Special Music School
Rigorous musical training and strong academics, expanding to become k-12
Many hours spent practicing doesn't leave much time for play-dates
The Special Music School offers intense musical training along with rigorous academics. It's tough to get in—some 400 children audition for just 15 kindergarten seats—but for those who are admitted the opportunities are extraordinary.
The school has evolved from its original mission—to replicate the strict focus of the music schools of the former Soviet Union—into a school that balances musical training with academics, music theory, and music history, said Principal Katherine Banucci-Smith. The school's academic test scores are among the highest in the city.
Banucci-Smith, principal since 2010, graduated from Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied voice. As a child she played violin. She was formerly assistant principal at River East Elementary School.
The New York City Department of Education is responsible for the academic classes, while the Kaufman Music Center provides students with full music scholarships. The curriculum includes two private instrumental lessons each week and group classes in music theory, solfège (ear training), music history, and chorus. At the end of 5th grade all students must audition to be readmitted to the middle school, and only a very small percentage leave.
Originally serving grades K-8, the school has expanded to include grades 9-12. The high school is housed in the Martin Luther King Campus nearby. For admission in grades K-2, no previous musical training is necessary. However, parents are supposed to ensure that their children practice every day.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There is a special education teacher who works with individuals, and small groups of children, who need extra assistance, to help them stay in the general education classroom.
ADMISSIONS: Open houses are offered four times a year. Testing for kindergarten begins in September. Children are asked to clap, sing, and move to music; they are assessed based on their pitch, sense of rhythm, and musical memory. The school occasionally has seats for children in upper grades. For 9th grade, preference is given to continuing 8th-graders and then to the rest of New York City by audition, grades, test scores and an interview. Applications are available online at www.kaufman-center.org/sms or by calling the school. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and school data, September 2016)
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Programs and Admissions
Special Music School offers students the opportunity to major in Instrumental Music, Voice, or Composition. Students receive approximately 10 hours of music instruction throughout the week. Professional musicians lead large ensembles, chamber groups, and private study. Students work with visiting artists through master classes. Upperclassmen choose from a variety of interest-based electives including Orchestral Conducting, Entrepreneurship, Recording and Production, Jazz History and Theory.
Boys PSAL teams
Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Handball, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball, Wrestling
Girls PSAL teams
Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Flag Football, Handball, Indoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball, Wrestling
Coed PSAL teams
Manhattan NY 10023