Everyone in New York knows the Apollo Theater, whether for giving a boost to the careers of musicians like James Brown and Lauryn Hill or for its raucous amateur nights.

But few realize that unlike most concert venues, the Apollo is a nonprofit institution that also offers education and community programs. This week, the Apollo celebrates its 80th anniversary with a gala featuring Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole and more.

amNewYork spoke with Apollo President and CEO Jonelle Procope.

 

What are some things the Apollo does for the community?

We have a robust education program. Approximately 3,000 students come through our doors. We focus on what goes on behind the camera -- the jobs and careers one could aspire to in the entertainment milieu that are not necessarily entertainment. People are placed throughout the institution, from marketing to the technical side.

 

Do you have a favorite Apollo performance?

I grew up in Philadelphia, but had relatives in New York, and they took me to see the Motown Revue. It's also amazing to sit in my office and hear music wafting through the theater. I got to hear Ray Charles warm up. But it's not one performance. It's the totality of it, seeing everyone from Smokey Robinson to Jay Z to big band music. ? People think of all the legends launched from the stage, but they weren't legends then.

 

What do you see for the next 80 years?

We're activating our brand globally and online, so you don't have to experience it in our four walls. We'll continue to be responsive to the local community with education programs. ... We've launched the Uptown Hall series, which is a forum for cross-cultural dialogue on issues important to the community and beyond.

 

If you go:

Apollo Theater 2014 Spring Gala
Tuesday, June 10
253 W 125th St
7 p.m.
$150 — $350