American Traditions Vocal Competition - February 18-22, 2019

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Competition and Application

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

American Traditions Vocal Competition Guidelines

For specific questions, please email our Artistic Director here.


Any singer born before February 18, 2001 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
  • Pop/Rock Singer-songwriters 1980- Today
  • Art Song
  • Gospel
  • Songs of Johnny Mercer
  • Blues
  • Religious Music
  • Popular Music of 1950-1980
  • Great American Songbook
  • Cabaret
  • Spirituals

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 accepted, as long as they fit into one of the recognized genres. 
  •  Furthermore, the following are commonly mistaken to be American composers or works, but are not: Adele, Joni Mitchell, David Foster, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gian Carlo Menotti, The Beatles, Elton John's Aida, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, and "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 an acoustic instrument.  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


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.
      • Ex. First Name Last Name.Song Title.Genre
      • Ex. Sam Smith.The Possum Song.Songs of Johnny Mercer




(click on each Judge's headshot for their biography)

           Operatic Composer-Conductor Michael Ching

          Operatic Composer-Conductor Michael Ching

        Broadway Performer (and ATC Medalist) Phillip Boykin

       Broadway Performer (and ATC Medalist) Phillip Boykin

                                            Jazz Singer Melba Joyce

                                           Jazz Singer Melba Joyce


Applications will open July 1, 2018 and close 12am EST at the end of Monday, October 8, 2018.  Applicants will be notified of their result by 10pm EST on Monday, October 29 2018.

The competition will occur from February 18-22, 2019.

Monday, February 18, 2019 Judge's Concert 7:30pm
Tuesday February 19, 2019 Quarterfinal Rounds I and II 4:00pm and 7:30pm
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 Quarterfinal Rounds III and IV 4:00pm and 7:30pm
Thursday, February 21, 2019 Semifinal Rounds I and II 4:00pm and 7:30pm
Friday February 22, 2019 Open Masterclass with Judges and selected singers
Friday February 22, 2019 Final Round 8:00pm


  • $12,000 Gold Medal, and a professional solo engagement with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra
  • $6,000   Silver Medal, sponsored by Patty and Heyward Gignilliat
  • $3,000   Bronze Medal
  • $1,200   Fourth Prize
  • $1,200   Fifth Prize


  • $500  "Think Outside the Book" Award in collaboration with Musical Theater Songs, sponsored by Steven Gross.  This award is only eligible for songs programmed in the Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds.  Performers who subscribe to (or who have access through their schools) can select the “Not Heard A Lot” and “Rare Find” categories in the popularity search parameter to find thousands of eligible songs, many of which are already in public domain and can be directly downloaded.   If you’re not a subscriber already, visit the site and use code ATC to get your first year’s subscription for just $19 – a $60 discount!

  • $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.