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born in 1917 in newport news, virginia and orphaned at the age of 15, ella fitzgerald was a high-school dropout and a ward of new york state when she made her way to the apollo. It was the harlem theaters first amateur night, and fitzgerald was just 17. ella fitzgerald first performed at amateur night at the apollo theater in harlem when she was 17 years old. Ella fitzgeralds history with the apollo dates back to the fall of 1934, when she won the opportunity to compete in amateur night. The teenager went to the theater planning to dance, but when the edwards sisters closed the main show, ella changed her mind. 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. ella, who could both sing and dance, made the occasional nickel dancing on street corners, but when she learned about the apollo theaters new amateur night competition, she. Ella jane fitzgerald (april 25, 1917 june 15, 1996) was an american jazz singer, sometimes referred to as the first lady of song, queen of jazz, and lady ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, timing, intonation, and a horn-like improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. After a tumultuous adolescence, fitzgerald found stability in. Amateur night at the apollo amateur night at the apollo is one of new yorks most popular live entertainment experiences, attracting performers and audiences the world over. Since opening its doors in 1914 and introducing the first amateur night contests in 1934, the apollo has played a major role in the emergence of jazz, swing, bebop, r&b, gospel, blues, and soul all quintessentially american music genres. Ella fitzgerald, sarah vaughan, billie holiday, sammy davis jr. , james brown, gladys knight, luther vandross, dangelo, lauryn. It isnt where you came from, its where youre going that counts. I stole everything i ever heard, but mostly i stole from the horns. Where there is love and inspiration, i dont think you can go wrong. But the moment i hit the stage, its a different feeling i get nerve from somewhere maybe its because its something i love to do.