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

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Judges and Past Winners

—  Find information on past judges and past winners here.


Our judges are a very important part of the American Traditions Vocal Competition family.  They provide the expertise and the experience to encourage all of our singers in their careers, as well as motivate them to push farther with their own artistry. Past judges include:

Ken Benson, Kristen Blodgette, Liz Callaway, Christine Pedi, Marilyn Maye, Morgan James, Denyce Graves, Sheldon Harnick, Ricky Ian Gordon, Sherrill Milnes, Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, Andrew Lippa, Sylvia McNair, Amanda McBroom, Kurt Ollmann, Anthony LaCiura, Hilda Harris, Shirley Jones, Jeannette LoVetri, Spiro Malas, Cynthia Munzer, Jim Wann, Lynette Hawkins Stephens, Anita Gillette, Craig Schulman, Rod Gilfry, Ron Raines, Marni Nixon, Robert Sims, George Shirley, Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, Andrea McArdle, Joseph Joubert, William Warfield, Margaret Whiting, Sheila Jordan, Ernestine Dillard (the first-ever Gold Medalist), Phillip Boykin, Michael Ching, Melba Joyce and many others.




Baritone Sean Anderson has enjoyed a diverse stage career, bouncing between opera, musical theatre and classical drama since childhood.  After completing his studies at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he became an apprentice at the San Francisco Opera and Santa Fe Opera companies.  Before embarking on his solo operatic career, Anderson was a part of Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème on Broadway.  He has appeared with over 20 different opera companies in roles ranging from Verdi to Mozart to Gilbert and Sullivan.  Sean won the Silver Medal in both 2004 and 2005, as well as the Johnny Mercer Award in 2007.


Julie Benko is an actress, singer and songwriter based in New York City.  She has worked on Broadway, national tours and in regional theatres across the country.  A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she is constantly involved in developmental readings and workshops at venues throughout New York City.  Ms. Benko's debut album is due out in the fall of 2017.  Julie won both the Gold Medal and the Johnny Mercer Award in 2017.


Phillip Lamar Boykin is an American bass-baritone, known for his work in Broadway, opera, film and stage.  He was featured in the 2017 Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, and made Broadway history as the first African-American Boatman/Lee Randolph at Broadway’s oldest theatre – The Hudson Theatre.  Boykin was featured in On the Town, and was nominated for the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Awards for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for his role as Crown in the Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess. Phillip won the Bronze medal in 2003.



Tituss Burgess is an American actor and singer.  He has appeared in four Broadway musicals, including Disney’s The Little Mermaid, where he originated the role of “Sebastian the Crab”.  He hails from Athens, GA and attended University of Georgia, receiving a BA in Music.  While known to theatre audiences for his uniquely high tenor range, he has gone on to star in the Netflix original series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which he received Emmy nominations in 2015 and 2016 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.   Mr. Burgess won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2002.



Douglas Carpenter is the only singer to win both the American Traditions Vocal Competition (2011) and the Lotte Lenya Competition (2013).  Doug received a BM in voice from University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and received his MM from UCLA.  He was recently seen on Broadway in Beautiful as a Righteous Brother and Nick, and an understudy for Gerry Goffin.  Prior to joining Beautiful, Doug completed a national tour of Dirty Dancing as Billy Kostecki.  Regionally, Doug has played Lt. Cable in South Pacific (Paper Mill Playhouse), Joey in The Most Happy Fella (Goodspeed, Dallas Lyric Stage), Lancelot (Camelot), Curly (Oklahoma), Tony (West Side Story) Chris (Miss Saigon) and many others.   Doug most recently completed a run as Billy Bigelow in Carousel at Musical Theatre West.



Joshua Carswell is a highly sought-after recording artist with a powerhouse instrument.  A graduate of Elon University, he has gone on to perform the classics on tour all over the country as both a solo artist and with the Annie Moses Band.  On his debut album, Debonair, Josh shows great range between Duke Ellington jazz, Hank Williams classics, pop originals, and European-influenced standards.  Alex Wolaver, Producer of the Annie Moses Band says of Josh, “[He] loves a multiplicity of styles and genres, and he has an extraordinary skill to interpret and perform all of them.”  Joshua won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2012.



