Tyreek McDole ’23 Wins Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition

McDole emerged from a record 280 applicants from 37 countries

December 7, 2023

Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

Tyreek McDole accepting his first prize award on stage
Tyreek McDole ’23 receives prize at 2023 Sarah Vaughan Competition.
Photo credit: Shakiru Bola Okoya via NJPAC

Recent Oberlin Conservatory graduate Tyreek McDole ’23 has won the 2023 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize and a one-of-a-kind platform for embarking on a career in the music business. His performances included “September in the Rain” and two blues songs: “Lush Life” and “Every Day I Have the Blues.”

McDole was one of the five finalists who emerged from a record number of more than 280 applicants representing 37 countries. His win marks only the second time a male vocalist has taken first prize in the contest’s 12-year history.

Also known as “The SASSY Awards,” the competition was held on Sunday November 19 before a live audience at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and was part of the TD Bank James Moody Jazz Festival.

Noted as one of the most anticipated events in jazz, this accolade now ranks McDole among the competition’s previous winners that include the standout artists Samara Joy (2019 winner) and Jazzmeia Horn (2013 winner).

The London Jazz News review of the event praised McDole’s performance: “Clearly, McDole doesn’t just have a way with the blues; he has a sinuous and companionable way with them.”

While at Oberlin, McDole was a member of the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble. He credits his musical development to the guidance he received at Oberlin from LaTanya Hall, Gary Bartz, Gerald Cannon, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Dan Wall, Sullivan Fortner, and Weedie Braimah

Originally from St. Cloud, Florida, McDole now lives and works in New York City where he has performed at the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club, Birdland Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Minton’s Playhouse and he has collaborated with artists such as Theo Croker, Nicholas Payton, Rodney Whitaker, Russell Hall, Johnny O’Neal, Emmet Cohen, and Gary Bartz. 

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