I wonder how many P.A. grads still have the emblematic school pin? I just recovered mine among other memorabilia contained in a big cardboard box sent from New York City.
And as I perused various Dance, Music and Drama Programs, I looked for names that might be in bright lights in each field.
For starters, I remembered Anna Horsford of Amen TV sitcom fame who cracked classmates up every time she opened her mouth. One wondered if her self-style form of comedy reflected the culture of Harlem, because it flowed effortlessly as if generations of African Americans needed humor to survive discrimination and poverty.
Here’s her pic straight out of the Yearbook. Notice her quote: “What was it? Did you call me by my name?”
That’s exactly what Anna would say, especially if called upon to read one of her essays in English class. We were all in stitches.
No doubt she put comedy to good use in her chosen endeavor:
Here’s Anna playing Thelma in Amen:
In the Dance department, I spotted Tony Catanzaro, who bedazzled on stage at school performances. I’d wondered what happened to him after graduation:
Here’s an update:
With this bio:
“Tony Catanzaro began his training at the High School of Performing Arts and graduated as the Dance Award Recipient. He joined the Joffrey Ballet and three years later, became a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet until 1984. Tony danced the lead in the Broadway production of “Annie Get Your Gun” with Ethel Merman and with the touring company of “Golden Boy” starring Sammy Davis Jr. He appeared in the first English speaking musical to travel to Japan, “West Side Story”. For the past 25 years, Tony has devoted much of his energy to the Ballet Academy of Miami.”
Moving over to the Music Department, some memorable names, but not in my particular class year:
These included Murray Perahia, beloved pianist/poet of the piano, (graduated a year ahead of me) and Gerard Schwarz, conductor (a year behind me) Gerry was playing trumpet at P.A. and landed in the New York Philharmonic beside Roger Voisin. Later he became a world class music director.
In the Drama Department, a student in her senior year grabbed a lion’s share of attention, as she was the featured lead in so many school productions.
Years following graduation, Robin Strasser played “Dorian” in the long-running soap opera, One Life to Live.
My closest friends:
In the 3 years I spent at P.A. I made two very good friends. Because students traveled from all parts of the city to attend the school, there was not the usual neighborhood after-class bonding. We had no sports teams or phys. ed. and many of the boys were gay, so I didn’t notice much dating or pairing going on, but I stand corrected if I was misinformed.
Setsuko Nagata, (Music) and Reva Cooper (Drama) were my closest pals.
Setsuko who had just arrived from Japan when she began studies at P.A. invited me and my parents to her home to feast on native food. We returned the favor and had many reciprocal visits over years.
I lost contact with Setsuko after graduation but on a Google search I found this:
“Born in Tokyo, Miss Nagata studied violin with Toshiya Eto. She came to the US in 1962 and enrolled at The Juilliard School, where she studied under Dorothy Delay and Ivan Galamian.
“She has been soloist with the Municipal Orchestra, the Jamaica Symphony, the Great Neck Symphony, the NY Orchestra, the Juilliard Orchestra and the NC Symphony. 1968 saw her Carnegie Hall debut with the National Orchestral Association directed by John Barnette.
“She has also appeared on TV, in radio, and in numerous recitals in the NY area. She has been active in teaching at Juilliard, the Meadowmount School of Music, Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College summer music school, a special program for the Manhattan School of Music, and in private teaching.
“She has won the Fritz Kreisler Award, the Naumberg Scholarship Award, a teaching fellowship from Juilliard, prizes in the Hudson Valley Competition and the Swiss Tibor Varga International Competition.
“As a chamber musician she has performed with the Aeolian Chamber Players, the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Tokyo String Quartet, the Music Project, and her own group, The Cremona Arts Trio, which made its NY debut in December 1982 at the Metropolitan Museum.”
Reva Cooper appears in my class Yearbook with her own quote beneath the photo and an endearing note scribbled to me:
We recently had our own mini-reunion when I visited New York City in October for my mother’s 97th birthday celebration. I reminded her of the Sweet Sixteen party she and her parents hosted at the Copa Cabana with Sammy Davis Jr. headlining. I was seated a few feet from him. What a performer!!
Here’s the latest on Reva and her professional orbit:
“Reva Cooper, who directs her own marketing and public relations business, has been a publicist and marketer since 1980, working in all phases of the arts. Current and recent clients include Symphony Space, The Town Hall, and New York Festival Of Song. Her background includes over a dozen Broadway shows, commercial Off-Broadway productions, and more than 50 plays and hundreds of music and dance events at organizations such as the New York Philharmonic, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Big Apple Circus, The Public Theater, Circle Repertory Company, Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, and Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. At The Public Theater, she was also Press Representative for Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino In New York, for many years the largest Latin cultural event in the United States. Other projects over the years have included Twyla Tharp Dance, the New York City-wide Year Of Tibet festival, the opening of the French Institute’s Florence Gould Hall, Art Against AIDS benefits, and the opening of A.R.T./New York’s Spaces at 520 real estate project. Reva has lectured and taught marketing and publicity at New York University, Marymount College, Long Island University, Queens College, A.R.T./New York (for whom she wrote the guide, Theatre Publicity In New York), The Support Center and the Arts & Business Council’s National Arts Marketing Project.”
Well, we had quite a nice visit, having met in the West Village and then walking over to the Arch at the NYU campus. (my grad school)
No sooner than we took a few photos, we headed to my auntie’s where mom’s birthday party was being held and Reva joined in the fun.
That pretty much sums up the High School of Performing Arts and my connections to it.
As we sang at graduation, “PA Forever,” and with a well of tears, “We are closing your doors.”
IMPORTANT UPDATE: I met up with my favorite P.A. Math teacher, “Miss Katz” at a Memorial Service for my aunt Leepee in New York City. What a perfect opportunity to bestow a binder full of kudos from her students.
Here’s captivating footage:
More well-known P.A. alums: Liza Minelli, Robert DeNiro, Edward Vilella, Dom Deluise, Freddie Prinz, Ben Vereen, Al Pacino, and Sonia Manzano ( “Maria” on Sesame Street)
Reggie Rock Bythewood
Wanda De Jesus
George de la Pena
Jim Moody (actor)
Robert De Niro
Ricky Stotts (Royal Danish Ballet)