Just before she sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Oakland A’s game on Jewish Heritage Night, Antonia Bennett will recall a key singing lesson her famous father taught her.
Her famous father is legendary crooner Tony Bennett. And she’s singing at the Jewish heritage game on Tuesday, July 30 because she’s a Jew.
Antonia Bennett, 39, converted to Judaism recently after several years of deepening fascination and study.
“It’s been a wonderful experience for me on many levels,” the L.A.-based singer said. “It’s given me a lot of confidence and spirituality in my music. Having a connection to God and the community has been wonderful for me.”
One of her teachers has been Rabbi Yosef Langer of Chabad of San Francisco. A friend introduced them and it’s been a student-teacher shiduch ever since.
“Rabbi Langer was instrumental,” she recalled, “and one of the first people I spoke with when I became more serious [about Judaism]. I don’t consider myself a Chabadnik, but they resonate with me, because everything comes from a very spiritual place.”
Accompanying Bennett on her spiritual journey has been her husband, Ronen Helmann, whom she married in April. Helmann is Israeli, and the couple’s visits to the Holy Land have proved deeply moving to Bennett.
She called Tel Aviv a cross between Brazil and New York City. “I haven’t spent as much time there as I would like to, but it’s overwhelmingly beautiful and the people were so wonderful to me,” she said.
And then there’s Jerusalem. “Going to the Western Wall,” she said, “was completely overwhelming and awesome. There are no words to describe the feeling of standing there.”
In her professional life, Bennett is more likely to don a slinky red dress than a floor-length skirt. The youngest of Tony Bennett’s four children, she took up singing and acting as a kid and never stopped.
Bennett attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in West Hollywood. She recorded a 2010 six-song CD titled “Natural,” followed by the full-length album “Ordinary Girl” last year.
A singer of what she labels adult alternative/pop, she has performed on many stages, from Radio City Music Hall to South by Southwest, including doing countless gigs with her dad — whom she considers her hero.
“He’s 86 and he sounds fantastic,” she said. “He’s blessed for sure, but he’s also an incredibly hard worker. He goes non-stop and we’re all trying to keep up with him.”
When it came to becoming a Jew-by-choice, Bennett said her family has been nothing but supportive. Her Catholic Italian-American father and Christian mother left it to her to find her own spiritual path.
Meanwhile, she’s gearing up for her gig in Oakland before the A’s play the Toronto Blue Jays.
Though she’s performed in stadiums before, Bennett said she has never sung the national anthem at a baseball game. She’s a bit wary of the “slapback” (her term for the reverberating echoes), but she figures she’ll be fine if she follows her father’s breathing tips.
Which reminded her of another one of his lessons.
“If you sing the words ‘I love you,’ ” she said, “be sure you mean them.”
For information on Oakland A’s Jewish Heritage Night, see Jpick on page 26.