In homage to amateur nights at the original Apollo Theater in Harlem, students competing in Thursday’s Apollo Night in the Undergrounds Coffeehouse had to perform to the audience’s liking or face being heckled off stage.
Nine solo singers and groups from around campus participated in a sing-off, hosted by the Charles Drew Minority Pre-Health Society and Binghamton University Gospel Choir. The event’s emcees, modeling the competition after the Apollo’s style, encouraged audience members to usher the worst acts off stage by “womping” at the singers they didn’t like.
“At the original Apollo, people booed off the acts they didn’t like. We wanted to mimic that feeling and have the crowd choose the winner,” said emcee Gabe Felix, secretary of Charles Drew and a senior majoring in psychology.
About 40 people came to watch and judge the sing-off. Audience members and performers both felt the authenticity of Apollo Night in the Undergrounds.
“It was pretty similar to the real Apollo Night, it captured the same sense of energy and fun just like the TV show did,” said Kevin Salavarria, bassist for the trio DracoSynth and a senior majoring in English. His band opened the competition with a rendition of “Only Exception” by Paramore.
Womping and booing was not a problem, however, for Jade-Courtney Millwood, a freshman majoring in biology, who won the competition, taking home a $30 gift card to Applebee’s.
“It feels great,” Millwood said. “I’m happy they let me be a part of this, I’m so excited.”
This was the first Apollo Night held by either Charles Drew or the Gospel Choir, and it served as a fundraiser for both groups.
“For Gospel Choir, our third anniversary is coming up, so we’re raising money to get a gospel artist, which has never been done before at Binghamton, to come perform a free concert in the spring,” said Britney Brandon, BUGC treasurer and a senior triple-majoring in history, sociology and Africana studies. “The money goes to Charles Drew to sponsor college students to go to an annual medical trip in Kentucky called SNMA [Student National Medical Association].”
Brandon said the event made $160 before the show, combining with sales at the door to bring the evening’s total revenue to about $300.
For Miranda Nortey, president of Charles Drew, the event was about more than just fundraising.
“We wanted to have this event tonight because a lot of people think med students are all about the work,” said Nortey, a senior majoring in biology. “We wanted to show people we’re fun, too, and to give everyone an opportunity to have fun for a night.”
Apollo night was also an opportunity for up-and-coming artists on campus to get on stage and perform for their peers.
“We wanted to give singers on campus an opportunity to showcase their talent,” said Matthew Salha, the fundraising chair for Charles Drew and a senior majoring in economics.
The chance to perform on stage was a first for many of the night’s singers.
“I just wanted the experience to step out of my comfort zone and try something new,” said Datona Bradley, a junior majoring in environmental studies who sang “Adorn” by Miguel. “I’ve never sang by myself before.”
Both executive board members and performers considered Apollo Night a success. Melena Alexander, whose stage name is Igroov3, placed third in the competition.
“I think it actually went good, I didn’t have a problem being third, second or first,” said Alexander, an undeclared freshman. “I was just proud to be up there in front of everyone, the crowd was really lively.”
Nortey agreed that the event turned out well.
“The crowd was into it,” Nortey said. “The hosts were great and the crowd was great and we accomplished what we wanted to do.”