Shar?n Clark, a 45-year-old Prince George's County woman, took top honors at the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition yesterday.
Clark, a professional singer who is a receptionist by day, impressed the judges with her rendition of "Secret Love" in the final round.
The competition, now part of the Artscape festival, is a celebration of Holiday's life and music.
"This is the emotion woman to me," said Clark, when asked what drew her to Holiday's singing. "I think she felt everything she sang. She could make you cry."
Clark entered the contest for the first time this year.
Sandra Johnson took second place and two competitors, Felicia Carter and Danielle Eva, tied for third.
Yesterday also marked the first Cab Calloway Vocal Competition. Kim Mills placed first; Sujay Pathak, second; and Julian Quander came in third.
Historians debate whether Holiday was born in Baltimore, but for decades the city has celebrated her as a native.
"She left her legacy to be utilized not just by the young but also by the elders," said jazz musician Ruby Glover, referred to as Baltimore's "godmother of jazz," who attended the competition.