The lively Spring Gala at the Apollo managed to raise over $2 million dollars for the Harlem Community, as well as bring young and old faces in the music community together to celebrate the theater’s long history.
On June 10th, the famous Apollo Theater hosted it’s 14th Annual Spring Gala, with proceeds going towards community programs in the arts and music.
On the Red Carpet, celebrities celebrated the icons that made the Apollo and the Harlem community a music icon. Host Amanda Seales led the pack which included performers Estelle, Jose James, Black Violin, cast from the Tony-winning Ain’t Too Proud and a special appearance from Otis Williams of the Temptations.
While discussing the event with some of the celebs, we learned about the importance of the Annual Gala, the history of the Apollo, and why it’s necessary to give back to the Harlem Community.
Among those interviewed was Jonelle Procope, the President and CEO of the Apollo Theater.
The Knockturnal: What does this community mean to you and why do you think this event could only have been held at the Apollo?
Jonelle Procope: Well everybody goes downtown and they have dinner in a hotel, but we said people have to come up and have an “Apollo experience”. The Apollo is sacred space, you know when you’re in it, because there is a very intimate experience with the artist, and the Apollo audience is very participatory, so if they like it you know it, and if they don’t, you know that too. The Apollo legacy has always been to nurture artists and provide opportunities, and now that we’re in the 21st Century we continue to do that. And many of the artists tonight have come up through our system.
The Knockturnal: And what are some of the programs around the community that you would emphasize the importance of?
Jonelle Procope: We have a very robust education program. It focuses on careers behind the scenes, through internships and the “Young Producers’ Club”, where students that have gone through the internship program come back and produce things. They have an opportunity to be hands-on, to work in audiovisual, building sets, and the business side of what goes on [at the Apollo]. Our school programs, that we offer for free, focus on the educational component and it’s something we are very proud of. For the community, we also offer shows and ticket subsidies so that they can access the space as well.
The importance of the event wasn’t lost on those who had experienced the Apollo programs first hand.
The members of Black Violin, Will B and Kev Marcus, had experienced the wonders of performing for an Apollo audience before.
The Knockturnal: Why is this Gala important to the Harlem communities’ legacy?
Kev Marcus: We grew up in this city hearing the Temptations’ music around us, we want to help keep the history and culture alive, and that’s what we’re here supporting tonight, and hopefully they keep this beautiful theater going. We got our start here 14 years ago by winning Amateur Night at the Apollo, so it’s life full circle for us, so it’s an honor to be able to perform with these artists.
Will B: We’re part of history, the Apollo has been around 85 years, and it’s amazing to be here tonight at this Gala. And we hope to see new acts as well, and this Gala is filled with love and appreciation for one another. The idea [of the Gala] is to continue the legacy for the community.
Headliners at the Gala also stopped to talk about their own experiences in the famous theater.
To fully understand the history of the Apollo, the Gala, and the Harlem community, it becomes more and more important to appreciate those that came before us and those that created the foundation for most of the music and performances being produced today. Headlining the event was Otis Williams and the Temptations, and Williams talked with us about the history of and his own experiences in the Apollo and the Harlem community.
The Knockturnal: What does it mean to you to have this Gala and sort of Temptations reunion here at the legendary Apollo Theater? And do you hope the money raised at this Gala will encourage local students to come on stage and share what they have?
Otis Williams: Well the Apollo, for most Black acts, is the birthplace of trying to be good. You come here to find out what you’re made of, and fortunately for us we, well you know, have it, had it, trying to keep it! We started coming here in 1963 and it’s been a wonderful ride. We’re all about helping up and coming artists, but with show business, you have to watch what you ask for! It can be grueling, it has its ups and downs, but that’s life! But if you want it bad enough, you stay true to it and you don’t falter.
The Knockturnal: And which performer are you most excited about tonight?
Otis Williams: All of them! Because we’re all of the same ilk, we all want to make our bones, we want to do good. Showbusiness is the same as when I was 16 years old when I first started! I wish them all the best, and I hope they stay true to it.
Amanda Seales talked about her connection to the music onstage and the importance of the Harlem communities’ growth through initiatives like these.
Amanda Seales: Harlem is a community that has thrived for years, and continues to grow in spite of the gentrification attempts to dismantle its foundation. The Apollo is a mainstay that I feel continues to be like a Black fist in the face of the attempts to whitewash this planet because Harlem is itself a planet. The Temptations are Motown, they’re my mother’s favorite group, and I grew up listening to them, so being here to honor them tonight as my mother’s daughter, because she’s here vicariously through me.
The Knockturnal: Do you hope this event will promote growth among Harlem students?
Amanda Seales: I really hope this event will tell people what the Apollo is doing outside from just shows, you know. They have an education program teaching people about writing, production, and about performance, and I think there is a dearth of information [to offer] in [The Apollo], and I hope that this Gala will continue to provide inroads into this business.
By night’s end, the Apollo’s 14th Annual Spring Gala far surpassed it’s $2 million dollar fundraising goal, proceeds of which are set to go towards nonprofit artistic, education, and community programs. An event so special, meaningful, and full of joy could only have been held at the Apollo. With an ensemble of memorable talent, reunions of influential figures in the music community, and a deep abiding love for the Harlem community, there is no question that this yearly pilgrimage to the historic Apollo Theater will continue to provide a foundation for Harlem’s history.