Brooklyn High School of the Arts
Brooklyn NY 11217
Talented students; great support from arts organizations & doors open to the community
Still working to make academics as engaging for students as the arts
Brooklyn High School of the Arts offers solid academics and exciting opportunities for students to learn and perform outside their classrooms. Enrollment is growing, an ambitious administration is eager to bring the school on par with the city's premiere art high schools and is reaching out to the surrounding community with an open door policy. Attendance is good; the graduation rate is high; and the number of graduates considered "college ready" is higher than the city average. There is a well-deserved buzz about the school, now dubbed Brooklyn Arts.
The school takes advantage of its location in downtown Brooklyn to offer frequent field trips to the nearby Brooklyn Academy of Music and other theaters and museums. One group performed for the cast of the hit Broadway show Hamilton. Drama students were among only five schools chosen to participate in the Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival; the jazz band and choir have been award-winners in state competitions. A visual arts student's work was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum; her teacher was recognized as one of the five best art teachers in city schools.
Singer Tony Bennett's foundation Exploring the Arts offers paid student internships and donates professional lighting. The school also gets support from the Carnegie Hall Foundation, Cooper Union, and Parsons School of Design.
Students may major in vocal music, instrumental music, dance, drama, or visual arts. A musical theater program begins in 10th grade and, unlike some other arts high schools, students may take classes outside their majors. Most students take two arts classes a day.
Impressive student artwork lines the hallway gallery, contrasting with 1930s WPA murals in the handsome, historic building. A "gallery" class helps students prepare a portfolio to present for admission to arts schools such as Parsons.
Daniel Vecchiano, former assistant principal of the arts, became principal of the school in 2016 after longtime leader Margaret Lacey-Berman left for a position at the Department of Education headquarters. In response to students' complaints that their classes aren't challenging, he is working to strengthen academic offerings, while maintaining the school's strength in the arts.
At Vecchiano's initiative, Brooklyn Arts became a part of District 15, a district known for lively instruction in elementary and middle schools. Instead of reporting to the high school superintendent, he now reports to the District 15 superintendent. He and his team visit the district's high-performing middle schools, meet with their leaders, and invite their students to high school productions.
To increase student engagement, most classrooms are now set up for students to work collaboratively and take part in class discussions, particularly in English and history, Vecchiano said. He has upped the number of Advanced Placement courses the school offers.
Drama classes integrate lessons in history and current events: Students created a historical play based on videos they filmed and edited of family and neighbors discussing their memories of key events from the 1960s. After the 2016 election, students interviewed parents and others about why they voted and turned their responses into monologues.
Brooklyn Arts welcomes the surrounding community: The public is invited to free live-in-HD Met opera screenings in the elegant auditorium. There is a monthly lecture series; a Columbia professor talked about climate change, at another, a Broadway actress spoke about her career.
Students with high grade point averages and good attendance are part of a VIP program getting such perks as being allowed to go out to lunch.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Brooklyn Arts offers SETTS and Integrated Co-Teaching classes. About 14 percent of the students receive special ed services.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: Graduates attend a range of arts schools such as Berklee College of Music, Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Others go to SUNYs, and private schools such as Sarah Lawrence College and Johnson & Wales University.
ADMISSIONS: Priority goes to Brooklyn residents but the school is open citywide and looking to attract students from all boroughs. An audition is requested but about 20 percent of students are admitted without auditioning, with a review of their arts grades and scores. Experience is not necessary. "If there's raw ability, we'll teach you," said Vecchiano, himself a working musician. (Pamela Wheaton, interviews, January 2017)
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Programs and Admissions
Visual Art classes, including Foundational Art, Advanced Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and Senior Portfolio Preparation class.
Intensive program which will develop the students technique, creativity and expression while teaching the musical literature of the classical and popular genres of Western culture.
Technique classes in ballet, modern and jazz; two years of specialty classes in choreography, composition, and pointe.
Intensive study of music theory, vocal production and performance; a repertoire that includes classical, jazz, gospel, and folk.
Students will have the opportunity to explore a vast spectrum of theater work, including acting, voice and diction, movement, theater history, set design, directing and creating original work
Chinese (Mandarin), French, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP English, AP Human Geography, AP US History, AP World History
Boys PSAL teams
Girls PSAL teams