ATC Unveils Judges for 2019 Competition

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

The American Traditions Vocal Competition is right around the corner and the organization is elated to announce its star-studded lineup of judges for the 2019 season: Broadway performer and ATC medalist Philip Boykin, Operatic composer Michael Ching, and Jazz singer Melba Joyce. The 2019 ATC will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday, February 18, 2019, with the Judges’ Concert, and will continue until Friday, February 22, 2019, with rounds of competition featuring some of the best vocal performers in the country, and in the world.

Currently starring as Tonton Julian in the TONY Award-winning Broadway Revival of Once on This Island, American Bass-Baritone Phillip Boykin specializes in Gospel, Jazz, Opera, and is best known for his roles on the Broadway stage and for his work in film.  Phillip’s Broadway debut was in the TONY® Award-winning, 2012 Broadway Revival of Porgy and Bess, where Phillip starred as Crown, alongside Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis and was music directed by David Alan Grier.  Phillip has been nominated for TONY, Drama Desk, and Outer Critic’s Circle Awards, and he received the 2012 Theater World Award for “Outstanding Broadway Debut”.  Other roles include The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance (Master Voices, Barrington Stage), Joe in Showboat (National Tour), and Boatman/Lee in the recent Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, alongside Annaleigh Ashford and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Phillip has toured the world with such groups as the NYGospel Brothers – a quartet of Gospel singers that Mr. Boykin founded and directs, who travel the world spreading the good news, the New York Harlem Singers, and the Harlem Gospel Singers.  Phillip is an accomplished operatic singer, having made his New York City Opera debut as Inspector Watts in Stephen Schwartz’s opera, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and performing several roles while an Associate Artist at Cleveland Opera, such as Escamillo (Carmen), Marcello (La Boheme), Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), Scarpia (Tosca) and Leporello and Don Giovanni (Don Giovanni).  Mr. Boykin has been seen on the silver screen, starring alongside Chris Rock in Top Five, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Freedom, respectively. Phillip was an ATC medalist in 2003, and is deeply honored to return to Savannah to help adjudicate the 26th annual American Traditions Vocal Competition.

Michael Ching is already well known by Savannah music audiences as the composer of Alice Ryley and Anna Hunter, two Savannah-themed operas as well as the popular Speed Dating Tonight! produced during the 2018 Savannah Voice Festival. With over sixty performances since 2013, Speed Dating Tonight! is one of the most popular operas of the 21st century. This season, Michael has two premieres: Thriver at Palm Springs Opera Guild and Seven Woods and a Van at the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre. Thriver is a groundbreaking work for teen performers about teenage depression, a subject chosen by the young performers themselves. Seven Woods and a Van is about the life of American Gothic painter, Grant Wood. Earlier operas include the popular Buoso’s Ghost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream- opera a cappella. Michael is the former General/Artistic Director of Opera Memphis. He trained at Duke University with composer Robert Ward and with Carlisle Floyd at the Houston Opera Studio. Michael is Music Director of Amarillo Opera, Composer-in-Residence at Savannah Voice Festival and Opera consultant with E C Schirmer Music Publishers. Michael lives in Ames, Iowa with his wife Barbara. 

Melba Joyce was born in Dallas, Texas, where she grew up under the musical influence of her mother and grandparents. Her father, Melvin Moore sang jazz, toured, and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band. Her family moved to Los Angeles and Melba found herself opening for such renowned artists as Miles Davis, Freddy Hubbard and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. She has appeared on Broadway in Black and Blue and starred in the show's world tour. When Melba returned to New York, she was appointed panelist for the Congressional Black Caucus of Women in Jazz Forum. She produced the first Women in Jazz Festival at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Black Culture, and became a principal in the “Day of the Child” series for UNICEF. In May 2004, Melba was the first to be honored by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and has appeared in the series Harlem Speaks. In 2008, The Central Park Conservancy recognized Melba, through the City of New York, for creating and producing that first Women's Jazz Festival in Harlem. In July 2009, Ms. Joyce and Her Big Band debuted at Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing. Melba has most recently performed in Beijing, China, and Georgia, Russia. She is a graduate of Antioch University West in Los Angeles, and resides in New York. 

“The American Traditions Vocal Competition is thrilled to announce this powerhouse judging panel for our 26th annual competition. With their various musical backgrounds, exciting career highlights, and especially Mr. Boykin’s previous relationship as a competitor and medalist in the 2003 American Traditions Vocal Competition, we are thrilled to invite these phenomenal musicians to Savannah,” says ATC Artistic Director Mikki Sodergren. “Applications are open until midnight of October 8, and announcement of contestants will happen in early November.  If you are a vocalist, or know singers who love American music, we would love for you to apply now on our website,”