Tag Archives: Frank Sinatra School of the Arts

High school students record holiday songs at Kaufman Astoria Studios


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

The holidays arrived early in Astoria this year for a group of high schools students with dreams of becoming professional musicians.

Members of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts a cappella concert choir were invited on Monday to record two holiday songs at one of Kaufman Astoria Studios’ recording studios and one of the largest in the city, KAS Music & Sound.

The invitation came through Kaufman Astoria Studios and the nonprofit Exploring the Arts, which was founded by Tony Bennett, who also founded the high school.

The group of about 55 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, recorded “Silver Bells” and an arrangement of “Deck the Halls.”

Joe Castellon, executive director of KAS Music & Sound, oversaw the recording and gave his tips to the young aspiring singers. Once he has finished editing the two songs, Castellon will give the music back to the school, which will then decide what will be done with it.

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“We’ve done it twice before and it gets better every time,” said Castellon. “It’s great because you are seeing them just right at the beginning and their first exposure to it.”

He said that the students’ excitement is palpable: “With the students it’s great because you get to feel that.”

The high school’s concert choir teacher and one of the founding members of the school, Heidi Best, led the group during the recording and hopes this experience gave the students a taste  of what it really means to record their music at a professional studio.

“[Recording] is a very different animal,” Best said. “’[The students] are thrilled because they know this is a big deal, and it’s really good for them because they get to hear themselves and the things they don’t really think about and it gives them a keener sense of performing.”

For some of the students who participated last year it was a chance to return to the studio, but for others it was the first time they had walked into a studio and shared the same equipment that has been used by musicians such as Alicia Keys, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

“It was exciting because it’s something most of us haven’t done,” said 17-year-old Feyjon Cobos, a senior at the high school who first stepped into the studio two years ago with another choir at the school.

“It’s nostalgic but very thrilling,” said Bruce Jimenez, 16, a junior who has also recorded before. “It was very fun. I wish I could do it again.”

This was 17-year-old Paola Solis’ first time recording in a studio, and she said it was exciting to get the opportunity.

“I’ve recorded, but like on an iPod,” Solis said smiling. “It’s really amazing to be here in an actual studio.”

The group of students will be performing the songs at the MetLife Building in Manhattan next Monday and at the school’s winter concert on Dec. 18 and 19 at 7 p.m.

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Jackson Heights student, muralists color LIC


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Edward Fernbach


It has been 22 years since muralists and friends Alex Cook and Pasqualina Azzarello collaborated on a piece, and now with the help of Jackson Heights resident Sunny Hossain, they are adding color to Long Island City.

The artists have come together to replace a fading mural located on a former meatpacking plant located at 46-01 Fifth St. The building is now home to Rockaway Brewing Company, the LIC Community Boathouse and the nonprofit Recycle-A-Bicycle, which provides environmental education and job training through youth education programs.


Photo by Alex Cook

The group not only revamped the mural on 46th Avenue but also stretched it around the corner of the building so that it can been seen down on Fifth Street.


Photo by Pasqualina Azzarello

The original mural was completed in 2006 by Azzarello while she worked with summer youth employment participants as a freelance teaching artist for Recycle-A-Bicycle. However, she always felt the mural needed more.

The Brooklyn resident then went on to become executive director for the nonprofit in 2009 and after leaving in early 2013, she kept the mural on her to-do list as she continues to be involved with Recycle-A-Bicycle.

“For the last number of years, while that mural had become a mini-landmark in the neighborhood, we always had the feeling that it wasn’t as complete as it could be,” said Azzarello. “We wanted to create a new mural that more accurately reflected the new sense of vibrancy in that part of town.”

About two months ago, Cook, who lives in Boston, Mass., reached out to her with interest to work on a collaborative mural in New York and Azzarello contacted Karen Overton, founder of Recycle-A-Bicycle and current executive director, with the idea of revamping the mural.

To Azzarello’s surprise, Overton was also looking to revitalize the mural after being contacted by Edward Fernbach, a teacher at P.S. 993, a District 75 school located within the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria. Fernbach wanted to know if his student Sunny Hossain could help to fix the peeling mural,to receive school credit as part of an internship program. District 75 schools are designed to teach and support students with various learning challenges.

“Sunny happens to be a phenomenal artist and I wanted to emphasize his strength rather than the place he has challenges,” Fernbach said. “He is going to be in the art world, no question about it. He has his foot in the door and he isn’t going to let it close behind him and he is going to keep on going forward.”

This mural project is the first for the 16-year-old, who is a student at P.S. 993. Hossain said he loves to be creative, and working with Azzarello and Cook has helped him develop his artistic skill. He said he felt very proud after seeing the piece come together.


Photo by Edward Fernbach

“We had a lot of fun. I never had an experience like that,” said Hossain, who will next work on a mural at the Broadway branch of the Queens Library in Long Island City. “I never knew I could do so many things with art. It gives me inspiration to continue my art.”

The theme of the colorful and celebratory mural, which took about 10 days spanned over a few weeks to complete, surrounds the “joy of riding a bicycle,” according to Azzarello.

“It has meant so much to Alex and me to support Sunny in this way,” Azzarello said. “We are reminded of how many people supported us as young artists. The fact that we are now in a position in our lives to work together and help support a young artist with incredible talent and vision is very meaningful.”


Sunny Hossain and Alex Cook (Photo by Pasqualina Azzarello)

The brand-new mural will be unveiled at 46-01 Fifth St. on Friday, June 13 at 4 p.m. and light refreshments will be served.

