Author: Lauren Siverly
What do Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder have in common? They all got their start at the Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. “[The Apollo] is a space for, not just music, but it provides a foundation for equity,” vice-president of Occidental’s Black Student Alliance (BSA) Dimitri Groce (senior) said. This past Saturday, Feb. 12, 14 intrepid acts took to the stage to compete at Apollo Night, an Occidental talent show based on the original Amateur Night format.
Hosted by BSA each year, Apollo Night is one of Occidental’s most attended events. It provides a platform for musicians and dancers to showcase their talents and allows the audience to participate as well. The viewers select the winner by cheering loudly for their favorite, a tradition taken straight from the theater in Harlem.
In a night of fantastic performances that included West African dancing from Afrika Bakenra (first-year), Yelka Kamara (junior) and Ayana Foster (first-year), rapping from Ryan Nastor (senior) and a step routine from the ladies of Sigma Lamba Gamma, the noise from the audience brought the competition down to three acts.
In third place, Joey Maloney (sophomore) with vocals and guitar, Lauren Bunnell (senior) with vocals and piano and Alyson Melzer (senior) on violin won over the crowd with a cover of “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes. “We went in just for the love of music, so coming out with third place was an unexpected blessing, but we’re so glad everyone enjoyed it,” Bunnell said of the performance.
Melzer agreed and said, “I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to perform with [Joey and Lauren] and so many other great Oxy musicians.”
Ana Vasquez (senior) was another fan-favorite and the second place finisher. As a four-time competitor in Apollo Night, she definitely captured the audience’s attention with her spot-on rendition of Beyonce’s “Hello.”
First time attendee Jocie Schreiner (first-year) was wowed. “We actually have Beyonce at Oxy,” she said.
Rounding out the top three was winner of Apollo Night, singer/songwriter/pianist Kainoa King (sophomore). Playing one of his original songs, King had much of the crowd on their feet. Madhvi Venkatraman (sophomore) had nothing but good things to say about his performance, remarking, “He truly is an amazing composer.”
The night’s MCs Tyler Brewington (sophomore) and David Pino (first-year), introduced each piece with playful banter and encouragement for the nervous performers. “I enjoyed Tyler and David’s commentary. They were on their toes and they were awesome,” said Devin Weil (first-year). Brewington and Pino also reminded each person who hit the stage to rub the lucky stump, another tradition from the Apollo in Harlem.
Proceeds from the evening went to relief efforts in Haiti and to aid a local community center called The Rock. Groce explained, “We were particularly compelled to find a local community to contribute to … The Rock is a cool resource for people from our community, and we want the Oxy community to get more involved.”
In addition to being a space for locals to host events, The Rock holds after-school tutoring programs and uses its coffee shop to provide job training for the youth and fund the center itself.
Vasquez, who partook in her final Apollo Night on Saturday, expressed her desire for the campus to become more involved in Apollo Night. “Whether they perform or play the audience role … it’s such a fun time and one of the great traditions of Black History Month here at Oxy,” she said.
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