Statuesque soprano Maria Clark has been acclaimed for her virtuosic skills of singing across the genres of opera, oratorio and art song.   After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree at Florida State University, she moved to New York to pursue her MM at Manhattan School of Music.  She has played many major roles, including The Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro), Violetta (La Traviata), and Strawberry Woman in a European touring production of Porgy and Bess.  This led her to cover Bess at the Atlanta Opera, and she has one on to portray her in concert productions across the globe.   Maria won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2004.



Washington D.C. standout Sharón Clark has brought festival and concert audiences to their feet across the U.S. and Europe.  During a New York concert residency, she drew rave reviews from both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and winning New York’s Bistro Award for Best Vocalist.  She appears regularly across D.C. at Blues Alley and the Loews Madison Hotel.  She has performed with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony and has headlined at several jazz festivals.   Ms. Clark won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2007. 




Ernestine Dillard is perhaps best remembered for her April 23, 1995 performance when she sang “God Bless America” on national television, closing the memorial service honoring the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.  Prior to becoming a singer, Ernestine had a 33-year career as a registered nurse.  Her performance career has taken her to the American Cathedral in Paris; Geneva, Switzerland;  Philadelphia’s “Let Freedom Ring” celebration, featuring General Colin Powell, and many other prestigious events.  Ernestine is the first American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medalist, from the year 1994 – the year she started her career as a singer.


Stephen Dobson has called Savannah, Georgia home since 1991.  He studied Vocal Performance at Mercer University and has been a member of the Georgia All-State Choir, the Savannah Symphony Choir, and has toured with the Continental Singers.  Stephen previously served in the Air Force and the Air National Guard.  In 2010, Stephen joined the cast of the Savannah Theatre where he has played Jean Valjean (Les Miserables) and many other roles in the revue shows commonly produced at the theatre. Stephen won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2015.



Critics have described American Bass-Baritone Todd William Donovan as a singer who dominates the stage.  Known for his powerful, resonant voice and expressive acting, Mr. Donovan is comfortable on both the operatic and theatrical stages. In the operatic realm, Donovan has portrayed Olin Blitch (Susannah), Scarpia (Tosca), Mefistofele (Mefistofele) and Dr. Falke (Die Fledermaus).  In theater, Donovan has played Alfred P. Doolittle (My Fair Lady), The Baker (Into the Woods) and Count Carl Magnus (A Little Night Music).  Mr. Donovan won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2009, after placing as a finalist in 2008.




Detroit native Sequina DuBose emerges as a stunning performer most noted for her engaging stage presence and charming musical style.  Making her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in the role of Annie (Porgy and Bess), she also sang over 40 performances of Clara in the 75th Anniversary Tour of Porgy and Bess. She has performed as Musetta (La Boheme), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) and both Susanna and the Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro).  Ms. DuBose is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and won the American Traditions vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2013.





Countertenor Alexander Edgemon enjoys a varied performing career.  From the roles of First Priest and First Inquisitor (Phillip Glass’ Galileo Galileo), Cherubino (Ghosts of Versailles), Oberon (Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and the titular role in Gluck’s Orfeo, a unique and versatile performer emerges.  In the world of oratorio, Edgemon has sung The Messiah, St. Matthew’s Passion, Mass in B Minor, Carmina Burana, Chichester Psalms, and the Mozart Requiem.  He received his Bachelor’s in Vocal Performance and Music Composition at Texas Tech, and his Master’s in Vocal Performance and Literature from Northwestern University.  Alexander won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2015.

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Soprano and award-winning actor Kelly Ellenwood has performed principal roles on and off Broadway, on stages in every state across the US, and on film & television.  She received degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  The soprano is currently on faculty at SUNY-New Paltz, Kelly is particularly proud to call herself a "Community Organizer" and between her music, raising a family and volunteer work is happily and perpetually overextended.  Kelly won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 1997.


