Celebrating 15 Years of Sinatra
In the 15 years that Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) has been in existence, the school and its community have evolved in various ways. Both long and short term changes have created a legacy and reputation for Sinatra that isn’t quite like anything else.
One of the most prominent and apparent changes was moving the location of the school. Moving from LaGuardia College in Long Island City to 35th Avenue in Astoria in 2009 to a bigger building meant more opportunities. After the move, there was more space, more equipment, and many upgrades, like the Tony Bennett Concert Hall. While teaching her classes, vocal teacher, Ms. Best often recalls how different the old building was. She says the rooms were so small that there was no space between her and the choir. Now, the choir room is large enough to fit more than just a choir, and a large piano.
With a new school also comes a new atmosphere. Assistant Principal, Mr. Frankel, spoke about how moving from such an intimate setting to a much larger one required more work to bring the same vibe to the school.
“As it evolves we try to hold on to those special touches,” he says. “We are still a community and a family.”
Before the new building, however, Sinatra’s part of Astoria really wasn’t known for anything extraordinary. It was dominated by Kaufman Studios and its movie theater. But that all changed during the construction of the new FSSA building when the same stretch of 35th Ave. was being developed into the Kaufman Arts district.
In the early 2000s, Astoria was a small city run by delis and small businesses. Art, music or any entertainment was predominantly associated with Manhattan. In the past decade, Astoria has become a cultural hub. 35th Avenue, in particular, has become a hotspot for art. Kaufman Studios has created a center for film and music in the few blocks it takes over, and the Museum of the Moving Image provides one of the most innovative film exhibitions in New York City.
This, of course, is the prime location for a school like Sinatra. It is the perfect place for young artists. Also, because the school is so close to Kaufman, students have been able work at the television studio, and have recorded music there by taking part in the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
Throughout the years, Sinatra has developed an incredible legacy. As one of the few performing and visual arts high schools in New York City, students have an advantage when it comes to artistic opportunities.
To date, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa have performed at FSSA. The school has also hosted dancers from Martha Graham, and vocalists were recently able to audition to perform with Skylar Astin in a production of West Side Story. The school also has amazing partnerships with the MOMA and is currently a part of Circle Through NY, a Guggenheim Museum exhibition.
Senior Kerry Petrere thinks that Sinatra’s greatest legacy is the variety of musicals and performances.
“There’s so much to see here and any show you choose to go to ends up being really great,” Kerry says. “The vocal show finales are an example, they’re so cool and everyone loves them.”
Of course, there are going to be more changes to come. This year, vocal and art history teacher Mr. Sandri is retiring, and his students are sure to cherish these last few classes with him. Mr. Sandri is finishing off his last year with the Opera Workshop’s mini production of The Marriage of Figaro for this year’s vocal concert.
Another new addition to Sinatra history was the musical theatre production of The Music Man. Students worked extra hard in the weeks leading up to opening night and were selected to perform the musical on Broadway.
In the academic department plans are being made to expand AP classes. An AP Art History class is to be added next year, according to Mr. Frankel.
Prominent memories are being made this year and these changes are going to be the ones that future students talk about in the years to come.
Mr. Frankel summarized Sinatra in the past fifteen years perfectly. “It’s a vibrant, creative, energetic environment. Most days there’s something really interesting going on,” he says. “It’s great to be part of an environment where everyone has a collective interest in the power of the arts.”
– by Katarina Jovic ’17