Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center
Principal: Katherine Banucci-Smith
129 West 67th Street & 122 Amsterdam Avenue
Award: Outstanding School
Describe your school’s core educational philosophy.
The Special Music School prepares musically gifted children for professional music careers while recognizing that not every student will choose such a career. The underlying philosophy of the school is the belief that music education for gifted pupils requires extensive opportunities to work with an outstanding instrumental faculty on a one-to-one basis, have a structured, sequential music curriculum, provide opportunities for students to perform before audiences, and have a program of close interaction between general academics and musical studies.
Tell us about a few of the school’s achievements or distinguishing programs.
We are most proud of the spirit of passion and dedication that inspires the work of our students and teachers each and every day. This passion and dedication is best exemplified by the growth of our new high school program. We opened our doors at the Martin Luther King Educational Complex with our first class of 50 freshmen in the fall of 2013. Currently, the school enrolls approximately 150 students in grades 9-11. With the establishment of the high school program, Special Music School is the city’s only K-12 school that teaches music as a core subject.
We are proud of the school culture we have developed… Students discuss important issues in engaged Town Halls and perform for each other as ensembles in a friendly, popular music cover competition called “Cover Me.” We are sending our first musical group abroad this December to play in France as part of the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21). Over the past three years, our music program has hosted numerous performances and master classes by professional musicians, and played host to a three-month residency by composer and violist Martha Mooke. This year, the high school will produce and perform its first opera and will hold its first-ever concerto competition and winner’s concert, in conjunction with Contemporaneous, a professional orchestra.
What do you love about your school?
Finding the Special Music School was as close to finding home for me. I grew up with music as an essential aspect of my childhood that blossomed into a passion… Unlike my own upbringing, where music stayed at home and was occasionally performed for a group of strangers, music lives in the walls of SMS. Students share this passion along with the joys and heartache it brings.