What honor are you most proud of as a result of your philanthropic work?
Ella Fitzgerald who was a dear friend and my next door neighbor for many years used to say, “Tony, we are all here.” And Ella was right as she simply expressed that we all share this planet together and we need to be good to each other and help each other. I consider myself a humanist so whether it’s performing at a benefit gala, or marching with Dr. King, or with my wife Susan expanding our mission to support arts education through our non-profit, Exploring the Arts, in the end it’s about helping someone out who needs it. And the beauty of it is that you can make a small gesture or expand to a global level but when you help someone it makes a difference for the better.
You have accomplished so much in your lifetime, is there anything else you would like to achieve or experience?
I just hope that every day I can learn something new as the world still amazes me even though I am 93 years old. I just want to keep going for as long as I can, performing for the public and if they come to my show and walk away knowing they enjoyed themselves and forgot about their own problems and worries for a few hours than that gives me the best feeling possible.
You’ve recorded music during the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and today. How would you describe the evolution of music through the decades and how has that changed you?
Well, I grew up in the big band era and then discovered jazz music which still remains the music that I adore. But no matter what genre of music might be hitting it big it’s always about communication and that remains constant. I remember having a conversation with Count Basie about the shifting of certain kinds of music and he looked at me and said “Why change an apple?” and I realized that I can only sing songs that resonate with me so that I can then communicate them effectively during a performance. So that hasn’t changed over the decades.
We read in your bio that growing up your two passions were singing and painting. What made you decide to follow your passion for music instead of painting?
Funny enough, I probably owe my music career to a teacher I had in school as there came a time when I was thinking of dropping music entirely and just concentrating on art as I was thinking about becoming a graphic artist. My music teacher at the time said to me “Stick with the music Tony, I think you have something. So I may have only been known as Benedetto, which is may family name that I sign all my paintings with and not Tony Bennett!
Throughout your career, you have worked with your children on various projects. For your show here at Hard Rock Live on December 8, your daughter Antonia Bennett will be performing with you. What’s it like working with them and having them play a part in your career?
I think it’s just wonderful as my son Danny is my manager and my other son Dae produces and engineers my albums and then a few years ago my daughter Antonia started to go on the road with me.
I love the fact that my family is in involved in so many areas of my career. They are all very creative people in their own right so it’s a perfect fit all around.
We know that you are very involved in humanitarian efforts, is there any upcoming organizations you will be working with in the very near future?
There is always a good cause that comes up every season but with my wife Susan we spend most of our time working to keep high quality arts programs in public high schools.
We founded the NYC public high school Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in my hometown of Astoria, Queens and when that was launched we decided to keep on going. So through our non-profit, Exploring The Arts, we now support and partner with over 40 public high schools in NYC and Los Angeles. The students are tremendous and we know that the arts don’t just make them better artists, the become better citizens of the world.