The 2020 edition of the 4th annual Ella Fitzgerald Competition launched on Friday, November 1st as a component of our 16th annual BIG BAND JAM!. The theme of the competition will be composer/lyricist Johnny Mercer and we will distribute charts and lead sheets from the 1964 recording “Ella Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook”.  The competition is open to male and female singers, ages 17 through 25.   Our distinguished judges will be Darden Purcell, Charenee Wade and Jessica Boykin-Settles of George Mason, Peabody Institute and Howard University respectively. The five charts selected will be as follows:

  1. Early Autumn
  2. Midnight Sun
  3. I Remember You
  4. Day In, Day Out
  5. This Time The Dream’s On Me

Each completed registrant will receive five (5) charts. Of the five (5) charts you will then select two (2) lead sheets, compile audio recordings and submit them no later than January 31, 2020.

The final competition will occur on Saturday, April 25, 2020 at Blues Alley Jazz in Washington, DC and which would have been Ella Fitzgerald’s 103rd birthday. Over the past three years there have been an average of 50 registrations, a total high of 30 submissions but always five (5) finalists. The final competition will occur simultaneously with the 16th annual BIG BAND JAM! on the National Mall between April 24-26, 2020. Our artist-in-residence will be internationally-renowned pianist Makoto Ozone and he will be performing in trio and large ensembles. The competition and the big band are free and open to the public.

Registration Closed

Beneath the iconic Blues Alley sign (L-R) Emilia Zamuner, Emma Hedrick, Arta Jekabsone, Ella Honhen-Ford and Melinda Rodriguez


SAVE THE DATE. The 4th annual Ella Fitzgerald Competition will take place on Saturday, April 25, 2020 at Lisner Auditorium on the grounds of the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Our principal hospitality partner will be the Georgetown Suites Hotel and we will offer a preferred weekend rate using the discount code “ELLA”. The theme of next year’s competition will be the 1964 recording “Ella Sings Mercer” with complementary lead sheets provided by our accompanist Wayne Wilentz. The competition will coincide with our 16th Annual BIG BAND JAM! which will take place April 24-26, 2020 at the Sylvan Amphitheater on our National Mall. Stay in touch with all of our event updates by subscribing to our e-mailing list.

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  • Sponsors

    • The Speyer Foundation
    • Marinus and Minnie B. Koster Foundation
    • The Wagner Family Charitable Foundation
    • National Park Service
    • George Washington University
    • Music Performance Trust Funds
    • DC Federation of Musicians
    • Blues Alley Jazz
  • Partners

    • Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation
    • National Press Club
    • Events DC
    • Jazz Education Network
    • US Army
  • Academic Alliances

    • Peabody Institute
    • George Mason University
    • Howard University
  • Media Partner

    • JazzEd Magazine
    • WERA-FM Radio

About Us

The Ella Fitzgerald jazz vocal competition is the culmination of our non-profit Blues Alley Jazz Society youth and education programming. Our event combines our youth orchestra, summer camp and annual childrens’ jazz festival to focus on America’s “First Lady of Song”.  In honor of the “First Lady of Song’s” 103rd birthday, the Blues Alley Jazz Society has partnered with some of America’s most prestigious institutions to create a unique vocal competition to honor this important contributor of American music.

The Blues Alley Jazz Society counts some of America’s most distinguished foundations, cultural and educational institutions as our principal sponsors or partners. Over the course of more than half a century, our namesake nightclub has presented some of the most formidable names within American musicana, including our vocal competition namesake Ms. Ella Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald’s contribution to the Great American Songbook extended over a total of six decades and 79 years. The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation has worked tirelessly and strenuously to also honor Ms. Fitzgerald’s lifelong commitment to American music and for that we are eternally grateful.

The Ella Fitzgerald jazz vocal competition reflects a decades-long effort in the making to return one-of-the world’s most critically acclaimed voices back to center stage. Ms. Fitzgerald was largely known as a pioneer interpreter of popular song but she was also the first female big band leader in American history. She is less well known for her humanitarian contributions worldwide and for donating to the future of American music education. This competition is intended to embrace this great American tradition on the occasion of her 102nd birthday and to maintain her legacy for generations to come. We hope that you will too.