A native of New York, Maria Failla received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in 2011. Maria made her European debut as Maria in West Side Story at Le Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, France. Favorite roles include Antonia (Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Man of La Mancha), and Mabel (Bristol Riverside’s Pirates of Penzance).  Maria has toured extensively, in the first national tour of Evita, as Rosalia and the ‘Somewhere’ soloist in the International tour of West Side Story, and as a female swing in the Sound of Music.  Maria won the American Traditions Vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2014.

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Erica Gabriel, Soprano, received her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Oakwood University. While There she played the role of Madame Pompous in Edward Penhorwood’s Too Many Sopranos.  Erica’s traning also includes a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan Where she performed the roles of Female Chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia  and First Lady in Die Zauberflöte.  Recently, she performed Bernstein's MASS at Ravinia Festival, as a member of the Street Chorus.

Her competition credits include: Winner of the Hartford Memorial Scholarship Competition as well as the Winner of Classical singer regional University Competition. Among her other accomplishments, Erica is a songwriter and recording artist.  Ms. Gabriel won the American Traditions Vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2018.


Baritone Andrew Garland enjoys a busy and diverse performance career.  Having won the Lavinia Jensen, NATSAA, Washington International, NATS and Opera Columbus Competitions, as well as winning additional prizes at the Montreal International, Gerda Lissner, and Palm Beach International Opera Competitions, Garland performs a broad spectrum of repertoire with elegance.  A regular performer with Boston Baroque, The Handel and Haydn Society, and the Colorado Bach Ensemble, he is alsohighly sought-after for standard opera, portraying roles from Rossini’s Figaro, to Schaunard; Don Giovanni and Silvio (Pagliacci) to Ping (Turandot) and Giuseppe (I Gondolieri).   Andrew won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2003.




Kimberly Hawkey is a singer, dreamer, lyricist and song revivalist based in lower New York State.  Kimberly chooses American Song to spread light, love and connection to the wider world. She paints a time-defying soundscape using her crystal-clear voice across familiar and original melodies; at times soaring and whimsical; at times brassy and witty - but rarely without an element of surprise.  A modern experience of new and old, audiences can expect to hear a thoughtfully curated blend of vaudeville, hot jazz, folk music, cabaret and contemporary jazz flowing seamlessly through the ages.  Kimberly won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2013.



Morgan James is an American singer, songwriter and actress.  A graduate of the Juilliard School, she has appeared in numerous Broadway shows, including Motown: The Musical, Godspell, and The Addams Family.  Epic Records released her first studio album, Hunter, in November 2014.  On March 31, 2017, James began her multi-city Reckless Abandon tour in support of her second studio album, released on April 7, 2017.  James is also well known for her numerous musical collaborations with the jazz collective, Postmodern Jukebox.   In January 2017, James produced and starred in an all-female cast concert of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar at New York’s Highline Ballroom.  Morgan won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2007.



Characterized by The New York Times as a “shimmering soprano voice”, Kisma Jordan has proven to be a vocal powerhouse of great versatility. She has presented her fusion project, Beyond Classical: Opera Soul as part of the Detroit Performs Live from Carr Center concert series, and has appeared with Annapolis Opera, Jessica Care Moore’s Black Women Rock 2016 showcase.  In the operatic world, Ms. Jordan has portrayed Clara (Porgy and Bess) at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Pamina at New Jersey Opera, Nedda in Pagliacci, and others. Kisma has appeared with the symphonies of Hilton Head Island, Omaha, Mississippi and the Lima Symphony.  Kisma won the American Traditions vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2017.


Michael Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, received his earliest vocal training as a treble in the American Boychoir, and continued his education at Georgetown University and the Peabody Institute of Music.  Some of Michael’s favorite roles include Roger (A New Brain), Sky Masterson (Guys and Dolls), and Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro).  A sought-after concert soloist, Maliakel has performed the baritone solos in Handel’s Messiah, Vaughan William’s Five Mystical Songs, Fauré’s Requiem, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. In the summer of 2017, Michael played Hemant Rai in the thrice-extended world premiere musical production, Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Michael won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2016.



