Recent Passings:

Richard Klein, Retired Faculty

We are deeply sorry to announce that Richard Klein died on June 27th, at the age of 94. He was Principal of the High School of Music and Art and simultaneously of The High School of Performing Art. He presided over the unification of the two schools in 1984, which created Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts (about which the movie Fame was based). Under his leadership, the successor school became what is arguably the finest public high school of the arts in the United States.

Richard’s contribution to public education in the arts extended beyond New York and he subsequently was a founder and the first Principal of the New World School of the Arts in Miami and, after that, a director of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Thus, there are many generations of students who have benefited from his visionary insights into the importance of integrating arts and academic education within the public sphere.Richard Klein’s commitment to students and their education for many decades and in different iterations has affected the sensibilities and lives of thousands of young people, including many who did not become arts professionals, but gained an enhanced appreciation the arts.

He will be greatly missed.


Bella Tabak Feldman, M&A '46

Bella Feldman passed away May 6, 2024. She was 94 years old. Bella Tabak was born in 1930 in New York City, to a family of working-class Jewish immigrants from Poland and grew up in the Bronx. She attended The High School of Music & Art and graduated in 1946. Feldman is known for pioneering the use of glass with steel. Her work has affinities with Surrealism, Post-Minimalism and the Feminist Art movement. Feldman has won numerous awards for her work, and her sculpture is featured in private and museum collections, including the Fine Arts Museum of Scan Francisco, the di Rosa Preserve, Napa, CA, and the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Feldman was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts’ Individual Artists award in 1986, received Distinguished Artist Awards from Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA (2004), and Women’s Caucus for Art(2005).  A fifty-year survey of her work took place at the Richmond Art Center in 2013.


Barbara Erde Mandell, M&A '52

Barbara Jean Mandell passed peacefully at her home in West Stockbridge, MA, on April 17, 2024. She was 89. Barbara was born in Oil City, PA, and grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She was a graduate of the High School of Music & Art and Hunter College. After a career teaching in the New York City public school system, Barbara retired to her beloved Berkshires where she resided for over forty years. Her home away from home was Tanglewood, where she volunteered as an archivist and delighted in attending concerts of the BSO, chamber ensembles and student orchestras. Barbara had an encyclopedic knowledge of classical music and the uncanny ability to at the drop of a hat sing any number from the Great American Songbook. A voluminous reader, she volunteered to make audio recordings of books for the blind.


Ronald Burns, M&A '59

Ronald Burns passed away on April 24, 2024 in Copenhagen. Originally from New York City, Ronald Burns grew up in an environment that nurtured his artistic talents. He attended the High School of Music & Art and graduated in 1959. He gained recognition for his supernatural subject matter, inspired by the Surrealist movement spanning the period between 1924 and World War II. Following his education at the School of Visual Arts, he relocated to Denmark in 1965. There, he quickly became associated with the artistic community centered around Galerie Passepartout, showcasing his deeply symbolic, distinctive works in 1966. Most recently his work was displayed in the exhibition “Nordic Utopia? African Americans in the 20th Century” at the Nordic National Museum.


Casey Benjamin, LaG '96

Casey Benjamin died on March 30 in Maryland. He was 45. Casey Benjamin was born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York, where he learned to play saxophone at the age of 8. He went on to study music at the Harlem School of the Arts and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, performing with local jazz crews, New York mainstays like Arto Lindsay, and, later, Robert Glasper, with whom he collaborated in the late 1990s before joining the first iteration of Robert Glasper Experiment in 2004. He also formed the funk outfit Heavy with Nicole Guiland in the 2000s. As well as performing live solo shows, Benjamin built a formidable list of collaborators, on record and on the road, in jazz, rap, and R&B, as well as further afield; in interviews, he alluded to working with Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nas, and Arcade Fire.


Barbara Kahan, M&A '58

Barbara Kahan (nee Kusher) passed away on March 29, 2024 at the age of 82. She attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated in 1958. Barbara was a loving and devoted daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. She enjoyed a varied and interesting career and made many new friends when she moved to Mercy Ridge in 2017. With her beloved husband of 60 years, Gerald (Jerry) Kahan, she enjoyed a full and wonderful life filled with family, friends, domestic and international travel, music, ballroom dance, plus loads of fun, laughter, and love. She will be greatly missed by her family and many friends.


Julie Belafonte, M&A '46

Julie Robinson Belafonte died on March 9 in Los Angeles. She was 95. Julia Mary Robinson was born on Sept. 14, 1928, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. She attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan (now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts), where she was an art student. Around the age of 16, Ms. Robinson won a scholarship to the newly opened Katherine Dunham School of Dance in Manhattan and left high school to pursue a dance career. She soon worked her way up to student-teacher at the school; among her students were Marlon Brando and Alvin Ailey, who was to gain fame as a dancer, choreographer and director. Belafonte was best known for her work in the civil rights movement alongside her husband during their 50-year marriage. Alongside her husband, Belafonte joined in the fight for civil rights, including taking part in the legendary marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of voting rights.  Belafonte also fundraised for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and co-founded its women’s division. In her later years she produced two documentaries: “Ritmo del Fuego” (2006), about African cultural heritage in Cuba and the Caribbean, and “Flags, Feathers and Lies” (2009), about the resilience of the Mardi Gras Indian tradition in New Orleans.


Corinne Greenberg, M&A '45

Corinne Phyllis Greenberg died in Miami, FL on March 17, 2024 from natural causes. Corinne Greenberg, nee Zuckerman, was born in New York City on December 26, 1928, and raised in the Bronx with her brother Donald Zuckerman. Her love of music was lifelong, playing both the piano and flute as a child; she graduated from the High School of Music and Art with a major in voice and later studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music. Corinne believed deeply in the importance of philanthropy as a way to enhance the lives of the underprivileged. As long-time directors of The Starr Foundation, she and her husband Maurice R. Greenberg sought to support countless medical, social, and cultural institutions around the world, but particularly in New York City where she and her husband proudly resided. Corinne was also Chair of the National Board of Young Audiences/ Arts-for-Learning, having started serving on their board in 1984. As a strong proponent of public education, she cherished this work because she believed in the transformative power that the performing arts can have on children from all walks of life.


Joyce Hardley Brady, LaG '93

Joyce Elaine (Hardley) Brady peacefully departed this world on February 12, 2024, in Queens, New York, at the age of 48. Joyce pursued a career in nursing, becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse through the Vocational Education and Extension Board on January 6, 2004. She was an invaluable member of the healthcare industry, dedicating 20 years to serving her community at Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Highland Care, and Bridge View Nursing Facility in New York.  Beyond her professional career, Joyce was a kindhearted, generous, funny, and talented individual who had a deep love for music, particularly gospel and R&B. She had a passion for dancing and singing, which she cultivated while attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School.


Leonard Sirowitz, M&A '50

Leonard Sirowitz passed away at home in Manhattan on Monday, March 4, 2024 surrounded by his loving family. The son of Abraham and Sadie Sirowitz, Len was born in Brooklyn in 1932, grew up in The Bronx, and met the love of his life, Mickey, at the High School of Music & Art in 1950. After graduating from Pratt Institute, Len had an illustrious career at Doyle Dane Bernbach at the height of the creative revolution, and led his own agency, Rosenfeld, Sirowitz, Humphrey & Strauss for nearly three decades. A giant in the field, Len was known for his groundbreaking ad campaigns for consumer products and political causes. In retirement, he pursued his passion for drawing at the Art Students League.