About Special Music School High School

Summer Entrance Auditions – July 25, 2023

Special Music School/M. 859 is New York's only K-12 public school that provides intensive music education during the school day, including fully-funded instrument lessons, music classes and ensembles along with academics.

Founded in 1996, Special Music School is a unique public/private partnership between Kaufman Music Center, which is responsible for the music program, and the New York City Department of Education, which provides the academic program. The music program is fully funded by Kaufman Music Center through private contributions. Each year, 335 students from across New York City receive this education without the financial barriers usually associated with the study of music.

A small and individually focused learning environment, Special Music School High School ‘s unique approach gives young musicians the opportunity to pursue serious, pre-professional, performance-focused music studies along with a rigorous academic curriculum – all during the school day. In addition to helping students build strong core skills as musicians, the school prepares them to comfortably improvise and compose, to understand and utilize music technologies, to collaborate with other musicians, and to celebrate and perform the music of living composers. An internationally recognized music faculty works one-on-one, in small groups, and in ensemble rehearsals with students, helping them grow, learn and excel.

Special Music School students have been featured on NPR’s “From the Top” and have won top prizes in the Sphinx Organization Competition, the YoungArts Competition, and many other U.S. and international competitions. They have performed with the iconic Kronos Quartet, Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell, Pulitzer Prize and multi-Grammy Award winner Caroline Shaw, flute legend James Galway and opera star Ailyn Pérez, and have appeared on The Kelly Clarkson Show, GMA3, NPR, The View, and the BBC. During the pandemic, Special Music School students made an album in collaboration with Grammy nominee Nathalie Joachim and published a best-selling children’s book about the pioneering Black composer Florence Price.

Special Music School is a diverse community drawing students from all five boroughs. The high school admits 50 students per grade, for a total enrollment of 200 students. The High School is located at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Complex on Amsterdam Ave. at 65th St.

Colleges and Conservatory Admissions Officers, please direct your inquiries regarding Special Music School to Patricia Skelly at pskelly@specialmusicschool.com.

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