The Apollo Theater Embarks On New Initiative, ‘The 21st Century Apollo Campaign’

January 31, 2014  |  

James Brown,  Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and The Jackson 5  have all played at Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater. A shorter list would probably be who hasn’t played there.

Now the Apollo, which has been recognized worldwide as a landmark institution, is about to reach another milestone. The theater just celebrated its 80th anniversary. And while the Apollo remains an integral part of American culture and the African-American experience, Harlem is changing. Black residents are being pushed out by rising rents. So now the theater has embarked on a new initiative to stay relevant.

“The 21st Century Apollo Campaign” is the Apollo’s new multi-million dollar initiative to broaden its programming and education offerings, support new digital technologies and ensure continued upgrade of its facilities, reports TheGrio.

“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 to evolving so many of the genres that have been nurtured on our stages,” said the theater’s president and CEO, Jonelle Procope.

The Apollo has already raised more than $10 million of its $20 million goal, via support of the Coca Cola, the Ford Foundation and Time Inc., among other major corporations.

The Apollo, which first opened its doors in 1934, is also famous for its signature Amateur Night. The Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday and Gladys Knight have all had their careers launched through Amateur Night.

“The Apollo Theater’s signature program has played a major role in the cultivation of artists and in the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul and hip-hop,” said a press release.

As part of the new campaign, the theater has debuted the Amateur Night Song Competition. Open to musicians nationwide, contestants will compose and perform a song that may be used as the theme song of the weekly show.

The competition runs through February 27. The two finalists will compete on Amateur Night on April 30, and in Amateur Night tradition, the audience will select the winner.

There is also a new Apollo app for Android and iPhone users, the Amateur Night Mobile app, that lets users comment on performances. “Users who download the free app win points and rewards, plus get access to exclusive content,” reports TheGrio.

And do you remember “Sandman,” who escorted losers off the Apollo stage? Well, he’s been replaced by the tap-dancing “Executioner.”

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