apollo theatre partisans

Apollo Theater Board Member Debra Shriver; Pamela Stewart, Coca Cola Vice President, East Region Sales, Foodservices and On Premise; Apollo Theater Executive Producer, Mikki Shepard; Apollo Theater Board Chairman, Richard Parsons; HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”star, Margot B; Apollo Theater President and CEO, Jonelle Procope; President and CEO of BET Debra Lee; and Apollo Walk of Fame Inductee Chuck Jackson (Photo by Shahar Azran)

*Happy 80th birthday to the storied Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.  The famous treasure trove is pulling out all stops to celebrate its big eightieth anniversary of artistic innovation and community engagement.

At the State of the Apollo media briefing and reception held Wednesday, January 29, 2014, Richard Parsons and Jonelle Procope, Apollo Theater board chair and president & CEO, respectfully, announced major financial news that officially kicked off the theater’s 80th anniversary season.

Procope announced the public phase of a $20 million campaign to extend the institution’s role in fostering artistic innovation and in building appreciation of American culture around the world.

Highlights of the announcement included the launch of the public phase of a $20 million campaign to support new programming.  The historic venue has already raised $10 million towards the $20 million goal of its 21st Century Apollo Campaign with support from the Ford Foundation; Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; Time Warner, Inc.; Citi; the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; and the Apollo Board of Directors.

During the media briefing guests also learned new details about the Apollo’s spectacular Annual Spring Gala to be held Tuesday, June 10, 2014 which will be turned into a splashy Birthday Party in celebration of the big 8-0.  Proceeds will support the nonprofit theater’s year-round programming.  Comedian Wayne Brady will return as host for the event, which this year, in honor of the Theater’s 80th anniversary, spotlights eight decades of artistic innovation on the Apollo stage.

BNY Mellon will be honored for its support of the Apollo, with Chairman and CEO Gerald L. Hassell accepting the Theater’s Corporate Award on the company’s behalf.  Apollo Board of Directors Chairman Richard D. Parsons will also be honored for his longstanding service to the Theater.  Legends Natalie ColeThe Isley Brothers, and Smokey Robinson will perform, alongside some of contemporary music’s brightest stars. Additional artists and details will be announced in the coming months.

“As we look toward the Apollo’s future, we are continuing to build on our unparalleled legacy of discovering new talent and providing platforms for emerging artists to continue evolving so many of the genres that have been nurtured on our stages,” said Procope.  “On behalf of the thousands of artists, audience and community members the Apollo serves every day of every year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported our 21st Century Apollo Campaign to-date, helping ensure a bright and exciting future for the Apollo Theater.”

apollo theater partisans

During the 2014 Season Opener of Amateur Night and in celebration of the Apollo’s 80th Anniversary, Apollo Theater President and CEO Jonelle Procope and Apollo Theater In-House Historian and Tour Director Billy Mitchell present legendary R&B singer and Apollo Walk of Fame Inductee Chuck Jackson with Special Certification of Induction (Photo by Shahar Azran)

The funds from the 21st Century Apollo Campaign will be used to sustain and expand the Theater’s programming and also its education and community offerings — including the Uptown Hall series, which presents discussions on cultural and civic issues important to the Harlem community and a range of programs for local school children and families.  The Campaign will also establish a reserve fund that will invest in the development of new artistic and civic programs, ensuring the Apollo remains a vital cultural center and an artistic and economic cornerstone of Harlem and greater New York.

The Apollo has initiated a range of new programs that support the work of emerging artists, deepen its engagement with its audiences, and expand the Theater’s reach nationally and internationally.  The 21st Century Apollo Campaign supports the growth of these initiatives –including celebrating today’s African music scene; Fourth year of Apollo Music Café series presenting up-and-coming musicians working in an underground music scene and across genres; Live Wire discussion series exploring Black Style on Stage and Harlem’s Music Legacy: Afro Latin Jazz; The Salon Series, a new works incubation initiative, featuring residency and performances by Breakin’ Convention artist Jonzi D; the second annual Africa Now! Festival; Apollo Club Harlem; and the institution’s first dance production, James Brown: Get on the Good Foot.

