Jerome L. Greene Foundation Awards $300K Grant to Special Music School High School


The grant will support groundbreaking music programs for teens at a high school offering a new model for 21st century music education.

Mentorship & Faculty
Entrepreneurship & Leadership
Community Engagement
Music Technology
Private Lessons & Chamber Ensembles
Performance Opportunities

Kaufman Music Center is pleased to announce that the Jerome L. Greene Foundation has become a Benefactor of the Center’s Special Music School/M. 859 (SMS). The Foundation joins an illustrious list of institutions supporting the SMS music program, which includes the Edwin Caplin Foundation, The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

The $300K grant, paid over three years, will support innovative music programs at Special Music School High School, a NYC public school that teaches music as a core subject alongside a rigorous, Regents-based, academic curriculum. The school is a unique public-private partnership between the New York City Department of Education, which provides the academic curriculum, and Kaufman Music Center, a music education and performance nonprofit that provides the music program and faculty. Founded in 1996 as a K-8 program, Special Music School expanded into the high school grades in 2013. Its first two graduation classes achieved 100% graduation and college acceptance rates in 2017 and 2018.

“Music education in New York City’s public schools is an area that is underfunded and all but forgotten,” says Chris McInerney, President and CEO of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation. “We believe strongly in the transformative power of the arts. Music is a vital part of arts education and we couldn’t be more proud to partner with Kaufman Music Center to support the SMS music program.”

“Kaufman Music Center is so grateful that the Jerome L. Greene Foundation shares our vision of making this forward-thinking education accessible to young New Yorkers from all backgrounds,” says Kate Sheeran, Executive Director of Kaufman Music Center. “Their generous support will help us to continue to educate future leaders through music.”

SMS High School is a new model for music education unlike traditional performing arts high schools. Its extensive music curriculum emphasizes the development of the student as a musician for the 21st century, redefining the traditional model of music education in order to prepare students for the multifaceted and diverse opportunities available to music makers today.

In addition to helping students build strong core skills as musicians, SMS High 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. SMS students explore music theory, history and entrepreneurship, and use music to make connections with the world around them. Students apply contexts and concepts learned in academic classes to music, while also bringing the focus, concentration, discipline and goal-oriented thinking honed by music to the study of academic subjects like history and math.

With a student body that reflects the diversity of NYC, SMS High School emphasizes access and inclusion, offering students a comprehensive music education, including private lessons, at no cost to students’ families. Currently, 25% of its students come from low-income households. The grant will enable Kaufman Music Center to continue helping to re-shape the demographic makeup of the professional music world in the future by making changes in public education today.

The Jerome L. Greene Foundation grant to SMS will expand the school’s forward-thinking music programs in these areas:

Mentorship & Faculty

SMS High School students study with the finest music educators in NYC, many of whom also have varied performance careers in an around NYC. Students have access to world-class artists who serve as mentors and role models, including the celebrated performers Joshua Bell, James Galway, Kronos Quartet, ETHEL, Helga Davis, Orli Shaham, Shai Wosner, Cho-Liang Lin, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Tamás Varga, Martha Mooke, Julian Martin and Met Opera stars Ailyn Pérez and Gabriella Reyes as well as composers David Lang and Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw, and faculty from The Juilliard School and the Mannes School of Music. The grant will expand masterclasses, workshops, performances, presentations and artist residencies.

Entrepreneurship & Leadership

As young people aspiring to enter many professions, today’s high school students must learn to navigate a crowded and rapidly-changing marketplace where communications and marketing savvy can strongly impact one’s success. Through professional development training, workshops and hands-on experience, SMS students gain experience in the fields of event production, marketing, public relations and fundraising while developing leadership skills. The grant will build on this program to train the leaders of tomorrow.

Community Engagement

SMS High School encourages students to use their art to connect with the world around them. The grant will support a new course in community engagement that empowers young musicians to bring their music to diverse audiences in non-traditional settings. A key component of community engagement is partnerships. Recent partners have included Harlem Arts Alliance, Queens Museum, The Jazz Gallery, the Tokyo Philharmonic and Oberlin Conservatory’s Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble.

Music Technology

Recording and production classes at SMS High School introduce young musicians to state-of-the-art technology, expanding their horizons for music-making and developing important job skills. The grant will support enhanced opportunities for students to create and record their own music.

Increased Support for Private Lessons and Chamber Ensembles

The grant will increase access to free or heavily subsidized private lessons to students at SMS High School, the only public school in the country to offer private instrument and voice lessons for credit as part of its core curriculum. SMS is also the only performing arts/music high school with a robust chamber music program: Students study and perform in different chamber groups such as string quartets and piano trios, brass quartets and mixed ensembles. In addition to the instrumental and vocal majors offered by other performing arts high schools, SMS students also have the option of majoring in composition, guitar and piano. 

Performance Opportunities

SMS students have unparalleled performance opportunities at the school and Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Hall as well as other prominent NYC venues. The grant will enable SMS to increase its busy schedule of performances by its many ensembles and vocalists, including large-scale performance projects in Merkin Hall.

Kaufman Music Center – Transforming Lives through Music
Kaufman Music Center is where music lovers, from students and curious fans to renowned performers, come together to explore their musical passions. Founded in 1952 as a community music school, today’s Kaufman Music Center is home to Special Music School, a K-12 public school that teaches music as a core subject; Merkin Hall; Lucy Moses School, New York’s largest community arts school; and the acclaimed youth new music ensemble Face the Music.

The Jerome L. Greene Foundation
The Jerome L. Greene Foundation supports select programs that make a significant impact on the lives of all New Yorkers in the areas of the arts, education, medicine and social justice. The Foundation’s 40-year history is grounded in the vision of its founder, Jerry Greene, to give back to the city he loved. Today the Foundation honors his commitment by continuing to fund quality organizations throughout New York and by identifying new ways to increase access to the arts and education, create opportunity for ground-breaking medical research, and help ensure social justice for all.  

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