American Traditions Vocal Competition - February 17-21, 2020 | Savannah, Georgia

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Competition and Application

—  Apply here and get application information for our 25th Annual American Traditions vocal Competition.

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2019 Award Winners

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2019 Finalist Award Winners

Savannah Friends of Music 5th Place Award Winner ($1,500) - Ashleigh Smith

Susan and Ron Whitaker 4th Place Award Winner ($2,000) - Christian Douglas

Enmarket Stations, Inc. Bronze Medalist ($3,000) - George Lovett

Patty and Heyward Gignilliat Silver Medalist ($6,000) - Emily Yocum Black

Gold Medalist, winner of $12,000 and a contract with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra - Mykal Kilgore

Specialty Award Winners

Richard Chambless’ People’s Choice Award Winner - Quarterfinals, Sponsored by Swann Seiler ($500) - Gillian Hassert

Richard Chambless’ People’s Choice Award Winner - Semifinals, Sponsored by Swann Seiler ($500) - Hannah Zazzaro

Johnny Mercer Award Winner, Sponsored by Friends of Johnny Mercer, Inc. and Georgia Southern University, Armstrong Campus ($750) - Cyrille Aimée

Ben Tucker Jazz Award, Sponsored by Drs. Margaret and Andrew Cohen ($500) - Gabrielle Stravelli

Think Outside The Book Musical Theater Award, Sponsored by Steven Gross ($500) - Kathryn McCreary

Toian Bowser Alexander Award for the Spirit of the ATC ($500) - Jorell Williams

Sherrill Milnes American Opera Award, sponsored by Naomi and Barry Cohen ($500) - Liz Lang

American Traditions Vocal Competition Guidelines

For specific questions, please email our Artistic Director here.


Any singer born before February 17, 2002 is eligible to apply to the American Traditions Vocal Competition. We pride ourselves on being one of the only singing competitions with no upper age limit.

There are a few exceptions:

  • All ATC Gold Medalists are ineligible to compete, as they have previously won the competition.

  • Singers may only compete in Savannah, GA three times in every five years.

There are no other eligibility guidelines.


The American Traditions Vocal Competition requires singers to create three rounds of three different songs, all written by American composers.  Each song must represent a different genre for a total of nine.  The point of this is for singers to learn about different genres of music - the history, the roots, the key players, the stylistic nuance - of each genre.  We strongly encourage you to delve deeply into the genres and make interesting, unique selections.

What are the genres of American music that the American Traditions Vocal Competition recognizes?


  • Opera

  • Musical Theatre

  • Hollywood

  • Jazz

  • Folk

  • Country

  • Americana (NEW FOR 2020!)

  • Spirituals

  • Art Song

  • Gospel

  • Songs of Johnny Mercer

  • Blues

  • Religious Music

  • Popular Music of 1950-1980

  • Great American Songbook

  • Cabaret

*** New genre, AMERICANA: This category is meant to encompass patriotism, as well as American roots. Representing the music of the Tin Pan Alley, the early American parlor songs, Stephen Foster’s classics (Oh! Susannah, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, Beautiful Dreamer, etc), and patriotic American hymnody, such as, “America, the Beautiful,” or “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Please reach out with questions to our Artistic Director, as this is a very musically spacious, yet specific category.

American music qualifications:

  • For our purposes, an American composer is a natural-born citizen of the United States, or a United States Citizen who has been naturalized as such. All work from a naturalized U.S. citizen must occur after their naturalization to qualify as an American song.

  • Original compositions are not accepted for this competition.

  • Furthermore, the following are commonly mistaken to be American composers or works, as they have become part of the collective of the American musical canon, but are not: Adele, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, David Foster, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gian Carlo Menotti, The Beatles, Elton John's Aida, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, "Pure Imagination", David Bowie, Sting, etc.

  • A singer may choose to perform up to one (1) song in their entire offering that is written in a language other than English. The composer of that song must be a natural-born or naturalized American citizen. Please bear in mind that there will be no translation provided on the contestant’s behalf, and it falls upon the performer to provide an explanation of the song, if the contestant feels it is necessary.

