Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School

35-12 35TH AVENUE
QUEENS NY 11106 Map
Phone: (718) 361-9920
Website: Click here
Admissions: by audition and assessment of academic record
Wheelchair accessible
specialized arts
Principal: DONNA FINN
Neighborhood: Astoria/ LI City
District: 30
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: CATHERIN MARCHETTA

What's special:

Community partnerships expose students to careers in the arts

The downside:

School struggles to strike a balance between academics and art

The InsideStats


Our review

At Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, students combine regular school work and training in the arts with a busy schedule of performances and artistic experiences outside the school. Students may perform with the Astoria Music Society and the Collegiate Chorale, or shadow filmmakers across the street at Kaufman-Astoria Studios.

 “We don’t think we can teach everything within four walls of the building,” said Principal Donna Finn. The school has ties to a wide range of cultural institutions: One student told us she took a course in astrophysics as the American Museum of Natural History. Another worked at the Queens Museum of Arts. Students take trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Jazz at Lincoln Center and entertain their neighbors in Astoria with performances in the school’s 800-seat Tony Bennett theatre (named after the school’s founder).

The strength of Sinatra is also its weakness: the academic teachers sometimes grumble that students miss valuable class time for rehearsals and shows.  The principal said the administration has responded to the teachers’ concerns by setting aside Mondays, Tuesdays, all of January and most of May to focus on academics and test-taking. Still, the principal says, “kids have to work really hard at managing time. It’s like coming to two schools.”

Students audition for one of six studios: dance, drama, instrumental music, vocal music, fine arts and film, and media. Students may changes studios between freshman and sophomore year .  Seventy percent of the students at Frank Sinatra are from Queens. The student body is racially diverse and nearly 70 percent female. The school has a relaxed atmosphere and students seem happy and generally engaged in class. Film production and history teacher Dena Zamore told us, “The students here are inquisitive and thoughtful and it’s great to teach students who care.” 

Most academic classes we visited were traditional, focusing on preparing students for the Regents exams. During our visit, two classes in particular impressed us: a Spanish class in which the teacher led the students in singing the “meses del año” to the tune of “The Macarena,” complete with dance moves; and an AP U.S. History class staging a mock trial for the impeached President Andrew Jackson. The school no longer requires all students to take four years of math and science, because of budget cuts, although strong students may take Advanced Placement (AP) calculus and biology. Three juniors we spoke with agreed that freshman and sophomore year were “easy.” Students said the workload becomes more intense as upper-level students load up on AP classes and prepare for college. Mariah, a senior majoring in instrumental music, said “I take a lot of AP classes so I don’t sleep a lot.”

Frank Sinatra has a full-time college adviser, a full-time scholarship advisor, and two guidance counselors. In 2010, 93 out of 155 Sinatra graduates went on to four year colleges. During our visit, counselors told us that five students are candidates for Posse Foundation ( scholarships. Frank Sinatra graduates have gone to St. John’s in Queens, NYU, Julliard, and Berklee College of Music; the school has sent three students to Columbia.

Special education: Frank Sinatra has very limited special education services. Only eight students had IEPS at the time of our visit. Only two students received instruction in English as a Second Language.

Admissions:  In addition to the audition, the school looks for serious students with high grades and good attendance records. (Anna Schneider, October 2010)


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