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Tony Bennett Donates Instruments During JazzFest

Tony Bennett Donates Instruments During JazzFest
Jazz crooner Tony Bennett handed out dozens of new instruments Thursday, April 28, to students at a charter school founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hoping the tubas, trumpets, and trombones would be used to carry on New Orleans' vibrant musical tradition.

Meanwhile, the second half of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival got under way.

As Bennett shook hands with students and posed for photographs, some of the $100,000 worth of instruments were laid out on a table at KIPP Believe College Prep, a public charter school established after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city in 2005. The school is one of five KIPP charter schools serving roughly 1,000 of the city's students since Katrina.

"This means instruments will be available to these students for years to come, to continue making music history in New Orleans," said Bennett, who was treated Thursday to performances of "Free Spirit Overture" and "My Funny Valentine" by the school's symphonic and Jazz bands.

"These kids are amazing. What I heard today was real music. They played with feeling, with such heart," the 82-year-old Bennett said.

The donation effort was set in motion by a Jazz fan from New York who won a "Big Give" contest hosted by Oprah Winfrey's magazine. The winner, Barry Jaffin, wanted to use his $5,000 in winnings to put instruments in New Orleans schools.

Bennett and a host of charitable groups such as Music Rising and the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation got on board with the cause.

"We were all very excited," said 13-year-old Deon Butler, a 7th-grade trumpet player who performed in both the symphonic and Jazz bands for Bennett. "Out of all the schools in the U.S., he came to hear us."

Bennett, a 15-time Grammy winner, released his signature "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" in 1962 and remains a popular performer.

Bennett was accompanied Thursday by his wife, Susan Benedetto, who runs the couple's New York-based Exploring the Arts program, which contributed to the instrument donation. On Friday, Bennett performed at Jazz Fest, which kicked off its second weekend that day.

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