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  • Emma Pasternak

Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater

The second concert that I went to with the NYU music business students was "Amateur Night" which was hosted by the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. I honestly had pretty low expectations, knowing nothing about the event, and was blown away by the experience. Then, I learned about the history of the theater. Wow. The Apollo started amateur nights in 1934 and hosted iconic musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and so many others. It was humbling to be at a show at this venue.

Walking in, we were handed signs that said "SLAAYYY" and "BOOO" which was a fun surprise, as I love judging people (just kidding!) When we discovered that by posting on a social media account with a specific hashtag, you could be featured on the big screen, I made sure to participate. I took a picture with my friend and posted it to my instagram, and low and behold, 10 minutes later we popped up! It then switched around various social media posts, but you could see our faces and caption every once in a while.

Now on to the actual performance: it was incredible. The first two artists that we heard were a couple of kids who came all the way from their respective states, to participate in the Apollo's singing (maybe just talent?) competition and win a huge sum of money. Not expecting much, given the "BOO" signs, I was flabbergasted when I heard the first girl sing. She sounded extremely professional, and had one of the most amazing voices I had ever heard.... at only 8 years old. The second girl, on the other hand, was even better. I could literally only describe her voice as "angelic" and her performance was truly inspiring. After that, we were told that we were actually allowed to start using the judgment signs, as we entered the adult portion of the evening. Next, various performers did their acts onstage - ranging from tap-dancing, singing, comedy, and more. Sadly, I could tell that the majority of the audience wanted to let some anger out right away, and used their "BOO" cards on the first few contestants, who were promptly taken off the stage. Although it was fun to voice our opinions, I felt that the first performers were actually some of the best, and they just got dealt some bad luck in the show order. In the end, we ended up with 3 winners, the tap dancer coming in second, and a fun time.

I feel very lucky to have been to an amateur night at a theater with such a rich history and the starting point for so many incredible artists!


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