Nov. 30, 2023 By Bill Parry
Students from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria and the arts education nonprofit Exploring the Arts (ETA) are teaming up to honor the memory of their founder, the legendary crooner and Astoria native Tony Bennett, who died in July at age 96.
In tribute to Bennett and the American Songbook he so loved, the students will perform classics including “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “The Lady is a Tramp” and “The GoodLife,” among many others on Friday, Dec. 1, in the school’s concert hall that was named after him. An opening video tribute created by student film majors will look back on Bennett’s life and impact on the Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts community and an art exhibition in the school’s lobby will feature some of Bennett’s original artwork alongside student works he inspired.
They will be joined at the event by special guests, including Bennett’s wife Susan Benedetto, with whom he co-founded the school and the nonprofit arts organization.
“Tony was so proud of the Frank Sinatra School — proud of the hardworking teachers and school leaders and so very proud of the school’s talented students. Because of Tony, these young people have committed themselves to craft and a lifelong pursuit of learning,” Benedetto said. “I miss my husband every day, but I draw great strength and joy from the legacy he left behind. As a former public school teacher myself, it’s been my life’s proudest achievement to have started this school with Tony. It was a labor of love for us both and I am deeply moved every time I visit the school to feel that love returned back to our family tenfold.”
The couple co-founded the school in 2001 to provide New York City students with arts education opportunities along with rigorous academic programs. They received assistance from the NYC Department of Education and local leaders to open the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a tribute to the memory of Bennett’s best friend and colleague in a temporary quarters for 250 students.
Eight years later, the school moved into its $78 million home on 31st Avenue and 36th Street across from the Kaufman Astoria Studios.
“It’s because of Tony’s tenacity and passion that our students at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts get to explore their artistic talents and receive a high-quality education all under one roof,” said Gideon Frankel, principal of Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. “His beaming smile while talking to young artists lit up a room, and we are honored to present this concert in his memory. He would be so proud to see our students take the stage and perform to the music he loved so dearly.”
Friday’s tribute performance begins at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1. The event is sold out, but will be live-streamed free for members of the public here.
“Exploring the Arts is extremely proud to collaborate with the talented students and faculty of Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) for this tribute concert to honor the life of our beloved founder, and continue his legacy for generations to come,” said Toby Boshak, executive director of Exploring the Arts. “Tony has impacted the lives of thousands of youth on two coasts through his tireless dedication and commitment to restoring arts education in public schools. The students of FSSA will express their gratitude through craft, and I know he would have been so proud of them.”