Long before the popular “Glee” or “Billy Elliot”, the movie “Fame” has captivated millions of people around the world with the stories of the young artists who were eager to be admitted in the reputed “High School of Performing Arts” in New York, a school that, 40 years after the premiere of the tape, is more alive than ever.
With more than 3,000 students, the secondary education center, now called “Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School,” having joined with another institution in 1984, is described as a “lifeguard” or “the best site on the face of the earth” by the people who spent a good part of his adolescence in their classrooms, learning to dance, sing, act, paint, sculpt or photograph.
“You have to love what you do for wanting to go to the center, and once you’re inside, you have to work hard, but then not everyone ends up being an actor or a singer”, explains to Efe Zoe Schneider, the director of the Association of Former Students of the “LaGuardia Arts”, to be known as the reputed institute public, that can only be accessed after overcoming tough auditions.
It is the same school that inspired the american producer David De Silva to create the film “Fame”, which reached the cinema for the first time on 12 may 1980 with a dynamic plot and a soundtrack that is catchy and that, with the success, was then transformed in a series of six seasons in the 80’s swept away on the small screen.
The tape had the ravages of aspiring dancers and actors Coco Hernandez (Irene Cara), Bruno Martelli (Lee Curreri), Lisa Monroe (Laura Dean) or Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray), among others, in an attempt to reflect the harsh reality of the tens of thousands of people that have passed through the halls of LaGuardia, and that they move in a world that is extremely competitive.
Among his proteges in real life, the school is proud to have been to figures of the stature of Jennifer Aniston, Adrien Brody, Nicki Minaj or Sarah Michelle Gellar, along with stars most recent as Timothée Chalamet, Ansel Elgort, Azealia Banks, Awkwafina, or Zazie Beetz.
During the 40 years that have passed since the “LaGuardia” became, thanks to the tape, in the center of the secondary “more famous than US”, the college has had no fear in accepting his association with “Fame”, as attested to by the soundtrack of the film which you can listen to the phone call to the education center.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ART IN EDUCATION
Since the founding of the institution in 1936 by the initiative of the then mayor of New York, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, it has been proven constantly the importance of young people to receive an artistic education outstanding.
“All the studies have shown that studying art or study music helps your brain and helps you learn how to do other things, such as developing critical thinking”, emphasizes Schneider on the academic plan of the institute, in which the students spend half their day to academic subjects and the other half to develop their talents, so they have a school day two hours longer than normal.
The director of the association of former students, who graduated from the institute in 1989, writes that the film gives you a glimpse pretty realistic of what life is like for a student of “LaGuardia”, although it points out that the tape is “a drama and not a documentary”.
“People are not skipping classes or disrespecting teachers. That is the difference with the film,” argues Schneider, who with your organization manages more than 160 funds funded by alumni, which fund certain “luxuries” of this public school, as the live music that is used in each dance class, or singing, instead of recorded music.
STUDENTS MORE PREPARED
What has changed, for the professor of English LaGuardia Angelo Valerio, is the preparation of the students.
“Perhaps in the time of Leroy, had more students who wanted to be singers and nothing more to finish the secondary school they wanted to go to be submitted to castings and get a job and they do not return more to study. But (…) now they all are a bit more pragmatic, because the parents want them to have something to fall back on” if, like many, do not achieve their dreams.
Language, for example, are very important for an actor, says Valerio, and points to the success obtained by the players as Chalamet in “Call Me By Your Name”, a piece of paper that says you probably got it thanks to knowing how to speak French.
ART AND MUSIC EVERYWHERE
The vibrant atmosphere in the hallways and classrooms of the center, however, yes that looks like the one that shows the full-length musical.
“Sometimes I think that I have Leroy in my class,” says the professor of filipino descent. “In the cafeteria, they do rap, for example, spontaneously,” he says, although he confesses that the students are not immune to the current omnipresence of mobile phones.
“I think it is a generation that lives part of their day on their screens, which is also a problem and a challenge for the artists, because I don’t know how much creativity occurs hooked to the mobile. We are not immune at LaGuardia,” he admits.
THE PANDEMIC PREVENTS CELEBRATE
To celebrate this 40th anniversary of “Fame”, “LaGuardia Arts,” he had thought out a whole series of events and performances over the 2020, but until now could only be projected in January, the film to all students, before the arrival of the coronavirus.
Now, according to Schneider, are still preparing a “very special celebration” with a great theatrical production, maybe for July or August, although given the situation in New York, it is difficult to give an exact date to the feast, where they want to meet not only current students, but in addition to the long list of former students who have completed working in the entertainment world for all of US, whether on Broadway or in Hollywood.