Students Go Gaga for Special School Performance


Students at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts capped off the 2013-2014 star-studded school year with an unprecedented Q&A session and private concert performed by school founder Tony Bennett and special guest Lady Gaga. The school assembly, held during 9th period on the last day of classes at the pre-conservatory NYC public high school, perfectly bookended the school year, which began with a private concert by Sir Paul McCartney in October.

The Q&A session was moderated by Today Show host Lester Holt and will be aired as a separate Today Show segment. The entire Frank Sinatra School of the Arts student body was in attendance for the surprise visit, but the performance was special for the senior class, being that Tony and his wife Susan Benedetto will not be able to attend this year’s senior graduation.

The Q&A session revolved around Mr. Bennett and Gaga’s unusual musical relationship and how they met. Mr. Bennett said that the first time he heard Gaga’s voice, he knew she was a trained Jazz musician. Gaga spoke about her time in the studio with Tony and how he strives to be around talented musicians and won’t settle for subpar work. She also mentioned how Tony lets the musicians he works with be themselves.

Lady Gaga seemed to by impressed by The Tony Bennett Concert Hall where the assembly took place and was equally taken aback by the school. She added what a privilege it was for the school to exist. She admitted that her high school didn’t have a focus on the performing arts and that after she finished her academics she would spend two hours on her private piano homework and one hour a night on her singing.

Lady Gaga also offered inspirational guidance and support to FSSA’s budding performers, dancers, artists and musicians.

“You don’t have to wait for a record deal for someone to tell you you’re and artist,” Gaga said to the student body. “You’re artists now.”

After a series of questions from students including seniors Addison Manion and William Longerbeam, Mr. Bennett and Lady Gaga were treated to FSSA student performances by the Chamber Singers and Women’s Ensemble. Both Tony and Gaga performed a jazz standard, respectively, and then sang “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” as a duet.

Students were excited to have the opportunity to not only listen to Lady Gaga speak, but to hear her sing with Mr. Bennett.

“It was nice to have someone like Lady Gaga to come in and speak to us. She’s such an iconic person and she’s someone who you hear on the radio singing dance music so to hear her sing jazz was a pleasant surprise,” said graduating senior Vanessa Valdez. “It’s funny because every time there’s an assembly people say it’s her. Who would’ve known this would come true on the last day of high school?”

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga have become musical companions over the years sharing a love for jazz and the arts. The duo will release a new album “Cheek to Cheek” debuting this September featuring jazz standards.

— by Mr. Scheiner (editor-at-large, FSSA English/Journalism teacher)