Sedalia Marie Brown has performed regionally in a wide range of operatic and theatrical roles, including Sarah (Ragtime), Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Carmen (Carmen Jones) and Charlaine (Ain’t Misbehavin’).  She has won several awards, including the Lima Concerto Competition, placing as a national semi-finalist in the NATSAA competition, and a Finalist in the Concurso Internacional de Zarzuela in Madrid.  She currently serves as a music educator for the Christel House Academy South in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Sedalia holds degrees from Kentucky State University and Bowling Green State University, and won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2012.




Mezzo-Soprano Maria McDaniel first discovered her talent for classical singing during high school in her hometown, near Chicago, Illinois.  She went on to receive degrees from Millikin University, and Georgia State University.  She founded the Atlanta Academy of Vocal Arts in the North Metro Atlanta area.  Maria has performed a wide variety of roles, ranging from Mozart to Verdi to contemporary Chinese composers.  In addition to her operatic career, Ms. McDaniel has performed in concert appearances with the symphonies of Atlanta, Ludwig, Savannah, and Gainesville.  Maria won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2010.


Atlanta-born Ann Marie McPhail is one of the region’s seasoned performers, and is quickly establishing herself as a versatile lyric soprano across the United States.  After completing her undergraduate studies at Clark Atlanta University, and her Master’s in Vocal Performance from Georgia State University, she made her career debut as the Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro) at the Houston Ebony Opera.  Ms. McPhail is currently a lecturer and voice faculty member at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and is a member of the Atlanta Opera and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.  Ms. McPhail won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2012.


Staff Sargeant Andre McRae, Bass, hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds multiple degrees from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  Upon completion of his studies, McRae quickly began an international career, performing roles such as Joe (Showboat), and Adrian (Smokey Joe’s Café).  He has also been seen in Ragtime, Godspell and on an international tour of Porgy and Bess.  As a soloist, Andre has performed with the symphonies of Cincinnati, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and the National Symphony Orchestra.  In 2009, he became a member of the U.S. Army Chorus, and in 2012, was assigned to the newly-formed U.S. Army Voices.  Andre won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2005.


Aundi Marie Moore is a proud native of Chesapeake, Virginia and has established herself as a leading, young American soprano.  A former member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera, Moore has gone on to perform Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) with L’Opéra de Monte Carlo, Nedda (Pagliacci) with Sarasota Opera, Serena (Porgy and Bess) with Atlanta and Virginia Opera, and Nettie Fowler (Carousel) with Ashlawn Music Festival.  Aundi has performed with the symphonies of Buffalo, Virginia, and North Carolina, as well as the National Symphony Orchestra.  Aundi won the American Traditions vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2016, and was a Finalist in 2017.




Roger Moss, Jr. is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee where he received numerous awards for civic and artistic accomplishments.  A graduate of Wheaton College, he has performed the role of Jake (Porgy and Bess) with Opera Memphis, has performed with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra, and among other accomplishments, has sung for the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Moss is a Cofounder of the renowned and respected Savannah Children’s Choir – an organization created to establish a positive way for Savannah’s children to represent their community and showcase musical accomplishments.  Roger was a finalist in the American Traditions vocal Competition in 2002.

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Los Angeles & New York City based artist, Brandon Michael Nase, is a versatile performer of repertoire ranging from Musical Theatre to Pop, R&B, Jazz and Opera. He has recently been seen in Evita (Asolo Rep), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (3D Theatricals; Judah), Frozen Live at the Hyperion (Olaf), Little Shop of Horrors (Sharon Playhouse; Audrey II),  and Les Miserables (Dallas Theatre Center) Equally adept on the concert stage, Brandon has performed across the United States and abroad as a soloist, most notably in Mozart's Requiem, Puccini’s Messae di Gloria, and Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man

Brandon received his Master of Music degree in vocal performance/musical theatre from NYU. He received his Bachelor of Music degree in choral music education from the renowned University of North Texas College of Music. Brandon has studied voice with Michael Ricciardone, Dr. Jeffrey Snider, and Dr. Linda DiFiore. Of all his roles, Brandon’s favorite's are performed offstage—husband to his caring wife, Lauren, and father to his beautiful daughter, Anaya

Brandon won the American Traditions Vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2018.


