The Blues Alley Jazz Society is proud to announce the winner of the 3rd annual Ella Fitzgerald Competition is Melinda Rodriguez of Miami, Florida. She is a three-time Downbeat Music Award winner, currently serves as a teaching artist at the University of Illinois and is pursuing a masters degree in performance. When asked to comment about the competition Ms. Rodriguez stated, “This experience has been nothing short of wonderful and I will cherish it forever”.

Of the five finalists the second-place winner was Emilia Zamuner of Naples, Italy who received a cash award of Five hundred dollars ($500.00). The third-place winners were Ella Honhen-Ford (London, England), Arta Jekabsone (Riga, Latvia) and Emma Hedrick (Carmel, Indiana). All five contestants received varying cash awards, lodging, hospitality and transportation for their stay in our Nation’s Capital. The 4th annual Ella Fitzgerald Competition will take place between April 24th-26th, 2020: Additional details can be found at www.EllaFitzgeraldCompetition.org

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
    • United States Navy
  • Academic Alliances

    • SUNY-Purchase
    • George Mason University
    • Towson 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” 102nd 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.