Echoes of Billie Holiday

In brief

April 10, 2001|By Parijat Didolkar

Just a few years ago, Pearlie Homicile was a pre-law, English major at Montgomery College. This past weekend, she graduated to a whole new stage in a very different discipline when she won Baltimore's 12th annual Mayor's Billie Holiday Vocal Competition.

Homicile, 22, of Westbury, N.Y., beat out 12 other semi-finalists at Center Stage Saturday to win the competition, a $1,500 cash prize, a gardenia (Billie Holiday's signature flower) and the opportunity to perform at Artscape in July, the city's summer celebration of the arts.

The singer, a student at Towson University, says she was "surprised" by her win because some of the other contestants have been performing longer than she has.

She was introduced to jazz just five years ago when her older sister brought home a jazz album. After hearing Sarah Vaughan sing "Lullaby of Birdland," Homicile says she "knew jazz would be an integral part" of her life.

Homicile, who is now majoring in jazz and voice, sings with the Jazz Vocal Ensemble at Towson and hopes to work as a full-time vocalist after graduation.

The two other finalists in the Billie Holiday competition were Marvin Parks and Scotti Preston. Parks, a jazz student at Towson University, took second place and a $1,000 prize, and Preston, a mother of two from Annapolis, won the $500 third place prize.

In the 12-year history of the Billie Holiday competition, only two male vocalists have reached the finals: Parks and Antonio Adams, who placed second in 1995.

The contest was established to commemorate the Baltimore-born jazz legend on the 75th anniversary of her birth. The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art & Culture presents the event annually.

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