For the first time in its history the Apollo will present an international tour of its original production James Brown: Get on the Good Foot — A Celebration in Dance.  An Apollo dance presentation showcasing Brown’s influence on choreography and music, the production includes new works commissioned from choreographers around the globe.  James Brown: Get on the Good Foot is currently touring the U.S. and will begin touring internationally in February 2015, and be presented in cities in Germany, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.  Additional information about the tour will be announced in the coming months.

R&B singer Chuck Jackson inducted into Apollo Walk of Fame
Following the 80th Anniversary media briefing and reception that evening, the Apollo hosted a special Amateur Night.  Now in its 80th year, Amateur Night returned with its 2014 Season Opening Night featuring special guest Hip Hop Legend Doug E. Fresh.  During this special Amateur Night, the Apollo honored R&B legend Chuck Jackson by inducting him into the Apollo Walk of Fame. The tribute also included a special greeting from former Child Stars of Tomorrow contestants, The Mayn Event.

Since its inception in 1934 the Apollo Theater’s signature program Amateur Night has been one of New York City’s most popular live entertainment experiences, launching the careers of thousands of performers and attracting audiences from all over the world.  The Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night has long been revered by artists as a transformative experience where up-and-coming talent feels the power of the legendary performers who have come before them, and where audience response can help make or break a career.  Through its partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, Amateur Night was retooled at the beginning of the 2010 season and features several new programmatic elements including theme nights, a DJ driven pre-show party and expanded auditions.

Additionally, Amateur Night will soon have a new theme song.  Reflecting both the evolution of the show and its enduring relevance as a catalyst for developing and discovering new talent, the Amateur Night Song Competition challenges musicians from across the country to compose a song that captures the vitality of the show that has launched countless legendary artists since 1934 — from Ella Fitzgerald in its very first year to recent winners Machine Gun Kelly, NUMBERSMatthew HashimotoMoses HarperMatthew Whitaker, and Nathan Foley — and continues to be one of the nation’s most important training grounds for performing artists.  The competition is open through February 27, 2014.  The contest’s final winner will be chosen — in Amateur Night tradition — by the cheers and boos of the show’s audience on April 30, 2014.  More about the competition is available at amateurnight.org/song.

“As we ask ourselves the question, ‘What’s next?’ we are so proud to continue expanding the work on our stages beyond the music we’re best known for — to dance, theater, comedy, spoken word, and cultural debate — and to bring this work from our home in Harlem to audiences around the nation and the world,” said Mikki Shepard, the Apollo Theater’s executive producer.  “The Apollo serves as a home for artists at all points in their careers — a place where some of our greatest artists return time and again to hone their craft, and where audiences discover new talent almost every week.”

About The Apollo Theater
The  Apollo Theater  is  a  national  treasure  that  has  had  significant  impact  on  the  development  of American culture and its popularity around  the world. Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo Theater has played a major role in cultivating artists and in the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, and hip-hop. Ella Fitzgerald; Sarah Vaughan; Billie Holiday; Celia Cruz;; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Tito Puente ; James Brown; Michael Jackson; Bill Cosby; Gladys Knight; Luther Vandross; D’Angelo; Lauryn Hill; and countless others began their road to stardom on the Apollo’s stage. The Apollo Theater’s new artistic vision builds on its legacy. New Apollo programming has music as its core, driving large scale and more intimate music, dance, and theater presentations. The non-profit Theater will continue to present historically relevant presentations, as well as more forward-looking, contemporary work. Based on its cultural significance and architecture, the Apollo Theater received state and city landmark designation in 1983 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  For more information, visit www.apollotheater.org.

New York based award-winning journalist Audrey J. Bernard covers entertainment, book reviews, fashion & beauty, film, lifestyles, theater and travel for the Electronic Urban Report and other outlets.  Contact her via: [email protected]

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard