Frank LaSpina feels confident that if not for the support of his childhood singing teacher, he would’ve ended up an unhappy lawyer instead of headlining across the U.S. and the Las Vegas Strip.
“His tutelage changed my life,” LaSpina says. “I thought to myself, ‘If he can change my life like that, wouldn’t it be great if I could do the same?’”
That’s why LaSpina, a veteran entertainer known for his decades as a TV and radio show host, now dedicates his time and energy to a single purpose.
That would be the nonprofit Musical Arts Scholarship Program LaSpina created in 2006, focused on providing talented youth in need with free lessons for singing or playing musical instruments.
To date, the program has provided free lessons — as well as funds for students’ costuming and other performance needs — for 250 kids, youths and young adults up to 24 years old.
The program has launched many to break into musical careers, including one being signed by prominent producer Quincy Jones.
To fund it all, LaSpina stages one-of-a-kind concerts each month at The Smith Center, which are increasingly building a core audience.
“My every waking moment is dedicated to this,” he says.
LaSpina’s idea for the nonprofit sparked after viewing a documentary about Venezuela’s nationwide initiative giving children free music lessons.
“They saw their academics rise and their delinquency drop,” he says.
Recognizing that arts programs are conversely disappearing across the U.S., he felt inspired to provide this quality arts education to students himself.
He reached out to an acquaintance, philanthropist Katherine Ferguson, who instantly agreed to support free lessons for local students who couldn’t otherwise afford them.
“The word ‘no’ was not in her vocabulary,” he says. “Everything we did was because of her.”
No Ordinary Fundraiser
To maintain his scholarship program, LaSpina has returned to his roots as an entertainer.
Word has spread quickly about his monthly tribute shows at The Smith Center, which are fundraisers unlike any other.
Each show offers performances of beloved hits by different musical icons, backdropped by a large-scale projection of fascinating photos, videos and stories about them.
“We do copious research,” LaSpina says. “Audiences love the stories as much as the re-creation of the musical numbers.”
The shows have highlighted stars such as Perry Como, Dean Martin, Cole Porter and Sammy Davis Jr.
While LaSpina initially performed the artist’s tunes himself, they are now crooned by young adults in the scholarship program, who LaSpina handpicks by their incredible talent.
Not only does this hone their skills, but helps introduce young performers to past musical eras.
“As one of my teachers told me, every hour on stage is worth 10 in the practice room,” LaSpina says. “Imagine you’re a 19, 20-year-old kid and you’re starring at a show at The Smith Center. It’s a thrill beyond description.”
A Growing Impact
When LaSpina isn’t preparing the shows, he is giving music and piano lessons to scholarship recipients, or helping coordinate lessons with other prominent talents.
Beyond teaching Southern Nevada students, he has started supporting students out-of-state – and he aspires to help every music student who needs him.
“I won’t stop until we’re doing this across the country,” he says.
Support the Cause
To purchase tickets to upcoming fundraiser concerts for LaSpina’s Musical Arts Scholarship Program, visit www.TheSmithCenter.com.
To contact LaSpina about his program, call 702-469-3902 or email [email protected]