On Wednesday, Harlem’s Apollo Theater—where the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Billie Holiday once performed—will host New York City’s first Teachers’ Night! as part of its Amateur Night series, reports the New York Times. Seventeen teacher acts are expected to perform in an event where, according to Apollo tradition, the audience will determine who lives and who dies on the stage.
Among the acts will be a self-described “explosive” hula hooper who has performed in Las Vegas and Off Broadway, a band called the Suspensions (rejected names included the Hall Passes and Detention), as well as comedians, poets, and musicians.
Jesse Miller, a 61-year-old high school guitar teacher, said, “For me it’s important to establish for my students that I can actually do this thing that they’re sitting in my classroom about to learn.” Miller will perform Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready.”
For hula hooper Anna McHugh, 32, performing provides her with an outlet outside of the classroom. “It can be kind of limiting or stifling to be a classroom teacher,” she said.
Marion J. Caffey, the show’s executive producer, noted that not every teacher audition was performance worthy. “We saw close to 100 people. Most of them were bad.”
“I think they’re very brave for doing this. It’s going to be terrible if they get booed off,” said Caffey, alluding to the tap-dancing “executioner” who pulls the rejected performers off the stage. “You would die for that to happen to your 7th grade teacher that you didn’t like if you were a student.”
The three acts that get the loudest applause from the 1,500-member audience will compete against other Apollo Amateur Night winners for the ultimate prize of being discovered.
Update: The New York Times reports today on Wednesday’s Teacher Night! at the Apollo. As expected, some teachers did better than others.
The evening’s winner was 28-year-old vocal music teacher Darryl Jordan who sang “Ordinary People” by John Legend. Jordan said he wouldn’t be quitting his day job any time soon. “I will always do [music] on the side. I do love teaching. I love passing on what I’ve learned.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.