Nightly News   |  November 15, 2009

Singer’s school fosters kids’ love of arts

Nov. 15: He left his heart in San Francisco, but Tony Bennett is making a difference back in his old neighborhood, giving students a chance to embrace their passions. NBC’s Lester Holt reports.

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hecho: ultra men's. .

>>> finally tonight, making a difference. public people and their private causes. this past week we told you how some very well known americans were quietly doing their part to help mack a difference for causes close to their hearts. tonight, a musical icon and his new standard in education. * i got rhythm i got music * * i got my gal who could ask for anything more *

>> reporter: there is tony bennett the crooner, and then there is tony bennett the rock star . at least he is in the hall of a very special high school , the new york city borough of queens which he helped found to help foster a deeper appreciation for the arts. this year the frank sinatra high school of the arts , a new york city public school , moved into its first permanent home. the 8-year-old institution was the dream of tony and his wife, teacher susan benedetto who convinced the city and private donors to fund it.

>> i decided where should we put the school? i said why not on my favorite city in the world, which is astoria?

>> reporter: the same part of the queens tony bennett grew up in. as for the sinatra name --

>> he was my best friend and he changed my life because in "life" magazine, he said i was his favorite singer. all his fans came over and visited me. i've been sold out ever since.

>> reporter: the movie "fame" was inspired by the city's better known performing arts school in manhattan. but bennett refers to sinatra high as the anti-"fame" school.

>> it is a different premise. we teach them the basics so they have longevity.

>> with our school, we're able to, you know, work it from the ground up so we can really work with tony about his vision. artistically my vision academically and really create the school we wanted.

>> reporter: kids get to embrace their passions here. each majors in one of the arts, and a lot more.

>> you have to balance academics and performing arts so we have about three performing art classes a day, plus your academics so it is a lot to handle.

>> reporter: tony bennett is himself a product of an art school . and in addition to singing, he is an accomplished painter.

>> you fall in love with life and with nature and you realize what a gift we have, you know, to just be alive.

>> reporter: and that's the overarching lesson he hopes his life and this school will pass on. the other lesson might be if you love what you do, there is no need to stop. at 83, he says he has no plans to retire. that's "nbc nightly news" for this sunday.