Born and raised in Philadephia, Rebecca “Bex” Odorisio came to New York at the age of eighteen to pursue her dramatic education.  Her B.F.A. studies were completed at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.  She enjoys a wide spectrum of dramatic work, from Shakespeare to Sondheim to Strayhorn. A facile and versatile performer, Rebecca places equal emphasis on musical, comedic, and dramatic pursuits.  She is the 2015 All-Star Champion of New York’s Cabaret Showdown, a founding member of the theatre company, Island Shakespeare, and a recent member of America’s Sweethearts, an “Andrews’ sisters”-style women’s harmony group, performing American songbook and Americana music from wartimes.  Rebecca is the 2015 American Traditions Cocal Competition Silver Medalist, the 2015 and 2016 Ben Tucker Jazz Award winner and the 2016 Johnny Mercer Award winner.


Kim Polote has been called “Savannah’s Own Fabulous Vocalist”.  Born and Raised in Savannah, she has been entertaining local and tourist audiences since the age of seven.  Career highlights include singing for Paula Deen’s wedding, singing for her friend Nancy Gerard’s funeral, who happened to be the niece of Savannah’s great lyricist, Johnny Mercer.  Ms. Polote hosts a 2-hour Johnny Mercer lecture series at David Armstrong’s Road Scholar/Elderhostel - the Kim Polote Trio performs between 30 and 40 of these shows every year.  You can catch Kim performing all over the Savannah area at restaurants, private events and specialty Savannah attractions.  Kim is the only Savannah native to win the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal, which she was awarded in 2001.




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Originally from Chicago, IL, American baritone Michael Preacely is a rising star on the operatic scene but is also known for a versatile singing ability and style that allow him to cross between genres from classical repertoire to pop, contemporary, and Broadway.  He has received critical acclaim for many of his performances both in the United States and abroad.  Those roles include the title role in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Porgy, in Porgy and Bess, The Barber, in the Barber of Siville, Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, Scarpia in Tosca, Ford in Falstaff, Marcello in La Boheme, the High Priest in Samson and Delilah and Jake in Porgy and Bess to name a few. Michael has performed with Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company Philadelphia, Opera Memphis, Kentucky Opera, Cleveland Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Western Plains Opera and Bohème Opera of New Jersey.

Mr. Preacely’s success on the concert stage has blossomed with some of the nation’s leading orchestras, including the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the Memphis Symphony, the Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Pops, the Cincinnati Pops and the American Spiritual Ensemble.

Mr. Preacely has received numerous accolades.  He was an invited participant of the International Vocal Arts Institute with Joan Dornemann and the VOIC Experience with Sherrill Milnes and Friends.  He was the First Place Graduate Winner in the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition at the University of Kentucky and the recipient of awards in various competitions such as the National Opera Association Vocal Competition Artist Division, the Fritz and Jensen Vocal Competition, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Whether performing in song, concert or opera throughout the U.S. or abroad, Michael Preacely remains passionate about allowing people to hear and feel music in such a way that liberates them.  Michael currently lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and three sons.  Michael won the  American Traditions Vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2018.


Leenya Rideout's wide range of disciplines, as well as her unique and sometimes offbeat take on the human condition, have enabled her to reach audiences in theatres, cabarets, and music festivals around the world.  Rideout has performed a number of remarkable of roles, including The Widow in the historic, first all-female cast of The Taming of the Shrew at the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park.  She has played Aldonza/Dulcinea (The Man of La Mancha) at Milwaukee Rep, CFRT and ACCC; Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady) on the International Tour, Gussie (Merrily We Roll Along) at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park as well as several other leading roles.  Rideout is also a songwriter, writing urban folk with a Celtic edge, and has performed her music across New York City at venues such as The Bitter End, 54 Below, The Cutting Room, and The Laurie Beechman Theatre.  Her debut album Phoenix is available on iTunes.  Leenya won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2008 and the Bronze Medal in 2010.


