Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
Manhattan NY 10023
A haven for artists with a nice racial mix
The days are packed
LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts is a highly selective, widely acclaimed school that trains students for the country's best art schools and music conservatories, as well as for conventional academic colleges and universities. The eight-story building opened in 1984 with the merger of two older schools, the High School of Music and Art and the High School of Performing Arts, made famous by the movie "Fame." Students take a regular academic course load and as well as three to four periods a day of their chosen art specialty: drama, dance, vocal music, and instrumental music or studio art, and the newest specialty, technical theater, in which students learn aspects of stagecraft such as lighting and costume and set design. Professional artists, including musicians from the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Opera, teach studio courses.
There is a spirited energy to the building that comes from having a large group of kids who are passionate about their work. On our visit, we heard an 80-member choir sing a beautiful gospel number in 4-part-harmony, listened to kids record music they wrote themselves in the school's recording studio, and watched while kids made costumes on sewing machines in the basement. Art majors developed photos in a photography dark room and painted oil portraits and still lives on canvas.
LaGuardia offers a wide range of courses in the arts. It has eight dance instructors, six vocal groups, six orchestras, jazz and concert bands and studio art courses that include photography, lithography, sculpture and print-making. LaGuardia fields more than 20 sports teams, including gymnastics, swimming and co-ed fencing. A hyperactive alumni association has raised a $6.2 million endowment, which is used, among other things, to offer college scholarships to graduates.
The size of the school can be overwhelming for some kids, particularly in their first semester as they are getting used to their routines. Juggling a full academic load with three or four hours a day of classes in an art specialty is tough. And, however conscientious the teachers may be, it's hard to get a lot of individual attention in a class of 34 students. But for many kids with a passion for art, the positives outweigh the negatives. The school not only is racially diverse, but also includes kids from different income levels and neighborhoods. The school is about 70 percent female and has many openly gay and lesbian students.
Principal Kim Bruno has raised academic standards in recent years by requiring prospective students to have a strong academic record as well as a talent. The school offers a traditional academic program. Students are assigned to "honors" or regular classes depending on their level of achievement. Some classes are lively, with lots of discussion among the teachers and students, while others are more by-the-book. For example, an English teacher demonstrated Plato's allegory of the cave by turning off the lights and having kids read by flashlight recreating cave-like conditions. However, some parents complain that students don't do enough writing in English and social studies.
Teachers in the math department, which has an exceptionally strong assistant principal, seem to have found a way to both challenge kids at the top and to motivate kids who aren't naturally drawn to math. Students who don't plan to take calculus may take a course called "discrete math" that involves fun problem solving. Advanced math students may take AP calculus and AP statistics. Most science courses at LaGuardia are based on preparation for the Regents exams. As a result, teachers tend to rely on textbooks, and there is not a lot of time devoted to independent research projects. The assistant principal for science hopes to add research classes in the future as part of an honors program which began in September 2006 for all subjects, starting in 9th grade, called DaVinci.
College admissions: More than 95 percent of graduates go on to 4-year colleges, and of those about 30% go to conservatories or art schools including Cooper Union, Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, Berkelee School of Music, Rhode Island School of Design, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent graduates attend Ivy League colleges including Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, or other highly competitive schools such as Vassar College, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago. Many students go on to CUNY and SUNY schools. Dancers sometimes choose to go straight into professional performing, postponing college until their prime dancing years are over.
Special education: A small number of learning disabled students receive special education services and are fully integrated into regular classes.
Admissions: Prospective parents and students may see a performance at the school in October. Students are selected based on auditions and portfolios. Their academic and attendance records are also closely scrutinized with most incoming students scoring at least a "3" level on their 7th grade standardized exams. Auditions are held from November through December. (This school is featured in NYC's Best Public High Schools: A Parent's Guide.Clara Hemphill, March 2007)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
A challenging conservatory approach in ballet and modern dance. Supplementary courses include: dance history, choreography, theatre dance (tap and jazz), career management and survival skills.
Participants study sight singing, music theory, and music history. This studio performing groups include four symphony orchestras, two concert bands, two jazz bands, and three musical pit orchestras. Participants also the the opportunity to compose, conduct, and perform original repertoire.
Participants study sight singing, music theory, and music history. This studio performing groups include Elementary, Mixed, Girls, Womens, and Senior Choruses; Gospel Choir; Show Choir; and an opera production. Participants receive training in Italian, German, and French vocal literaure. Music electives include chamber music, guitar, music technology, and songwriting.
Practical training in scenic carpentry, lighting technology, costume construction, sound properites, stage management, technical drawing, and design. Students participate in both the production and performance aspects for the various school events.
Theater preparation through courses in acting, voice and diction, physical techniques, theater history and script analysis.
Two years training in traditional skills and disciplines, which include drawing, painting in water-based media, graphic design, and painting in oils and acrylics. After taking the core art courses, students take advanced courses in the subjects listed and with other elective offerings such as architecture, art history, ceramics, computer graphics, mural painting, photography, print making, and sculpture.
French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Art History, AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP French, AP Human Geography, AP Italian, AP Japanese, AP Music Theory, AP Physics, AP Psychology, AP Spanish, AP Statistics, AP Studio Art, AP US History, AP World History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Fencing, Gymnastics, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Gymnastics, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Volleyball