Fair Share for Funding Studios?

The FSSA string ensemble practicing a piece for the future instrumental concerts.

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) has always been known for its annual musicals and performances, some notable ones being Ragtime and Phantom of the Opera. The Disco Cabaret tonight and Saturday (Oct. 19) starts off the 2019-2020 performance season and will showcase the talents of the vocal studio.

Tonight’s performance also starts the year of funding off for the school, and ultimately for each studio.

The distribution of funding has always been an issue among top performing arts schools. However, performance majors typically get more than others due to their popularity with the public.

The majority of the student population across studios believes that Sinatra prioritizes performing majors, such as the drama and vocal studios.

Mr. Frankel, FSSA principal confirms this underlying acknowledgement.

“Mostly the budget that supports studios and productions is generated by those productions.  It’s ticket sales year-to-year. That’s the largest way that we can fund programs and we try as best as we can, though it’s difficult, to make sure that we’re carrying some money over into the new year so that it doesn’t all get spent and we start from scratch,” he said.

The vocal and drama studios have always dominated the show seasons and bring in the most revenue when it comes to ticket sales. Nevertheless, it does not exclude those studios from experiencing budget issues. For Cabaret alone, money had to come out of the pockets of the teachers, according to a senior vocal major.

Drama has also had minor budget setbacks when it comes to rehearsal spaces or rights to written works.

This imbalance in funding has even led students from dance and instrumental to feel the effects. Unnamed film majors express that in their classroom it’s not uncommon for the cameras to not function well technically and there’s cases of students sharing laptops to complete work.

Students are known to create GoFundMe campaigns for their projects and it’s common for all their equipment costs to come out of their own pockets, as well as finance food, costumes and transportation during filming.

Alumni, Turin Cipolla experienced personal fund raising for his senior film last year.

“We did a GoFundMe for our senior thesis, as well as a bake sale and we raised a total of $800 for the film. The school is supposed to be able to reimburse you for like $50 a project, but we never saw that money.”

FSSA film teacher Mr. Gubin confirms this as well.

“We can’t really afford that so we encourage students to do kickstart campaigns,” he added. 

With the removal of an additional classroom for film history, film students are all crammed into the media lab for all classes correlating to the major.

“The sophomore class that just walked in is huge. There’s 34-35 students in there. [We have] a lot more presence than we did in the past,” Mr. Gubin said.

Like the film majors, art students are known for spending hundreds of dollars for their supplies. They’re the one studio that constantly needs to replenish their source for their craft.

“Once you use a paper it’s done you can’t recycle it and art is one of those majors where supplies are replenishable,” senior art teacher Dr. Kahn said.

Junior Lily Macmahon stresses the cost of the yearly required art supplies.

“There are kids in my class that I know that it’s hard to afford the expensive brands the teachers recommend us to get for the best quality,” she said.

With these student-sourced funds going into quality work, it’s surprising that there’s no place to show it. Art students for years have observed the dwindling of their gallery spaces and infrequency of exhibits.

Seniors Noor Selim and Nancy Prieto are advocating for their gallery space back. They’ve created a petition online in hopes it evokes a response from higher ups given the circumstances of them shining a public light on the situation.

According to the petition online art majors only get one annual exhibition, which is in the Blackbox theater. However, this ‘exhibition’ crams in the artworks from grades 10-12 into a confined space. This situation doesn’t benefit our growth as artists, because the setting is not professional and it is only set temporarily, making our art work seem less valuable.

In years prior, Sinatra supported exhibits within the gallery space, a well known one being the senior exhibit. However with the birth of the new student wellness center, students have lost that opportunity and former tradition.

These budget issues aren’t only influencing the non performing studios like art and film, but dance and instrumental are feeling the effects as well. Both studios can agree that they require additional funding to replace broken materials.

Senior dance major, Angelique Markowski said that the ballet barres within the dance rooms have been broken for years.

Maya Acampora another senior dance student said that in the past, dance majors were able to take ballet and modern classes with live music. However, with funding varying across the board this opportunity is no longer available to them.

The music studio also feels like some aspects of their craft can be improved.

“A lot of instruments aren’t fixed. The majority of the instruments are broken and we can use replacements with the funding,” senior instrumentalist William Long said.

Alex Burns, a former instrumental major, agrees, adding that the money his studio was given went more toward the music, rather then the quality of the instruments.

“It didn’t help us much in practice during class periods and it made other students I know care less about the school instruments and it made pieces more difficult for other players,” Alex said.

All in all, funding is an issue to all majors, but the support of staff and representation of FSSA’s student body has allowed students to flourish as a school community despite these circumstances.

Although there is room for improvement, FSSA’s passion for the arts has motivated students to continue doing what they love. And no budget should ever keep them from doing just that.

– by Rosangle Conde ’20 and Angelina Torres ’20