On Saturday, we kicked off our upcoming “Left My Heart” show with a fantastic Queens community-building event at Sunnyside Arts.

Join us at Grove 34 on June 5th to hear how the true tales inspired by Tony Bennett’s life and music that we brainstormed together evolved. Get your tickets here, and tell friends! 

The four NYTI storytellers, creative team, and fun friends engaged with this imaginary interview published in the Queens Gazette by Bob Singleton, Executive Director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

“Although the interview is imaginary, the quotes are real. When I started to do research to write something about Tony Bennett, I checked the Notable Quotes page on the in­ternet and found a cornucopia of comments by him and it immediately hit me that if they were brought together, it would be very reveal­ing of the man and his career, as well as his roots within the community, his hometown of Astoria. They seemed to fit a pattern and with a few hours of sorting I had an interview that he never did, but his words revealed so much of a very humble, yet extraordinary artist who always valued his deep roots in the commu­nity.”

—Bob Singleton

The Art Heart: Storytelling and Portrait Trading workshop was co-lead by our own Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons and upcoming “Left My Heart” storyteller Zach Rothman-Hicks of Gabbing with Gays, an ongoing archive of Emotional Intimacy in the LGBTQIA+ community.

First, participants took turns reading the interview aloud and reflected on Tony Bennett’s life, art, and philosophies while listening to his music. Here are some highlights:

It was amazing how humble he seemed even when achieving so much. I live by the philosophy to always keep learning, so his thoughts on getting better/longevity are refreshing to hear. The note about the bartender in Arkansas (about “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”) is so cute – I wonder if he did end up buying the first record!

Despite seeing all of the horrors of WWII, he didn’t have bitterness or regret but walked forward.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga were like two unlikely food flavors that somehow fit together.

Quintessentially old school, at the same time, he embraces what’s going on in the present.

I was surprised that “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” was originally the B-side of the record, but after hearing “Once Upon a Time,” I understand. That it is also a fabulous song. 

He made music for everyone, not just the young. I want adult music!

Is life a gift when life aligns with your gift?

Where are the negative feelings? Are they transformed into art?

Anywhere Tony Bennett performs (regardless of the size of the venue), he is 100% there. 

You need to take care of yourself and your health to be an artist. If we are dead, we can’t do anything.

Look at nature. It’s always going to change.

Next, we brainstormed personal stories inspired by the reflection and an “I Left My Heart in…” fill-in-the-blanks freewriting activity. Then, we paired people up, and they interviewed each other to learn more about the personal story they chose to share with their partner.

Finally, the story partners traced each other’s faces on transparency paper and incorporated what they heard in their stories to create a composite portrait of their partner.  The results were fantastic and will be on display at the show!