Teen singer goes from Bull City to Big Apple

Once a Little Angel—now a star– 14-year-old Joshua Ham’s journey began in his community church choir, the Little Angels of God at Mount Zion Christian Church on Fayetteville Street.

Joshua Hamm’s dad said there are happenings at the Hayti that people might not believe. Concerning Next Level’s Amateur Night and people interested in competing he said, “jump in the water, and you might find you’re a swimmer.” (Staff photo by Christian Frazier)

Joshua Ham’s dad said there are happenings at the Hayti that people might not believe. Concerning Next Level’s Amateur Night and people interested in competing he said, “jump in the water, and you might find you’re a swimmer.” (Staff photo by Christian Frazier)

In July, the Mount Zion Christian Academy freshman’s adventure continues on W. 153rd St. at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York.

It all started when Ham and his father, Joseph Ham, saw a sign along Fayetteville Street advertising Amateur Night at the Hayti, a competition bringing performances to Durham to help raise money for Next Level Veterans Outreach – a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment program for local veterans.

A singer who comes from a musical family, Hamm’s dad asked if he was interested in competing.

“I said I’ll go for it,” said Joshua Ham.

Joshua Ham’s grandfather, Charles Johnson, was once a well-known Durham gospel singer who sang with his own group. Joshua Ham has been singing with the youth choir at his church since he was six-years-old.

With this singing background, Joseph Ham signed his son up to audition for the show at the Hayti Heritage Center last autumn.

Auditions for Next Level’s talent show typically take place Saturdays through the months of February and March. The Hayti show is modeled after the Apollo competition, complete with the Sandman.

The Sandman is a clown-like character that is in charge of finding entertaining ways of escorting less popular acts off the competition’s stage.

Winners in both competitions are decided based on the noise level of the audience’s boos and praises. With the support of his church, Mt. Zion, about 20 members came to Joshua Ham’s Hayti performance to support him.

After Hamm’s performance, when the time came to decide a winner for the children’s competition, the crowd’s applause crowned him winner.

According to Captain Newborn, executive director of Next Level and organizer of Amateur Night at the Hayti, the competition recently entered a partnership with the Apollo Theatre in which finalists in Durham’s competition are given the opportunity to compete on a larger stage at the contest in New York.

Newborn said the competition is a great opportunity for young people and that he would like for Durham to be the first stop in scouts looking for talent.

Newborn is also satisfied with the road that Joshua Ham is currently traveling down.

“Joshua is a great act,” Newborn said. “He is going to go very far in the competition.”

Joshua’s father said he always had faith in his son’s talents, but that he could not quite believe that if his son won the Durham contest, he would be eligible for the New York competition.

“I couldn’t believe it was real,” Joseph Ham said.

Joseph Ham started to believe once he, his son and the other Durham contestants were on a their way to New York City.

Before the Hams could enter the Apollo doors, they had to bypass hundreds of other people standing in line waiting to compete in the theatre’s competition. Since they were Next Level amateur night winners, they were escorted to the front of the line to begin the competition process.

It was only when Joseph Ham saw his son standing on the Apollo stage that he truly started believing it, he said.

“When he stepped on the Apollo stage, things began to get real,” said Joseph Ham.

Joshua Ham said he started off singing too high, and thought that it was a disastrous performance and it was “all over.”

However, the judges gave him a second chance.

Even with this second opportunity under his belt, Joshua still did not feel confident.

“We had to leave early in the morning, and I hadn’t had a chance to practice the night before, so I was a little nervous.” said Joshua. “I told my dad I didn’t do very well after I walked off the stage.”

Joseph Ham whispered some comforting words of wisdom to his son, telling him God was with him and to stay focused.

With that, they left the Apollo Theatre.

After weeks of not hearing anything from the Apollo judges, the Hams begin to think Joshua Ham had not won.

But a few weeks later, they got a call inviting him back to the Apollo theatre for the next stage of the competition that begins on July 22.

In the meantime Joshua Ham is practicing and strengthening his voice for this summer’s competition. Eventually, he would like to become a professional singer and renovate homes as a side job.

In his free time he’s a regular teenager these days – he plays video games with his siblings and goes to school.

Joshua Ham has advice for Durham youth who believe they want to become singers, too.

“If it’s in your heart to do it you might as well go for it,” he said. “Even if you don’t make it keep trying and you will.”

3 thoughts on “Teen singer goes from Bull City to Big Apple

  1. Priscilla Ham says:

    Joshua Ham last name spelled with one m. I do not know where this information come from, but some of this article is not true. No the Ham family never doubted that Joshua would have a call back from the Apollo. One thing we did not do, participate in waiting for a phone call. Whatever God have for Joshua it will come to pass.

Comments are closed.