NEW YORK, Sept. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Over 700 invited guests toasted the evening's honoree Tony Bennett, in celebration of his 85th Birthday, at the Exploring the Arts (ETA) annual benefit gala on Sunday, September 18. The event, which opened with Tony's sold-out debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, raised $2.5M for ETA, the non–profit organization established in 1999 by Tony his wife, Susan, to fund arts education in NYC public high schools.
Former President Bill Clinton opened the evening with a birthday tribute message before introducing Bennett to the stage, and was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to attend the event. Bennett's 90-minute concert received several standing ovations and included duet performances with Aretha Franklin, Alejandro Sanz and Elton John. Students from NYC schools were invited to join in the SRO seating at the concert, which was underwritten by HBO.
President Barack Obama opened the supper, held in a tent on Lincoln Plaza after the concert, with a special video message to Tony stating, "Tony, over the last 60 years your songs have become a part of our lives. And Michelle and I will never forget hearing your voice echo through the White House. But what I hope people will also remember is that along with so much talent you've always had incredible courage: you fought for your country on the battlefields of Europe; you marched with Dr. King himself; you've worked to help cure disease and bring the arts to our schools. More than anything you've shown us what it means to use your gift to enrich the lives of others, and for that we will always be grateful. Happy Birthday Tony."
Alec Baldwin hosted the gala, which included a performance by Elton John, who said, "Tony Bennett is the most beloved person in the music industry." Guests at the event included Robert De Niro, Richard Gere, Katie Couric, Regis and Joy Philbin, Harry Belafonte, Dennis Leary, Jane and Mitch Winehouse, Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Governors Mario Cuomo and Jon Corzine, Rachael Ray and Steven Van Zandt.
Bennett's highly anticipated DUETS II CD is released this week on September 20 on RPM Records/Columbia Records. The CD, a successor to the singer's hugely successful DUETS CD, features a roster of celebrated artists--including Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, Alejandro Sanz, Amy Winehouse and others--who joined Tony live in the studio to record his catalog of hits. Tony Bennett makes appearances on The Today Show, The View, and Tonight Show with Jay Leno this week.
Tony Bennett is an artist who moves the hearts and touches the souls of audiences. He's not just the singer's singer but also an international treasure honored by the United Nations with its Citizen of the World award, which aptly describes the scope of his accomplishments. Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in the Astoria section of Queens, New York.. He has placed two-dozen songs in the Top 40, including "I Wanna Be Around," "The Good Life," "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)" and his signature hit, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco." Thus far, Tony has earned 15 Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as multiple Emmy Awards. Named a Kennedy Center Honoree and NEA Jazz Master, The United Nations also presented him with their 2007 Humanitarian Award. In 2001, Tony established the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, one of the highest rated public high schools in New York City. With his wife Susan, they founded Exploring the Arts, a non-profit organization that supports arts programs in 14 NYC public high schools in all five boroughs. Tony Bennett celebrated his 85th birthday on August 3, 2011.
Exploring the Arts (ETA) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization founded in 1999 by Tony Bennett and Susan Benedetto. ETA's mission is to strengthen the role of the arts in public high school education. ETA provides support and funding to help public high schools sustain and grow their arts programs and curricula. ETA currently has 14 Partner Schools throughout New York City's 5 boroughs. ETA's flagship school, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), was founded by Tony and Susan in Tony's hometown of Astoria, Queens. In addition to its rigorous academic curriculum, FSSA offers 4-years majors in Film, Theatre, Dance, Fine Art, Vocal and Instrumental Music. FSSA holds one of the highest high school graduation and college acceptance rates of all NYC public schools and celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2011.
Clips from the Tony Bennett 85th Birthday Celebration at the Metropolitan Opera House will be made available later today.
SOURCE RPM Records/Columbia Records