American tenor, Vale Rideout has grained critical acclaim for his musical artistry and superb stagecraft throughout the United States and Europe.  A native of Colorado, he received his education at theUniversity of North Carolina.  Roles include Ferrando (Così fan tutte with Boston Baroque), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte with Tulsa Opera), Male Chorus (Rape of Lucretia at Central City Opera) ad Alfred (Die Fledermaus with San Francisco Opera) and many others.  Concert highlights include Handel’s Messiah (symphonies of Pensacola, Honolulu, and Seattle), Carmina Burana (Virginia Symphony), Mozart’s Mass in C Minor (Huntsville Symphony) and Britten’s War Requiem with the Jacksonville Symphony.  Rideout served as Artistic Consultant for the American Traditions vocal Competition from 2012-2017, after winning the Gold Medal in 2006.


A native of Savannah, Georgia, Huxsie Scott is regarded as one of the greatest jazz/blues artists ever to live and perform in the Savannah Coastal Area. Huxsie began her career as a jazz vocalist in 1973. She has performed with many of the area’s premiere jazz ensembles and symphony orchestras.  She was the original vocalist for the Savannah Jazz Orchestra and worked as the featured vocalist for jazz great and Savannah resident, the late bassist Ben Tucker. In 1987 Huxsie came full circle and went back to her roots, singing Gospel and Inspirational music.  Huxsie has been a featured vocalist at the Savannah Theatre since they opened in August of 2002.  Huxsie won the American Traditions vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2004.


Robert Sims, baritone, has been highly praised for his moving interpretations of African-American spirituals, and has given numerous recitals across the world.  Career highlights include a televised performance of Bernstein’s Opening Prayer, while on tour with the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in Japan, performing with the legendary Jessye Norman in Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy at Carnegie Hall, and a performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He has performed in concert at Lincoln Center, the Smithsonian Institute, the festivals of Ravinia, Chautauqua, Savannah, Grant Park, and Big Arts, and has performed at the American Church in Paris.  He has performed in Roméo et Juliette, Don Pasquale, Die Zauberflöte, Porgy and Bess, La Traviata and others.  Robert won the Gold Medal in the 1999 American Traditions vocal Competition.


Mikki Sodergren is a young soprano who can effortlessly glide between genres. Actively performing opera, theatre, jazz and choral music, Mikki enjoys a diverse musical career. She is passionate about new music and has been involved in the creation of several new works. Some favorites include Ali (Kerrigan & Lowdermilk’s The Bad Years), Erika Eiffel (Erika’s Wall), Eponine (Les Miserables), and Sarah in the award-winning operatic horror VR short, The Parksville Murders, Ep.1.   Mikki has been a guest artist with the Jacksonville Symphony, the New Jersey Festival Orchestra and the Savannah Philharmonic. She is currently serving as Artistic Director of the American Traditions vocal Competition, after winning the Gold Medal, Ben Tucker Jazz Award and Johnny Mercer Award in 2014.


Soprano Christine Steyer has been highly praised for her artistry, and has distinguished herself as an artist of great versatility.  Favorite roles include the Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier), Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly), Violetta (La Traviata), and has performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago in Street Scene, Sweeney Todd, Cunning Little Vixen and Manon Lescaut. In concert, she has been engaged as the soprano soloist in Poulenc’s Gloria, Carmina Burana, Brahms’ Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  Steyer is the Artistic Director of Bellissima Opera where she brought music to over 20,000 students with her outreach program. Christine won the American Traditions vocal Competition Bronze Medal in 2011.





Hailed by Opera News for her “wonderfully clear, pointed sound and the natural warmth she brings to her character”, soprano Katrina Thurman is one of the most promising talents of her generation, captivating audiences and critics alike with her distinctively beautiful voice, powerful stage presence, sensitive artistry, and physical beauty. Thurman has appeared as a soloist with the symphonies of Cincinnati, New Jersey, Utah, Omaha, and Danbury.  She has performed leading roles across the world, from Anchorage to Shreveport Opera, from Opéra de Lyon, France, to Oper Bonn, Germany.  Christine won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2011.


