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"Ladies of Song" Vocal Competition - The 21st Annual Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival

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We are excited to honor the 102nd birthday of our “First Lady of Song”. Born in Newport News, Ella Fitzgerald is one of the greatest singer in American history. This year, we are celebrating her legacy with two very special events. Up first is our first ever “Ladies of Song” Vocal Competition. Join us on April 26th for a night of true talent as some of the most talented female singers in Hampton Roads compete to win.


The Contestants:

+ Aliya Reed

Aliya Reed is a 19 year old Psychology and Vocal Performance student at ODU studying to become a Music Therapist. She began singing publicly at 12 years old in middle school and has been participating in shows and competitions ever since. Some of her greatest inspirations are Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Streisand, Aretha Franklin, and Jennifer Holiday, all of whom have inspired her to become the performer and vocalist that she is today. Two places where she has gained performance experience in are the Norfolk scope, and Harbor Park, helping her develop a love for the stage. Her ultimate goal is to one day be a performer on Broadway.

+ Melodik Tonez

Melodik Tonez, born Christian Keith, is a Singer-Songwriter from Columbia, SC. Since 3 years old, young Melodik had a passion for music and has been pursuing the field resiliently. After releasing her EP Detox in 2017, Melodik moves to Virginia to be closer to loved ones and further her career. Now at the top of her game, Melodik Tonez won’t stop until meets every goal she set out to accomplish and shatter the molds created to keep her from them.

+ Janae Johnson

Janae Johnson (born October 1, 1983 in Honolulu, HI) is an aspiring contemporary gospel musician and songwriter. She has been a professional vocalist for nearly ten years and is one of three children to RET Sergeant First Class Sandy and Carlos Johnson of Hampton. Music has followed Janae all of her life. She started her music journey at the ripe age of seven, when she was first professionally trained as a young pianist in Lexington Park, Maryland, competing in local and national recitals. Throughout her entire high school career she journeyed on to compete and perform in the All District and State Choir Concerts in the Hampton Roads area. She then continued her journey becoming a mother of her two daughters and by 2007 enlisted into the United States Army where she received her certification to practice dental hygiene in addition to becoming a lead vocalist of the US Army Transportation Express 7Th Sustainment Brigade out of Fort Eustis, VA. Throughout her duty assignment she performed all over the east coast. In addition, she competed and placed second place as a vocalist in the U.S. Army Rising Star competition. In 2010, her military career was cut short and she was retired after she fell ill as a result of a rare and lifelong chronic illness. Though this was perceived as a major set back, Janae didn’t miss a beat and continued her music career in her undergrad and post undergrad years. Throughout the years, she has performed with the Hampton University Gospel Choir His Chosen Sounds (under the direction of the late Mr. Royzell Dillard), performing in various choirs with her local church (Bethel AME Hampton) and touring and performing as a professional background vocalist for the Myra Smith Experience. Her recent performances have been by far the most rewarding, such as her five year tenure as a performing vocalist in the Ladies in Red Concert and Awards Show held annually in March. Since 2016, she has been walking in her calling and assignment as the worship leader for Bethel AME Church of Hampton. Her favorite bible scripture is Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Her dream is to one day complete her gospel project, tour the world and spread her ministry internationally.

+ Kandi Sykes

Kandi “i,kandi” Sykes loves to note that she is a proud born and raised Portsmouth Virginian. Her debut to the big stage was with her first single “Tired” at the 2010 A’fram Festival in Norfolk, Virginia. She has done several local stage plays in which one of them she won “Best Vocalist”. She also sang the song that went on to win a national contest to become the theme song for the National Poetry Awards. She continues to perform at many local shows and competitions in the Virginia and North Carolina areas. She thanks God, her fiancé, family and friends for their constant love, guidance and support. For more information or to contact Kandi please go to or @ikandikane on ig as this is one artist to look out for.

+ Brittany Burrell

Brittany Burrell is an electrifying performer, singer/songwriter, entertainer and lover of all music! Raised in Hampton Roads she grew up listening to music day in and day out from Whitney To Dolly, but she grew a liking and learned much about Ella from her father, Terry Burrell, a well-known Jazz musician in the Hampton Roads area. If you ask her family, they would tell you she could sing a melody before she could utter a word. Friends would say she leaves a little sunshine everywhere she goes, but her goal is to leave you feeling better than you did before you came. Centering God first, her goal is to create and present music that makes everyone feel good! She can be found on Facebook and YouTube at Brittany Burrell the Experience, Instagram and Twitter at bbtheexperience. She has a single out called Summertime on all major music outlets!

+ Ashley Felder

Ashley Felder, native of Baltimore, Maryland has been singing and involved in music her entire life. From opening up for recording artists like Eric Roberson,Tank, Grammy award winner PJ Morton to collaborating with Kevin McCall, and even being featured as a soloist with The Virginia Symphony Orchestra to name a few, Ashley Felder has definitely made a vow to change the world through diversity and inspiration with her music. Artist such as Ella Fitzgerald and Brandy have truly made a huge impact on her musicianship.Ashley has prided herself to be an endless artist. She aspires to be a living legend. " I just want God to be glorified and help, change,and better the world through the melody of my song". She also goes by this famous quote daily "Success does not happen overnight, but it comes from consistently practicing in which you want to be successful in."

+ Aniyah Desmarais

Aniyah Desmarais (20 years old) is a New Jersey native with a love for song. Ever since the age of four, she has listened to a diverse genre of music. Her influences have been her father, Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, P!nk, and Billie Eilish. While she hopes to expand her skills and sharpen her technique in her ongoing music career, her main focus is to be the voice to relate to when others feel alone.

Earlier Event: April 25
Ngoma Afrika - African Dance Classes
Later Event: April 27
Ngoma Afrika - African Dance Classes