Special Music School


Founded in 1996, Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center (M859) is a citywide K-12 public school for musically gifted students. The school combines intensive instrumental study with a rigorous academic program, providing a strong foundation for a lifetime of music without compromising academic studies. Modeled on the renowned special music schools of the former Soviet Union, Special Music School successfully ensures that music is a primary component of each student’s education.

Special Music School represents a unique public/private partnership between Kaufman Music Center, a nonprofit multi-arts organization, and the New York City Department of Education. The Department of Education funds the academic portion of the students’ education. The music program is fully funded by Kaufman Music Center through private contributions. As with all public schools, tuition is free to residents of the five boroughs of New York City.

Academics and Music

Special Music School offers a rigorous academic curriculum in a holistic learning environment that encourages children to make connections between all forms of knowledge, from music to mathematics.

Every child in grades K–8 has two private lessons per week on an instrument in addition to at least three other music classes, which might include Theory, Chorus, Dalcroze Eurhythmics or Music History, and a performance class—all taught by distinguished music professionals. Approximately three-quarters of each student’s time is spent on academic subjects. The curriculum is based on New York State and New York City learning standards.

In grades 9-12, students experience rigorous college-prep academics combined with an intensive conservatory-prep music education, where music is an integral part of the daily academic experience. The school prepares students to be critical thinkers, autonomous learners, contributors to intellectual communities and 21st Century musicians.

Parental support and involvement are very important due to the extra challenges presented by the dual focus of the curriculum on both music and academics. Parents also help support the school through service and voluntary contributions.

Grades K-8

Special Music School is intended for students who exhibit strong musical potential and whose parents feel that music should be a primary component of their children’s education. Students must live in one of the five boroughs of New York City to be eligible. Each year, the school accepts a new kindergarten class, and there may additionally be a limited number of places for students in grades 1-8. Acceptance of K-2 students is based solely on an assessment of musical giftedness through a series of age-appropriate individual and group activities relating to music; no prior musical training is necessary. Children applying for grades three and above will have an instrumental audition.

Grades 9-12

The high school updates the traditional model of classical music education in order to prepare students for the multifaceted and diverse opportunities available to today’s musicians. At a time of rapid change in the professional music world, we are committed to putting our students on a professional music path that will answer the demands of 21st century music. In addition to helping students build extremely strong core skills as music makers, SMS High School prepares them to improvise and compose as well as perform, understand music technology and collaborate with other musicians both in small and large groups while providing meaningful experience working with living composers.

Open to SMS eighth grade graduates as well as students from all five boroughs of New York City, the high school admits 50 students per grade beginning with ninth grade.  For information call 212 501 3395.

Application Information

To apply, please complete our new online application.