One of the first few businesses in the Whitestone neighborhood, the Landrum School of Performing Arts was established in 1948 by Frances Landrum — one of the original 36 Rockettes, according to current owner and director Annette Vallone.
About 38 years ago, the founder asked Vallone — who began classes at the school at age 3 and had just been accepted to the Rockettes — to take over.
“I had to make a huge decision at 18 years old that affected the rest of my life,” Vallone said. “And I’ve never regretted it.”
Upon taking over, Landrum asked Vallone to maintain the program quality, customer service and sense of family she created there decades ago. The new leader agreed.
“She was a special lady,” Vallone said. “[She was] a dancer, teacher and businesswoman and when all of that was not very fashionable.”
Over the years, the school has taught a number of noteworthy performers. Shirley Temple, Ben Vereen, Tommy Tune, Tony Danza and Drea DiMateo are among the standout roster. The school has also produced a number of Rockettes, Broadway dancers, Hollywood producers and casting directors.
Gina Teri and Katherine McQuade — assistant director and dance instructor at the school, respectively — are two former students who have also gone on to succeed in the performing world. Teri has danced in music videos, modeled and appeared in the soap opera “All My Children,” and McQuade was recently crowned National American Miss.
With 40 to 45 classes running every week, the Landrum School today offers an astounding variety of dancing, singing and acting programs, including ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary dance, acrobatics, stage and on-camera acting and more. Classes are offered for children, teens and adults.
“You have a choice of a little, or absolutely everything,” Vallone said. “We have the gamut.”
The school’s acting program is the newest addition, the director continued. Though it’s merely five years old, it has already produced some up-and-coming actors and models, including Sophia Agresta, Vincent Kimmel and Katerina Pappas.
To accommodate the school’s constant expansion, the Whitestone space recently went through a massive remodel and enlargement, which included the addition of a 100-seat, fully operational theater.
“We have some incredible families who have helped build the school along the way,” Vallone said. “Today, we have kids coming to us from all five boroughs and Long Island.”
Staff and students at the school also dedicate time toward volunteering. The group raises funds for groups including the Ronald McDonald House, Light the Night and Dancing Dreams and performs at various community events, including the Whitestone tree lighting and Bayside holiday parade.
“We’re very much community-orientated,” Vallone said. “Landrum is definitely an amazing tradition. The longevity of the school is an amazing thing.”
The Landrum School is located at 11-02 Clintonville St. Registration for the next season of classes, which will be the school’s 70th, begins Sept. 6. For more information, call 718-767-9787 or visit their website or Facebook page.