Silver Chips Online

Blazer wins Amateur Night at Apollo Theater

Foley to compete again on July 21

By Allison Daitch, Online Managing Editor
July 18, 2010
Junior Nathan Foley won first place for Amateur Night at Harlem's Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, on June 23. This contest was the first round of the adult competition and Foley will return for round two on July 21.

Foley won the competition with a funk-rock instrumental called "Maggot Brain" by Funkadelic. The audience, made up of 1,500 people, chose the winner by vocalizing their decision, a tradition at the Apollo.

Junior Nathan Foley won first round of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. Courtesy of Nathan Foley
Junior Nathan Foley won first round of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater.
Foley will return for round two of the adult competition at the Apollo on July 21. At age 15 Foley is one of the youngest competitors in the adult category. Other competitors are primarily 20-to-30-year-olds. For each competition Foley wins the Apollo awards him a cash prize, ranging from $200 to $500, with a grand prize of $10,000 for the adult category. He hopes to win enough money to eventually buy a higher quality guitar to pursue his interest.

According to Foley, the majority of the competitors in the adult competition were singers, dancers, and poets. With only his Les Paul electric guitar, Foley found it difficult to go against those who both play guitar and sing.

Foley used the same song, “Maggot Brain,” when he won Amateur Night two years ago and plans to use the song again for the upcoming contest on June 21. "I don't really lose with that song, so I'm going to milk it as long as I can," Foley said. He loves the heart behind the ten-minute rendition and calls it one of the greatest solos of all time.

Foley has competed in and won Amateur Night five times, four times in the children's category and most recently in the adult category. Winning the adult competition came as a surprise to him. "I went in blind. I didn't expect to win and I thought that if I lost it wouldn't be a big deal, but when they called my name, I was very happy," Foley said.

Foley thinks his free spirit gave him an advantage over the other competitors in this round. According to Foley, the adults he went against were much more disciplined and less friendly toward their competition. Foley believes it was their serious disposition caused by nerves from playing in front of a large crowd. In the most recent round, the audience booed two performers off the stage. Despite the pressure, Foley loves to perform at the Apollo and he enjoyed coming back. "It's awesome there, it's so much fun. And I just feel comfortable there," Foley said.

After playing guitar for eight years, Foley still enjoys everything about the instrument. "I've wanted to play guitar from the beginning. I've always loved it,” he said. “It's the only thing I have an interest in. It's fun and I enjoy doing it." Foley sees his future revolving around guitar, starting with college. He hopes that winning these competitions will build his credentials and help him attend the University of Southern California and participate in the Thornton School of Music with a focus on popular music. For now, Foley is happy with where he is and plans to continue competing at the same rate. "I like to win things, winning is fun," Foley said, "But I'm blessed to have won so much."

Harlem's Apollo Theater has been hosting Amateur Night competitions for the past 75 years. Many stars have come out of the Wednesday night performances such as Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown.