Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of the Apollo, announced on Tuesday that after 20 years at the helm of the iconic entertainment palace, she is stepping down on June 30, 2023. She is doing so as the Apollo completes a full-scale renovation of the building, raising $63 million of the $70 million Capital Campaign to support upgrades and restoration, and a trove of successes. “It has been an honor to lead this organization through two decades of outstanding performances, transformative educational programs, and civic advocacy,” she said in a press release. “The Apollo is a powerful catalyst for progress and innovation, and as we near the completion of the capital campaign and begin restoration of the historic theater, it is the right time to welcome the next president who will lead the Apollo into the future.”
Having taken the historic theater to the place she wanted it to be, Procope will continue to spearhead the Apollo Rising 2.0 campaign, the completion of the Apollo’s Victoria Theater, and the Apollo’s fall 2022 and spring 2023 seasons. In this capacity, she will work with the Apollo Board of Directors and senior leadership team to ensure a smooth transition to the next president. The Board of Directors and its search committee will begin a national search to find her successor.
“For nearly nine decades,” she continued, “the Apollo has been a welcoming home for artists of color, a tireless advocate for Black culture and creativity, and a galvanizing force for the performing arts in New York and across the U.S. It has been an honor to lead this organization through two decades of outstanding performances, transformative educational programs, and civic advocacy. The Apollo is a powerful catalyst for progress and innovation, and as we near the completion of the capital campaign and begin restoration of the historic theater, it is the right time to welcome the next president who will lead the Apollo into the future.”
That future will benefit from Procope’s tireless commitment and visionary leadership in transforming the legendary Apollo into a renewed vibrant and cultural resource in Harlem, and the Harlems of the world. Under her guidance, the Apollo has led the Ford Foundation to naming it one of America’s Cultural Treasures and to significant support from foundations, corporations, and individuals across the country. She leads a staff of 81 full-time employees, and built, deeply engaged, and partnered with the organization’s board of directors. Procope also served as an executive producer on the Emmy Award nominated documentary, “The Apollo” (HBO), and on the New York City Mayor’s Arts, Culture, and Tourism Advisory Council to help safely reopen New York’s beloved cultural sector.
“The Apollo has long been a home for artistic innovation, a convener for public discourse, and a centerpiece of the Harlem community,” said Charles E. Phillips, chair of the Apollo’s Board. “Jonelle’s extraordinary vision and stewardship over the past 20 years has expanded the organization’s role as one of the nation’s greatest cultural institutions.” He said, “She has led the Apollo through an unparalleled period of growth, forged partnerships globally, strengthened the Apollo’s finances, broadened a uniquely diverse audience, and navigated the institution through a challenging pandemic. She has also built a diverse board of business and civic leaders, philanthropists and stakeholders, and created an experienced leadership team that, along with my fellow board members, will continue to guide the organization as we prepare for Apollo’s next leader. On behalf of the Apollo Board of Directors, I’d like to express our deepest appreciation to Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams, and those in the city who are supporting Apollo’s continued vitality and capital improvements. And a special thank you to the Apollo’s Chairman Emeritus, Richard D. Parsons, who was responsible for bringing Jonelle to the Apollo and continues to lead the capital campaign.”
Along with the splendid development she’s brought to the Apollo, her personal achievements are equally remarkable, having been profiled in The New York Times Public Lives column, which recognized individuals who have distinguished themselves by their significant contributions to New York City, named as one of Portfolio magazine’s “73 Biggest Brains in Business,” profiled in Ebony magazine, and honored by The New York Daily News as one of the “100 Women Who Shape Our City.” In addition to the Apollo Theater Board, Procope is a member of the boards of the 125th Street Business Improvement District, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, NYC & Company, SiriusXM, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She also serves on the NYC Landmarks50 Advisory Committee. In 2021, Procope was featured on Forbes’ “50 over 50” Vision list, which highlighted “exceptional women who are shaping the future of science, technology and art.” In 2022, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Howard University, in acknowledgement of her humanitarian and philanthropic contributions to society. Prior to becoming president and CEO of the Apollo in 2003, Procope served on the Apollo’s Board of Directors for four years. Before assuming her role as president and CEO of the Apollo, she held a variety of senior positions in entertainment law and media-related corporate affairs and management. She began her legal career as an associate attorney at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.