WP Jazz Alum April May Webb Selected as Finalist for Prestigious Jazz Vocal Competition

April May Webb ‘15, the first African American woman to graduate from William Paterson’s jazz program, was chosen as one of five finalists for the 10th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, hosted by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ.

Considered to be one of the premier jazz vocal competitions, the Sarah Vaughan International Competition accepts applicants from over 25 countries, evaluating candidates on their vocal quality, musicality, technique, performance, individuality, and artistic interpretation.

Webb, along with the four other finalists, performed three jazz selections of her choosing on November 14 on the NJPAC stage.

“April has always been a shining presence here, in terms of her wonderful voice and musicianship, but also because of her fantastic attitude and outlook on music and life,” says David Demsey, professor of music and coordinator of jazz studies. “I am excited about her entry in this competition, because this will give her and her voice the wider recognition that she deserves.”

Known for her unique vocal approach combining smooth, gospel, rhythm & blues, and traditional jazz styles, Webb makes up one half of the successful jazz duo Sounds of A&R (SOAR), formed in 2014 with her husband, trumpeter Randall Haywood.

In 2021, SOAR released Questions Left Unanswered, their third studio album which rose to number 12 on the national Jazz Week charts. The duo was joined on all 14 tracks by Webb’s two brothers, Nathan Webb ‘10, on drums, and Jacob Webb ‘11, on bass.

After the conclusion of the competition, Webb and Haywood will set out on tour with Thelonious Sphere “T.S.” Monk, son of jazz legend Thelonious Monk, traveling to Lake Jackson, TX to perform their music and teach jazz workshops at Brazosport College.