NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A graduate music student at Tennessee State University is going to see if he has what it takes to be “Top Dog” when he takes his musical talents to New York and the Apollo Theater.
Darius Salazar, a Chicago native pursuing his graduate work in Music Education, will perform at Amateur Night at the Apollo, Wednesday, Sept. 17 in hopes of making it through four rounds of competition all the way to the Super Top Dog competition in late November. If he makes it that far, he has a shot at the $10,000 cash prize.
“I was very surprised when I was asked to take part in the competition,” said Salazar. “No matter what happens, I think this opportunity can open new musical doors for me.”
A recruiter for the show approached Salazar when he was rehearsing this past summer with the 105 Voices of History All HBCU Jazz Band prior to their performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The recruiter was in the audience and introduced himself to Salazar, and invited him to the competition.
Salazar knows the Apollo is the place where many careers are started and can’t wait for his opportunity on stage. Just the invite, he said, is special.
“It really surprised me, and left me speechless,” added Salazar. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime not many people get.”
Salazar will have three minutes to grab the attention of the notoriously raucous audience at the Harlem Theater. He recently found out he is the first electric bass guitarist to take to the stage, and will perform a selection from Stevie Wonder, another musician whose career was launched at the theater.
With so much at stake, Salazar isn’t taking any chances. He is practicing long hours every day, trying to implement his own style on Stevie Wonder’s Billboard Hot 100 hit, As.
“It’s a great song to perform as an instrumental,” said Salazar. “The odds are pretty tough but I’m going to give it my best.”
Someone who knows about his “best” musical talent is Dr. Robert Elliott, chair of the Music Department, who not only is a bass player like Salazar, but also gave him private lessons for four years during his undergraduate studies at the University.
“Darius is a very talented and gifted musician,” said Elliott. “We are very pleased about his selection and excited about him moving on to the next phase of his musical career.”
No matter what the outcome, Salazar is just happy to showcase his musical talents and represent Tennessee State University.
“This will definitely make my career better and I am honored to be on such a historic show,” he added. “I am just pleased to show what I have.”
Amateur Night at the Apollo celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2009, serving as the model for Star Search and American Idol. When Amateur Night at the Apollo debuted in 1934, it quickly became the leading showcase for many young, talented, new performers such as a 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald, who went on to become one of the first Amateur Night winners.
Today, competitions are held nearly every Wednesday evening throughout the year, culminating with the “Super Top Dog” competition. The show marries world-class talent with a distinctive, vaudeville-like atmosphere, and has depended on audience participation since the very beginning. The popularity contest has proven an effective measure of star potential, becoming a launch pad for some of the nation’s greatest entertainers.
Many legends have played there over the years — Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, to name but a few — and launched the careers of James Brown, the Jackson 5, Sisqo, D’Angelo, and Lauryn Hill.
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With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.