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About SMS High School

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

A small and individually focused learning environment, SMS High School ‘s unique approach gives talented young musicians the opportunity to pursue serious, pre-professional, performance-focused music studies along with a rigorous academic curriculum – all during the school day. SMS High School’s music curriculum emphasizes the development of the student as a musician for the 21st century, updating the traditional model of music education in order to prepare students for the multifaceted and diverse opportunities available to music makers today. Music courses explore music theory, history, technology and entrepreneurship, as well as other emergent topics.

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. An internationally recognized music faculty works one-on-one, in small groups, and in ensemble rehearsals with students, helping them grow, learn and excel.

Founded in 1996, Special Music School represents a unique public/private partnership between Kaufman Music Center, which provides each student with a unique and robust music program, and the New York City Department of Education, which provides the academic curriculum. The music program is funded by Kaufman Music Center through private contributions.

Distinguished by its rigorous academic program and exceptional music offerings, 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.


Special Music School was inspired by the distinguished pianist and educator Vladimir Feltsman, who, along with Kaufman Music Center Founder and Executive Director Emeritus Lydia Kontos, was instrumental in establishing the school as a partnership between Kaufman Music Center and the New York City Department of Education. The School began in 1996. In 2013, Special Music School High School opened. We are very proud to be celebrating 25 years of transforming lives through music at Special Music School this year!


Colleges and Conservatory Admissions Officers, please direct your inquiries regarding Special Music School to Patricia Skelly at