ATC Returns for 26th Annual Competition, February 18th-22nd

Staff Report From Savannah CEO

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

The American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC) returns for its highly anticipated 26th anniversary season Feb. 18-22, 2019. With an outstanding line up of 28 contestants, three new judges and one new pianist, this year’s performances are sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

This year’s judges include award-winning jazz musician Melba Joyce, American composer, conductor and music administrator Michael Ching, and Tony award-nominee and Broadway performer Phillip Boykin. Crowd pleasing pianists return, with David Shenton celebrating nine years of incredible pianistic collaboration with the competition and Wilson Southerland joining for his fifth year. These veteran pianists will be joined by Andrew Sotomayor, who will accompany contestants during this competition for the first time.

Rebecca Odorisio will join this year’s competition as emcee. Odorisio moved 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 ATC Silver Medalist, the 2015 and 2016 Ben Tucker Jazz Award winner and the 2016 Johnny Mercer Award winner.

The ATC celebrates and preserves all styles of classic American music. The organization promotes these songs by producing an annual vocal competition in Savannah, Georgia, that awards $35,000 in cash prizes. The ATC is committed to serving the greater Savannah community. The organization provides musical education, exposure and performances for Savannah locals of all ages. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts institution was born of the desire to foster and preserve traditions of musical expression, which have been significant in the culture of the United States, by celebrating the repertoire that represents both the art and the popular cultures of our country.

The 2019 competition kicks off with a Judge’s Concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18 at Skidway Island United Methodist Church (UMC), 54 Diamond Causeway, on Skidaway Island. Guests will enjoy an evening of music with performances by all three ATC judges. Tickets to this concert cost $30 each.

At 4 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 and Wednesday, Feb. 20, the 28 quarterfinalists will perform three diverse, American songs each at Skidaway Island UMC in the hopes of advancing to the semifinals. The first half of contestants competes on Tuesday, and the remaining contestants will put it all on the line Wednesday. Day passes for the quarterfinals cost $25 each.

The twelve artists who are selected from the quarterfinal rounds will sing their next set of three songs at the semifinals, slated for 4 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at Skidway Island UMC. Semifinals passes for the day cost $35 each.

The cream of the crop will compete for top honors and prizes during the final round at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at the Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton Street. New for 2018, each People’s Choice award winner from each round will also perform in the finals. General seating tickets cost $40 and premium seating costs $55 a piece to see these finalists sing their hearts out to win the coveted medals.

The ATC 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 purpose behind this is for singers to learn about different genres of music as well as the history, the roots, the key players, and the stylistic nuance of each genre. The ATC recognizes the following genres of American music: 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, and cabaret. 

All 28 contestants chosen for the ATC will be awarded a cash prize. Every quarterfinalist receives $300 for being selected by the ATC and semifinalists each receive $600. Sponsored by an anonymous donor, the first-place ATC Gold Medal Award winner receives $12,000 and a paid solo performance with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra. The runner-up will receive the Silver Medal and $6,000 sponsored by Patty and Heyward Gignilliat. The third-place Bronze Medal Award of $3,000 is sponsored by Enmarket Stations, Inc. The fourth-place prize of $1,200 is sponsored by Kay and Don Gardner, and Savannah Friends of Music sponsors the fifth-place prize of $1,200.

The “Think Outside the Book” Award of $500 is sponsored by Steven Gross in collaboration with Musical Theater Songs. This award will be given to a contestant who performs a selection from’s “Not Heard a Lot” or “Rare Find” categories during the quarterfinal or semifinal rounds. The Johnny Mercer Award for best Johnny Mercer performance is sponsored by The Friends of Johnny Mercer, Inc. and Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus. This award of $750 will be awarded for songs performed during the quarterfinal or semifinal rounds. The $500 Toian Bowser-Alexander Award is given in honor of Ms. Toian Alexander, the first Treasurer of the ATC and is sponsored by James Edward Alexander. The award is given to the contestant who exhibits helpfulness to others, encouragement and supportiveness and is voted on by fellow contestants. The Sherrill Milnes Opera Award winner will receive $500, sponsored by Barry and Naomi Cohen, for the best American aria. The $500 Ben Tucker Jazz Award is presented for the best jazz performance and is given by Mrs. Gloria Tucker in honor of her late husband’s legacy and is sponsored by the Dr. David A. and Dr. Margaret M Cohen Charitable Foundation. One quarterfinalist and one semifinalist not advancing to the next round will be presented with the $500 Richard Chambless’ People’s Choice Award. This award is given by Swann Seiler in memory of her dear friend, Richard Chambless.

At the helm of the ATC is the Board of Directors, which is led by President, Allen Henderson, and Vice President, Susan Whitaker. Jim Wann serves as Secretary while Marc Tate holds the role of Treasurer. Mikki Sodergren holds the position of Artistic Director. The remaining board members include Les Anderson, Carol Bell, Daniel Cohen, Leah Coleman, Patty Gignilliat, Nathan Godley, Kellee Haselton, Starr Holland, Beckett Spreng, Debby Warner, and Beverly Willett. 

“This year’s American Traditions Competition is certain to be the best yet - our reach continues to grow, and this competition, its judges and locale - beautiful Savannah, Georgia, draws even greater talents with a further reach,” said Sodergren. "This is our most international competition yet, with Israel, England, France, Canada and Russia represented. We are thrilled with the worldwide appreciation of American music. This is not an experience that Savannah music lovers want to miss!”

To learn more about the ATC or to purchase tickets, please visit