  • Applicants may choose to perform up to one (1) song in their entire offering that is self-accompanied. This song must be noted on the application, and may only be performed on piano. This song may occur in any round of competition.

The great Sheri Sanders has spoken several times about "Low Hanging Fruit", or "songs that are a little too easy and common of a choice".  In order to keep song choices fresh, we have created a strict Do Not Sing list.  Any singer who attempts to submit these songs will be asked to select another.


Moon River
Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home
Over The Rainbow
The Girl In 14-G
Maybe This Time (Cabaret)

Gimme, Gimme (Thoroughly Modern Millie)
Blues In The Night
His Eye Is On The Sparrow
At Last

God Bless the U.S.A.


Scoring for the American Traditions Vocal Competition is non-cumulative. Therefore, each round is scored separately. Performers are scored on three criteria - Technique, Diversity of Program, and Artistry, on a scale of 1-10. A perfect score for any given round is 30, or a score of 10 given by each judge. Scores for specialty awards are separate from overall scores.  Additionally, there are strict time limits of 12 minutes, 14 minutes, and 16 minutes for each progressing round.  Any singer who goes over the time limit will be deducted 1 point per minute.


A complete application for the American Traditions Vocal Competition consists of the following:

  • Application Fee of $60 (you will be prompted at the end of the application)

  • A completed Application Form (found at the bottom of this page)

  • Three uploaded audio files (MP3 PREFERRED, AAC, WAV, AIFF)

    • Uploaded audio files should represent the potential Quarterfinal Round of music, and should match what is written in the singer's Application Form for their Quarterfinal Round offerings.

    • Audio files should be recorded with accompaniment, unless purposefully a capella, and should be of a good quality. Please use your best judgement - make sure to watch for mic levels peaking so we receive clear audio. Recordings should be fairly recent.

    • All uploaded files must be named in a format similar to that of their application.




Applications will open June 10, 2019 and close 12am EST at the end of Tuesday, October 1, 2019.  Applicants will be notified of their result by 10pm EST on Monday, November 4, 2019. The 27th annual competition will take place from February 17-21, 2020 in Savannah, Georgia.

  • $750    The Johnny Mercer Award for best Johnny Mercer performance.  This award is sponsored by The Friends of Johnny Mercer, Inc. and Armstrong State University.  This award is only eligible for songs programmed in the Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds.  Additional information on finding interesting song choices can be found in the Johnny Mercer Collection link below.   FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SELECTING A UNIQUE JOHNNY MERCER SONG, CLICK HERE.

  • $500 Toian Bowser- Alexander Award is an award given in honor of Ms. Toian Alexander, the first Treasurer of the American Traditions Vocal Competition. This award is sponsored by James Edward Alexander, the husband of the late Toian. She and her husband were moved by the spirit of this competition and the camaraderie between the contestants. In that vein, this award will be voted on by contestants to reward a contestant who exhibits helpfulness to others, encouragement and supportiveness; someone who embodies the heart of this vocal competition.

  • $500 The Sherrill Milnes American Opera Award for best American aria. This award is only eligible for songs programmed in the Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds.

  • $500 The Ben Tucker Jazz Award for best jazz performance. This award is given by Mrs. Gloria Tucker in honor of her late husband's legacy and impact on the world of jazz music, and sponsored by the Dr. David A. and Dr. Margaret M Cohen Charitable Foundation. This award is only eligible for songs programmed in the Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds.

  • $500 (2) The Richard Chambless People's Choice Awards are presented on behalf of the audience to one Quarterfinalist and one Semifinalist who do not advance to the next round. This award is given by Swann Seiler in memory of her dear friend, Richard Chambless.

  • All Quarter-finalists will be given financial reimbursement of $300 to defray travel costs if they do not advance to the Semifinal Round. Similarly, all non-advancing Semi-finalists will be given financial reimbursement of $600.