JUNE 13 & 14, 2020


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Everyone involved was extraordinarily friendly and went out of their way to make sure the singers are comfortable and relaxed, so that we would have every chance to sing our very best in competition.
— Jennifer Lindsay

My experience at the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition was fantastic. From the generosity of the administration and volunteers, to the priceless opportunity to sing for a panel of esteemed judges - I cannot recommend it enough!
— Kathryn Leemhuis

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 seventh 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 16, 2020. Seven finalists in each Tier will compete before a live audience, which will include representatives from Bay Area performing arts organizations.

All finalists receive a cash award.

Tier I & Tier II singers will participate in master classes on June 13, 2020. In addition, the first place winner in Tier I will have the opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Oakland Symphony under Music Director Michael Morgan.

A preliminary panel of anonymous judges will narrow the number of singers to no more than 40 semifinalists. Following that, a second panel of judges will then select seven Finalists in each Tier who will be invited to Oakland to compete in the Final Round next summer.

  • All applications must be submitted through YAP Tracker. Applicants do not have to be members of YAP Tracker to apply.

  • Each year, the application form will ask for a brief resume and current 100 word biography, including: educational and vocal study experience, performance history, current management (if any), and singing goals. Applicants will also be asked to upload a current high resolution photo (300X500 pixels or greater). This bio and photo will appear in the competition program for the fourteen selected finalists.

  • 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.

  • All applicants must upload two video clips via YouTube to their YAP Tracker application. Video selections must be recent and no older than eighteen months. Selections that do not meet this criterion must first be approved for submission by JTVA. Each selection must be sung from memory and accompanied by a pianist. The pianist must be visible in the video and the pianist’s name included in the description. The two videos must be uploaded separately, and the two in total must not be longer than 15 minutes. Do not send videos of entire operas or concerts.

  • Each video clip must be unedited and without recording enhancements. Each selection should be recorded in one "take."

  • Vocal selections may be clips 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.


2020 AWARDS  

All finalists receive a cash award.

Tier I - Singers at the beginning of their careers:

  • 1st place - $10,000

  • 2nd place - $6,000

  • 3rd place - $5,000 Karen Reiter Award

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

  • 1st place - $4,000

  • 2nd place - $3,000

  • 3rd place - $2,500

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

  • Tier I - $2,000

  • Tier II - $1,000

One Tier I finalist will be selected to sing in concert performance with the Oakland Symphony, Music Director Michael Morgan.

€500 and Concert in Provence

One finalist will be invited to sing in a concert performance with orchestra and other singers in July 2021 in the new cultural center of Saint Vallier de Thiey/Grasse.

Roundtrip airfare and lodging will be provided to the singer who would be in France for five days including rehearsals and concert.



The Bell Investment Advisors Encouragement Awards of $2,000 will be given to each Tier I and Tier II finalist who does not win 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize

We are thrilled to share exciting news about the Bell Investment Advisors Encouragement Awards for those finalists who do not win 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize in each of the two tiers. The awards are underwritten through the wonderful generosity of Jim and Bonnie Bell. Long recognized for their leadership and support of the East Bay arts community, Jim and Bonnie actively engage with and financially support a number of organizations, including the Oakland Symphony, for which Jim is currently serving as President of the Board of Directors, the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, Cazadero Music Camp, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Gritty City Repertory Theatre of Oakland, and 51Oakland.




The 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.

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.

  • Singers are not required to be U.S. citizens to apply.

  • This competition is open to applicants irrespective of residency.
    All applicants must be in compliance with the laws of their home country as well as the U. S. in regard to residency, visitation, and study. Should you be selected as a finalist, you will be required to travel to Oakland, CA from June 12 to June 15, 2020.



Preliminary judging of the videos by a panel of judges will narrow the entries to no more than 40 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.

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 14, 2020 in the Regents' Theater at the Valley Center for the Performing Arts on the Holy Names University campus in Oakland, California. Additionally, finalists will participate in a master class on June 13, 2020. Contestants will be responsible for their own travel to Oakland. Out of area singers will be provided lodging 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. Vocal selections may be from lyric theater (opera, operetta, musical theater), oratorio, symphonic vocal material, art songs, or traditional jazz and cabaret standards. 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.

My time at the JTVA competition weekend was very helpful and formative. I found the whole experience very positive in my artistic development. Mr. Toland made each of us feel like winners.
— Jason Chandler Duika