First rate instruction in drama, dance and voice
Some teachers grumble about boisterous behavior
The Professional Performing Arts School was founded in 1990 as a way to give aspiring actors, dancers, and singers the technical skills they need to become professional performers and the academic skills they need in whatever career they choose. Students receive first-rate training from professional studios and companies, including the Ailey School for dance, Rosie’s Theater Kids for musical theater, the National Chorale for voice and Waterwell for drama.
Graduates include singer Alicia Keys, Jesse Eisenberg (star of The Social Network), Justin Davis (HBO's "Boardwalk Empire) and Sarah Hyland ("Modern Family").
It's a small school where, it seems, no one gets lost. Principal Keith Ryan is a visible presence in the halls and classrooms. The school keeps tabs on students to make sure they do their homework and don’t skip school. Students are chosen mostly according to their artistic talent, with less weight given to grades and attendance, and there is a wide range of academic abilities in each class. Most students graduate on time and most are prepared to do college-level work.
Serving 565 children in grades 6 to 12, PPAS has a tiny middle school, with just 100 kids, about 32 each in grades 6, 7 and 8. All middle school students study drama, singing, and dancing in addition to taking a full academic load.
High school students have academic classes from 8:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., followed by two hours of their major: drama, vocal, dance or musical theater (which combines acting, dancing and singing). Acting and vocal are offered in the building, dancers travel to the Ailey School on West 55th Street, and musical theater majors go to Rosie’s Theater Kids a few blocks away. The school contracts with Waterwell, a professional theater company that produces original plays, to teach PPAS students acting. Some students study at the School of American Ballet or Julliard’s Pre-Collegiate program in classical instrumental or vocal music.
PPAS shares a building with a successful elementary school, Midtown West. The atmosphere is joyful if occasionally boisterous; class changes are lively. On the 2016-2017 School Quality Guide, some teachers grumbled that their colleagues do not help maintain discipline beyond their own classrooms. The principal said the staff is small and there is no dean to manage behavior, but pointed out that surveys show children feel safe in school. We do “let go of some of that disciplinary stuff,” he acknowledged and said it can take awhile for new teachers to “shift to the culture.” Even so, most teachers would recommend the school to other families.
The school has built in more academic rigor over the years and now offers a good selection of Advanced Placement classes. Children we spoke to were fired up about their studies; seniors showed off research projects on topics like sexual harassment and gentrification. We saw a moving monologue on gun control written by student.
A small percentage of students are already working in film, television or theater productions, both on and off Broadway. The school makes accommodations for them to ensure they keep up with their schoolwork but discourages teens leaving school for daytime auditions. The school is more than 70 percent female.
Special education: About 85 students have IEPs, but more than that take advantage of tutoring and extra help offered by community volunteers, peer tutors and special education teachers.
College admissions: A number of PPAS students continue their studies in the performing arts either in 4-year colleges or conservatory programs such as Julliard or Berklee College of Music. The majority heads to 4-year colleges. Top students have been admitted to Yale, Columbia, Oberlin, Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Michigan. One senior who already does commercial work was heading to Los Angeles and planned to get her business degree online, she said.
ADMISSIONS: Open to NYC residents based on audition. There is an evening "showcase" and information session, in addition to tours. Email the parent coordinator for details. (Lydie Raschka, May 2018; admissions update 2022)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
Computer ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
In partnership with Rosie's Theater Kids, students receive pre-conservatory training in vocal music, dance, and acting. All first and second year students participate in an annual musical theater concert. All third and fourth year students perform in an end-of-year main-stage musical production. Audition Location: Maravel Arts Center, 445 W 45th Street.
In partnership with the professional theater company Waterwell, and built around the core values: engagement and empathy. Students take daily conservatory-style class in acting, movement/devising, voice & speech and theater studies. Each grade also participates in supplementary performance projects including classics, new play commissions, and student-created work. Goal is to develop exemplary artists who are equally engaged citizens. Audition Location: PPAS, 328 West 48th Street.
Classical Vocal Music
In partnership with National Chorale, students attend conservatory classes in vocal technique, sight reading, musicianship, ear training, and ensemble singing. Students study an extensive vocal repertory, music history, theory, performance technique, and movement for singers. Students participate in ensemble and solo performances throughout the year. Audition Location: PPAS, 328 West 48th Street.
In partnership with the Ailey School, students follow a course of study with a foundation in ballet and classes in Horton technique, modern (Graham-based) jazz, and West African dance. Audition Location: The Ailey School, 405 West 55th Street.
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English Language and Composition, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP English Literature and Composition, AP United States History, AP Calculus AB
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Handball, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Flag Football, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball
Contact & Location
328 West 48th Street
Manhattan NY 10036
Trains: , , to 50th St; , , , , to Times Square-42nd St; , to 7th Ave; , , to 49th St
Buses: BxM2, M10, M104, M11, M12, M20, M31, M34A-SBS, M42, M5, M50, M55, M57, M7, QM1, QM10, QM12, QM15, QM16, QM17, QM18, QM2, QM20, QM24, QM3, QM4, QM5, QM6, X1, X12, X14, X17J, X21, X22, X22A, X30, X31, X42, X7, X9
This school shares the building with PS 212