 

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Kaufman Arts District is first of its kind in Queens


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Astoria is ready for the world to know it’s the place to be for the arts.

The western Queens neighborhood gathered Friday to celebrate the announcement of the designation of the Kaufman Arts District, the first of its kind in the borough.

The district was created in partnership with Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Queens Council on the Arts.

During the announcement, the partners of the arts district received a proclamation from Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on behalf of the City Council.

The mission of the arts district will be “to advance and promote the area as a world class vibrant cultural destination and home for creative industries,” officials said.

“This corner of Queens has quickly become a vibrant community of cultural venues and arts organizations that have attracted some of our generation’s greatest artists,” Van Bramer said.

The Kaufman Arts District will span from 31st Street to the west, 34th Avenue to the north, Steinway Street to the east, and 37th Avenue to the south.

“Over the years, Kaufman Astoria and western Queens have blossomed side by side into a citywide landmark and a neighborhood that doubles as a world-class destination for the arts,” Senator Michael Gianaris said.

Within the boundaries of the Kaufman Arts District are the Museums of the Moving Image, The Astor Room, Studio Square NYC, the Queens Council on the Arts, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas, the Astoria Performing Arts Center, and the Theater Development Fund’s Costume Collection.

“The creation of this arts district opens the community to more opportunities to experience the extensive creative activity in our midst,” said Carl Goodman, executive director of Museum of the Moving Image. “We’re going to really work together to bring this neighborhood to the next level.”

For more information on the arts district, visit here.

 

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Op-ed: The western Queens renaissance: A burgeoning community on the rise


| oped@queenscourier.com

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ARAVELLA SIMOTAS

At its core, western Queens is a community built by small businesses. From the time the Steinway brothers built their first factory in the U.S. in 1853 to the television and film production and high-tech enterprises we see flourishing today, this part of New York City is firmly grounded in innovation and civic leadership. As a lifelong resident of Astoria and a New York State elected representative, I have been dedicated to ensuring that this wonderful community continues to thrive.

As we continue to recover from the economic downturn, western Queens has been a powerhouse of new ventures and a center for job creation. As the most diverse county in the United States, our borough is uniquely positioned to cultivate a dynamic hub of economic and cultural activity. The area is growing fast, with an influx of new families and workers eager to contribute and establish themselves in the neighborhood.

As the home to three film production studios, western Queens is also a driving force behind the continued strength of the New York City film industry. These studios and the movies and television they produce contribute thousands of jobs and untold indirect revenue and economic activity that benefit community residents. Located adjacent to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the new home of the Queens Council on the Arts,  this part of the borough has become a veritable epicenter of arts and culture.

In addition to the hundreds of restaurants, boutiques, hardware stores and every imaginable variety of mom-and-pop stores, western Queens is a model for responsible innovation. The hard work of so many ensures that growth benefits all members of our community. Recently, construction began on the $125 million expansion and modernization project at Mt. Sinai Hospital. This new state of the art facility will be much better equipped to serve the growing population of new residents who will now enjoy expanded first-rate medical care in the heart of Astoria.

Our local seniors have also benefited from the construction and opening of the brand-new HANAC/PCA Residence, a 90-unit facility which will make affordable housing more accessible, especially important in a city with scarce land resources and a high demand for real estate.

Together with other local leaders, I have worked to ensure that our community welcomes these new waves of growth. I have made it a priority to keep our streets free of trash and our centers of commerce clean and welcoming for consumers. Working with concerned residents, I have also striven to preserve the family-oriented character of local neighborhoods so that our children can always feel safe and our small businesses can thrive.

I will always pledge to work both in the community and through my role in Albany to encourage and promote an environment conducive to the continued growth of western Queens. Working together with businesses, residents, and local institutions, we can ensure that our world-class neighborhood remains a beacon of economic and cultural development for decades to come.

Aravella Simotas represents parts of western Queens, including Astoria and parts of Long Island City in the New York State Assembly.

 

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Paul McCartney plays surprise concert at Astoria school


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos: MJ Kim/MPL Communications

Paul McCartney proved once more he is an artist for all generations.

McCartney played a surprise concert on Wednesday for over 400 high school students and guests at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria.

The former Beatle jammed through old and new hits like “Black Bird,” “Eight Days a Week” and “Save Us” – the opening track on his album to be released on October 15 – in the Tony Bennett Concert Hall.

Bennett himself enjoyed the show, seated in the audience stage right.

The surprise event was hosted by on-air talent Jim Kerr and was streamed live on iHeartRadio channels and Yahoo. Students additionally got the chance to ask the rocker questions in between songs.

Addison Manion, a senior at the performing arts school, asked McCartney how his fame has affected the evolution of his music.

“It gives you freedom,” he said, and admitted in the beginning of his career, he produced music he thought people wanted to hear. But as he settled into his fame, he realized, “I could give them something they don’t know they want to hear.”

Similarly, McCartney said the greatest lesson he has learned throughout his decades-long career is that he shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially on stage.

“If I do something wrong, people don’t mind. People kind of like it,” he said, laughing. “They can say, ‘Hey, I was at that show he made the mistake at.’”

Sophomore Gabrielle Mendez asked McCartney where he gets his inspiration for songs, to which the singer responded “love, family and memories.”

He also said his life in music has transcended for over half a century simply because he loves to do it.

“I could be home watching TV, but I’d rather be here,” he said. “It’s just so warm, it’s a great feeling.”

 

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