The American Traditions Competition ended a week of celebrating American music with a full house Friday night at the Historic Savannah Theatre on Bull Street.

Three judges chose the winners from a talented pool of artists who had progressed through nine songs each through the quarter and semifinal rounds earlier this week.

The Courtney Knight Gaines Foundation Gold Medal, worth $12,000 and a contract with the Savannah Philharmonic, was awarded to Julie Benko. 

Other awards presented included:

The Patricia and Heyward Gignilliat Silver Medal Award and $6,000 to Dara Tucker

The Enmark Stations Inc. Bronze Medal Award and $3,000 to Kisma Jordan

The fourth-place prize of $1,200, sponsored by Kay and Don Gardner, to Aundi Marie Moore

Fifth-place and $1,200, sponsored by the Savannah Friends of Music, to Sarah Mesko

The Johnny Mercer Award along with $750, given by Friends of Johnny Mercer Inc. and Armstrong State University, to Julie Benko for best performance of a Johnny Mercer song

A new award this year - the Sherrill Milnes American Opera Award - of $500 sponsored by Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouves on behalf of the Savannah VOICE Festival, to Kisma Jordan for best performance of an American opera aria

The Ben Tucker Jazz Award and $500, sponsored by the David A. and Margaret L. Cohen Foundation, to Dara Tucker for best performance of a jazz song

The Richard Chambless' People's Choice Award and $500, sponsored by Swann Seiler, to Stephen Dobson from the quarterfinals and Rachel Sparrow from the semifinals

"This year's competition has surpassed all expectations with high-energy, amazing talent and love for American music demonstrated by contestants, judges and audience members alike," said ATC board president Danny Cohen. "It has been an honor and privilege to work with everyone who had a hand in making the 2017 ATC one that will never be forgotten."

To learn more about the ATC, go to