Alice Tillotson Ratterree began her career in music as a classically trained singer working operatic, concert and oratorio venues.   She has appeared as a soloist with the Boston Pops, Boston’s Emmanuel Music, Asheville Lyric Opera and Brevard Music Center.  Later in her life, she has transitioned to become an illustrator, focusing on the mediums of watercolor painting and graphic design.  Her work has appeared in the children’s book publishing market, magazines, newspapers, hospitals, schools and in the Cannon Tunnel of the United States Capitol.   Ms. Tillotson Ratterree won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2002.




Dara Tucker is an American jazz singer and composer.  She has released four studio albums between 2009 and 2017, as well as a limited-release, live performance album.  She has performed internationally with her jazz ensemble since 2009.  An Oklahoma native, Tucker received her Bachelor’s degree in International business and German Studies, later moving to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter.  She has performed and recorded many styles, from American songbook arrangements to soul, R&B, jazz and gospel to country.  Dara won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal and Ben Tucker Jazz Award in 2017.


Dr. John Wesley Wright, tenor, is known for his artistic and soulful interpretations of music, from Baroque to Broadway.  Holding degrees from Maryville College and Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, his diversity as an artist has afforded him many unique and interesting opportunities.  His rendition of “Here’s One” is highlighted in the PBS documentary, The Spirituals: Featuring the American Spiritual Ensemble.  He has performed with the Dayton Bach Society, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and has performed the coveted role of The Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass. Dr. Wright is on faculty at Salisbury University in Maryland and won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2000.



An award-winning singer, songwriter, arranger and vocal coach, Darryl Jovan Williams has traveled the world performing in high-energy and entertaining shows and unique venues.  Career highlights include performing for Saint John Paul II in Bologna, Italy and performing at the 1996 Olympics.  Mr. Williams served as vocal arranger for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gospel version of Jesus Christ Superstar at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. His critically acclaimed performance of Judas earned him a Suzi Bass nomination for Best Actor. He performed as The Lion in Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of The Wiz before venturing to Norwegian Cruise Lines, where he headlines a solo show, “Mind of a Tenor”.  Darryl won won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 1996.


Jorell Williams, baritone, has been hailed by Opera News as having “a solid vocal core, and easy, natural production, and the New York Times nodded to his “perfect” comedic timing.  Williams has performed with the South Dakota Symphony, the Eugene Symphony, at the Caramoor Music Festival and the Chautauqua Institute, as well as the Bay Chamber Music Festival.  He has performed with opera companies across the United States, including the Atlanta Opera and New York’s On Site Opera.  Jorell won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2014 and the Bronze Medal in 2015.


Mezzo-soprano Amy Yovanovich has sung regionally with the Lancaster and Harrisburg Opera companies, and has portrayed Carmen (Carmen), Dorabella (Così fan tutte), and Ms. Baggatt (Britten’s The Little Sweep).   She currently serves as the Executive Director of State Street Academy of Music in Harrisburg area, Pennsylvania, and the Minister of Music at Westgate Baptist Church in Lancaster.  Amy won the American Traditions vocal Competition Gold Medal in 1998.



Jennifer Zuiff is the front woman and songwriter of Indee Killed the Pop Star, an indie-folk band from the deep South.  The band combines classical inspiration with a rock-pop mix for audiences around Atlanta. With hints of opera and jazz bursting through the vocals, strings and woodwinds provide a bright backdrop for songs about love, pain, healing and... cats. Lead singer Indee, made a huge impression a few years ago, placing fourth runner-up in the first season of Atlanta's Sing For Your Life competition. Since then, she and her band have played venues around the city and around Georgia, creating genre-twisting, original songs and breathing fresh air into the local music scene.  Jennifer won the American Traditions vocal Competition Silver Medal in 2010.