Monday night marked the 10th anniversary of the Apollo Theater’s annual Spring Gala, which was met with much fanfare.
The event, which featured a celebratory benefit concert, was hosted by Extra TV correspondent AJ Calloway and featured star-studded performances from Nile Rodgers and his pioneering disco-funk group Chic, Ne-Yo, Luke James, Rosanne Cash, “The Voice” season 8 contestant Kimberly Nichole and South African a capella trio The Soil.
During his opening monologue, Calloway shared some of his personal experiences and memories of the Apollo.
“I used to sneak into the Apollo when I was in high school,” Calloway said. “I was in [New] Jersey, my parents didn’t know I was here, but I used to watch Amateur Night so I’m very happy to be on this stage. And I started my career here. The first time I was on this stage was ‘106 & Park’ and that was 15 years ago. So I’m really, really happy to be here.”
In addition to Calloway’s return to the Apollo stage, the event also served as a homecoming for Rodgers, who landed his second professional gig performing with the theater’s house band. Prior to taking to the stage to perform a medley of Chic’s biggest hits, Rodgers opened up to The Huffington Post about the significance of headlining this year’s annual gala.
“When I played here I was 19-years-old,” Rodgers said. “I had just finished a year with ‘Sesame Street,’ which was my first professional job. And I was just telling the band how it was the first time I walked out onto this stage. It’s amazing for me to be here now, all these years later playing my own music, which is crazy.”
For Apollo Theater President & CEO, Jonelle Procope the Gala has served as an important part in the theater's growth for the past 10 years.
“Although the Apollo is now in its 81st year, we have only been a nonprofit since 1991 and I would say it has really been over the last 10 years that the institution has experienced tremendous growth as a nonprofit with expanded artistic, educational and community programs,” Procope said to the Huffington Post.
“The Gala, which is one of our largest fundraisers, has provided crucial support toward those initiatives. It also allows us to celebrate and honor the Apollo’s rich legacy as the musical home for so many legendary artists like Nile Rodgers and the opportunity to continue that legacy as an important springboard for the next generation of artists.”
The benefit, which raises funds for the theater’s education and community outreach programs, also honored James Dolan, President and CEO of Cablevision Systems Corporation and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, who accepted the Corporate Award on behalf of The Madison Square Garden Company, and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, who accepted the Percy C. Sutton Civic Leadership Award on behalf of The Ford Foundation.
Check out a collection of Apollo Gala performers through the years in the slideshow below.