Some of the most humiliating moments on record have occurred on stage at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem. Acts who thought they had something special have gone home in shame after being booed off stage. Others have impressed and gone on to live their dreams.
In a show of courage, a 10-year-old singer, Sophia Botero of Montauk, walked onto the Apollo stage last Wednesday for Amateur Night to show what she’s got. Although no booing is allowed for this particular show, Sophia had the daunting task of impressing judges and 1,500 people sitting in the audience.
Wearing a red dress and red shoes to match, Sophia clutched the microphone and belted out Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” with the house band backing her up. After much applause, Sophia exited the stage, completing her performance before her largest audience to date, and very first competition.
“When I got on stage I was not scared at all,” she said this week. “It felt like I was singing in front of my parents. I loved the audience. They were really nice.”
Although Sophia didn’t win that night, she said she is still proud of herself, especially since she had only a week to rehearse for the show, according to her mother, Gitte Botero.
“After she auditioned, she had a week to get up to speed with the song,” Ms. Botero said on Monday. “Playing with a band is different. That was a little challenging because she only rehearsed once with the band.”
The Montauk School student, who finds inspiration in singers like Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga and Whitney Houston, decided to compete at the Apollo this year when a friend of the family with connections encouraged her to audition. Having performed in school plays and at the Montauk Music Festivals and other events, she felt she’d be a good contender.
Very much an advocate for herself, Sophia started off much in the same way, according Ms. Botero, throwing herself into a talent show at school and singing Annie’s “Tomorrow” at age 7.
“Up until that moment, we had no idea she was that talented,” Ms. Botero said. “We knew she could sing but she hadn’t gone through the process of rehearsing and performing before. She did really well.”
Sophia said she absolutely loves singing.
“I sing everywhere: in the shower, in bed, in my room,” she said. “It brings me to another world where I forget everything else.”
Wanting to do more, Sophia signed up for youth vocal lessons at the East Hampton YMCA under the tutelage of Lucy Caracappa.
According to Ms. Botero, Ms. Caracappa has helped Sophia tremendously.
“Lucy has a nice touch when it comes to young talent and provided Sophia with additional opportunities to perform for small groups,” Ms. Botero added.
Just last year, Sophia decided she wanted to sing at a benefit hosted by actress Dhonna Goodale, and so, unrehearsed, she took the microphone and belted out “Rolling in the Deep.” According to Ms. Botero, she “brought down the house.”
“It was her idea completely,” she said. “I have no musical talent and no connections in the industry, and she really did that. It’s her initiative and her desire. She’s the driver and I’m just the facilitator.”
Sophia’s gumption paid off when Ms. Goodale remembered Sophia’s performance and called the Botero family with the idea that she perform at the Apollo.
She practiced with Ms. Caracappa and Steven Skoldberg, her music teacher at the Montauk School.
“Ms. Lucy and I practiced every week and I am in ‘High Notes’ [a singing group] in school with Mr. Skoldberg,” Sophia said.
Ms. Botero said that even though Sophia didn’t win at the Apollo, the experience was well worth it.
“Having her talent recognized outside of her school and her parents is very empowering and encouraging,” she said. “She felt like a little star. One of the judges commented on how amazing it was that she went from this shy 10-year-old to someone with a huge voice back to a shy 10-year-old. The transformation you see when she does what she does … it takes courage to put yourself out there, especially at that age.”
To see Sophia’s Apollo performance, visit www.facebook.com/SophiaBotero10.