nominee for his role as Alan Spaulding on CBS’ Guiding Light.

To buy tickets or for more information, please visit or call the Savannah Theatre Box Office on (912) 233- 7764.

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