Nightly News   |  October 04, 2013

Tony Bennett brings music into the classroom

At 87 years old, Tony Bennett, and his wife, Susan Benedetto, are helping students explore the arts. So far their foundation has poured millions of dollars into public school arts programs – first in New York, and now in Los Angeles.  NBC’s Harry Smith reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight, how about a positive end ing after the week we have had. as we get ready to kick off our annual education nation summit. at 87 years old and after the career he's had you may i be surprised to hear where the great tony bennett is putting his voice and a lot of his money these days. nbc's harry smith met up with him and his wife in east l.a. where they are on a mission.

>> reporter: what if every teenager in america attended a school where the arts were valued and celebrated, a place where the arts are not an extra, but an essential. that's what tony bennett dreams of.

>> every state of the union deserves it.

>> reporter: that's why bennett and his wife susan are at the esteban torres high school in east los angeles . their foundation named exploring the arts poured millions of dollars into public school arts programs, first in new york and now l.a. bennett puts his money where his heart is.

>> i see it personally as a huge part of his legacy to help facilitate him helping children to become artists like he is. because i love you

>> reporter: at 87, tony bennett has won 17 grammys and sold more than 50 million records worldwide. he's not a particularly familiar figure to most young people . the teachers here made sure the students knew they were being visited by one of the all-time greats.

>> were you nervous at all?

>> i was so nervous. i wanted to cry at the end.

>> good performers get butterflies before they go on stage.

>> reporter: this is an exceptional school in a challenging environment. crime and poverty surround it, yet the school sings.

>> reporter: the passion in the buildings is palpable.

>> yes.

>> isn't it great?

>> that's success.

>> reporter: teachers told us impassioned students get better grades and stay in school. something tony has known since he started the foundation in 1999 .

>> i'm thrilled about it. what a premise.

>> reporter: truth and beauty.

>> yep .

>> reporter: we can work with that.

>> exactly. what could be better?

>> reporter: what could be better? harry smith , nbc news, los angeles .

>> tony bennett the among the guests at education nation. streaming live, education i'll see you for the teacher town hall noon eastern on sunday.