An Apollo Legend

An Apollo Legend

Before Star Search, before American Idol, there was Amateur Night at the Apollo. Hear a winning contestant.

Amateur Night at the Apollo has been the launching point of R&B artists since 1934. Long before Star Search and American Idol took over television, African American musical greats such as James Brown, Billie Holliday, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin got started at the Apollo. In 1934 Ella Fitzgerald was the first woman to win Amateur Night at the Apollo — she was just 17 years old. Aspiring artists and performers still flock to Harlem, NY, for Amateur Night at the Apollo, where contestants compete every Wednesday night.

This energetic MediaStorm video follows two contestants, Ken Harvey and Velvet Ross, as they anticipate, prepare for, audition for and finally perform at Amateur Night. Harvey is a dreamer who, in spite of being booed off stage in the past (and again here), plans to come back and win someday. He points to other famous musicians who were booed off the stage, including James Brown, Lauryn Hill and Luther Vandross. Ross describes her background growing up in the projects and developing her voice at a performing arts high school. Confident and modest at the same time, Ross goes on to win first place on Amateur Night.

The video also includes interviews with Amateur Night producer Vanessa Brown, whose job is to weed out the weak. Brown says she looks for people who truly believe in themselves and can convince her of that on stage. Still photographs of the contestants in their daily lives, and historic photos of the Apollo, are rhythmically woven into this lively video which was produced in MediaStorm’s Advanced Multimedia Reporting Workshop.

Length: 18:17

Reporting and Editing: Ricky Montalvo, Bernadette Tuazon, Evan Vucci
Producer, additional reporting: Bob Sacha
Executive Producer: Brian Storm
Additional Production: Eric Maierson
Graphics Package: Tim Klimowicz
Workshop Director: Jessica Stuart

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