Tier I Competition Finalaists with James Toland

The primary emphasis of JTVA is on an annual vocal competition to support singers at the earliest stages of their professional development with financial awards, performance opportunities, master classes, and the encouragement to follow their dreams. Our second competition will be held at the Regents' Theater at the Valley Center for the Performing Arts on the Holy Names University campus in Oakland, California on June 27, 2015.

photos: Vibeke Johnson

Meet the 2014 Finalists

The 2015 competition will offer prizes to two groups of singers. Rather than specific age or educational requirements, these groups are distinguished primarily by level of ability, vocal experience, and readiness to begin a professional career. In some cases, singers may qualify and apply for both groups.

James Toland teaching

* Tier I is for singers ready to embark on a professional career. This includes those who have recently completed undergraduate or graduate study in voice; however, this is not a requirement. Tier I is open to anyone who has studied voice extensively and developed substantial skill in vocal performance. Prospective competitors who are looking to make a "later in life" career change to the performing arts are also welcome to apply.

* Tier II is for those studying singing at or near the college level. Singers who are engaged in serious study (private or collegiate) of the fundamentals of vocal performance should apply at this level. Competitors might be undergraduates or graduates studying music, vocal performance, or musical theater. Non-collegiate singers who have achieved comparable vocal development through private study are eligible.

There is no upper or lower age limit for this competition, provided the singer meets the general requirements of either tier. Participation does not require a degree. This competition is open to applicants irrespective of residency.

Seven finalists will compete before a live audience, which is expected to include representatives from Bay Area performing arts organizations. Tier I singers will also participate in a master class with renowned tenor Bruce Ford. Competition winners will receive cash awards. In addition, the first place winner in Tier I will have the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Oakland East Bay Symphony under Music Director Michael Morgan.

Tier I - Singers at the beginning of their careers:

  • 1st place - $5,000, plus OEBS performance
  • 2nd place - $3,000
  • 3rd place - $2,000

Tier II - Study awards for voice students (private or collegiate) considering a professional singing career:

  • 1st place - $2,000
  • 2nd place - $1,500
  • 3rd place - $1,000

There will be an audience favorite award based on a tally of written votes by the audience at each of the two tiers' competitions. The 2015 audience favorite awards will be:

  • Tier I - $1,000
  • Tier II - $500

There will be four Encouragement Awards in each of the two tiers for those Finalists who do not win 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize.

  • Tier I - $500
  • Tier II - $300

Beginning on September 21, 2014, applications may be submitted online through YAP Tracker. Singers must complete the application, upload their videos, and pay a nonrefundable fee, as further detailed below.

The application form will ask for a brief resume/biography, including: educational and vocal study experience, performance history, current management (if any), and singing goals. Applicants must indicate in which tier they would like to compete, and are strongly encouraged to select the tier that best represents their current status as a vocalist. However, if both tiers seem applicable, the applicant may choose both, but must pay an application fee for each one.

Fella Barbershop Quartetleft: 2014 Tier I Finalist Jason Duika, right: 2014 Tier II Finalist Allie Jessing

All applicants must upload unedited videos of their singing of three selections from memory accompanied by a pianist. Each video must be without recording enhancements, and each selection should be recorded in one "take." These three videos should not be longer than 20 minutes total. Vocal selections may be chosen from lyric theater (opera, operetta, musical theater), oratorio, symphonic vocal material, art songs, or traditional jazz and cabaret standards. Those hoping to pursue a career in a classical music genre should ideally include samples in more than one language.

Preliminary judging of the videos will be by a panel of judges, who will narrow the entries to no more than 35 singers. Applicants will be judged on beauty of tone, musicality, language facility, and vocal-technical, as well as their musical skills, diction, dramatic interpretation, and general stage presence.

Oakland hillsphoto: sfcityscape.com

A second panel of judges will then select seven finalists in each tier for the live competition. These singers will be invited to the competition finals which will be on June 27, 2015 in the Regents' Theater at the Valley Center for the Performing Arts on the Holy Names University campus in Oakland, California. Additionally, Tier I finalists will be invited to participate in a master class with renowned tenor Bruce Ford on June 26, 2015. Contestants will be responsible for their own travel to Oakland, however, for out of area singers, home stays will be provided for the competition weekend.

At the finals, each contestant will perform two pieces for an audience and a panel of final judges, which may include conductors and artistic directors from Bay Area performing arts organizations. An accompanist will be provided and rehearsal time scheduled in advance. The top three winners in each tier will be announced and prizes will be awarded at the conclusion of each tier's competitions.


  • September 21, 2014: First date for application submissions for the 2015 competition.
  • December 21, 2014: "Early Bird" deadline for applications and video submissions ($40).
  • February 24, 2015: Final deadline for applications ($50).
  • March 20, 2015: Semi-finalists selected by panel of judges and notified.
  • April 12, 2015: Finalists selected and notified.
  • June 26, 2015: Master class with Bruce Ford.
  • June 27, 2015: Competition finals.