A sign alongside Fayetteville Street advertising a talent show caught the eyes of local performers last winter.
It directed competitors to try out for “Amateur Night at The Hayti,” an 18-week competition sponsored by Next Level Veteran Outreach Campus, a Durham nonprofit that provides treatment for vets with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The second season of the competition will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at the Hayti Heritage Center. Doors open to the public at 5:30 p.m., and tickets cost $10.
Now in partnership with the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, the Hayti shows will be broadcast by the Launch TV Network, a satellite company, with potential to reach more than 42 million households nationwide.
Launch TV reaches viewers in Kenya, Jamaica, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. The platform is also available on mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, Androids and Smart TV devices through iPoint TV.
The show’s maturation excites Captain Newborn, executive director of Next Level.
Newborn urged the Apollo to consider “Hayti’s” finalists for its own, larger talent show and believes the global exposure will benefit Next Level as well as the local talent.
“We want to help launch careers, but veteran treatment remains the focus,” Newborn said.
Hundreds have auditioned for the local show, which like the Apollo, lets the audience decide the winners. In addition to perks like paid studio time, the winner of the Apollo competition wins $10,000.
All four finalists Newborn took to New York City last year got called back to compete at the Apollo this July.
Nedra Kay, 44, is one performer who noticed the Hayti’s sign.
Her rendition of Patti Labelle’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” allowed her to be crowned winner at last season’s amateur night.
Her first single, “It’s All About Love,” will be released later this spring.
Kay started singing at 5 and grew up singing in the church. She was the the first Hayti winner that the Apollo invited back.
“Whether people are booed our praised, the show is set for enjoyment and encouragement, “ she said. “It’s conducive for change and uplifting.”
Ten-year-old Joshua Hamm, a fourth grader at Mount Zion Christian Academy on Fayetteville Street, won Hayti’s children’s division and will also perform at the Apollo. .
But nerves almost got the best of him at the New York tryouts.
Judges typically do not give contestants second chances but sensing his son’s nervousness, Hamm said, they allowed him to start over after he began his performance off-key.
“He said, ‘Daddy I didn’t do well,’” Hamm said. “But I told him the second time he did, and now he’s getting called back to perform for the Apollo’s children’s division in July.”
Although the Hayti has some local sponsors, like Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, PNC Bank and Radio One, supporting the talent show, Newborn said the event still needs sponsors to help send Hayti finalists to the Apollo – about $5,000.
Newborn said the exposure has potential to “put Durham on the map.”
As the launching pad for legends like Sammy Davis Jr., Jimmi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey, to name a few, Newborn said potential performers serious about getting discovered at the Apollo should use Hayti’s Amateur Night as an avenue.
“Some people can’t afford to go to New York City,” he said. “But they can get to Durham.”
To audition for or help sponsor “Amateur Night at The Hayti” call Captain Newborn at 919-323-6920. For show dates and times, go to www.amateurnightlive.com.