The High School of Music & Art

Not to be confused with High School of Art and Design.
The High School of Music & Art
443-465 West 135th Street
New York, New York
United States
Type Public Magnet High school
Established 1936
Founder Fiorello H. LaGuardia
Closed 1984
Principal Richard A. Klein (1969–1987)
Grades 9–12
Campus urban
Color(s) purple & light blue
Nickname M&A
Merged with High School of Performing Arts
To form Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & the Arts

The High School of Music & Art, informally known as "Music & Art", was a public high school at 443-465 West 135th Street, New York, New York, USA, that existed from 1936 until 1984, when it merged into the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & the Arts.

Colloquially known as "The Castle on the Hill," the building that once housed Music & Art is located in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem, near the campus of the City College of New York and St. Nicholas Park. The building now houses the A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, a "magnet school" of the New York City Department of Education.


New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia started the high school in 1936, an event he described as “the most hopeful accomplishment” of his administration.[1] As the mayor of New York City he wanted to establish a public school in which students could hone their talents in music, art and the performing arts. Music & Art was made up of three departments: Art, Instrumental Music, and Vocal Music. It was a "magnet" school, meant to draw talented students from all boroughs. In 1948, a sister school — the High School of Performing Arts — was created in an effort to harness students’ talents in dance.

Future Mad magazine contributors Al Jaffee, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin, and Al Feldstein all attended Music & Art together in the 1930s.[2]

R. O. Blechman, Milton Glaser, Ed Sorel,[3] and Reynold Ruffins[4] — three of the four co-founders of the renowned design firm Push Pin Studios — were M&A students in the 1940s. Other M&A graduates from the 1940s include Bess Myerson, Allan Kaprow, and Hal Linden.

Notable graduates from the 1950s included Gloria Davy,[5] Diahann Carroll, Susan Stamberg, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Yarrow, Susan Strasberg, Tony Roberts, James Burrows, and Erica Jong.

Notable M&A graduates from the 1960s include Peter Hyams, Steven Bochco, Robbie Conal, Diane Noomin,[6] Lesley Ann Warren, and Margot Adler; while notable graduates from the 1970s include musicians Paul Stanley[7] and Kenny Washington.

Notable M&A grads from the 1980s include writers Jonathan Lethem[8] and Lynn Nottage, and hip-hop musician Slick Rick and concert violinist Braighdan O'Hara.

Merger with Performing Arts

As per Mayor LaGuardia's vision, Music & Art and Performing Arts merged on paper in 1961[9] and were to be combined in one building. However, this took many years and it was not until 1984 that the sister schools were merged into a new school, the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, at a new building designed by Eduardo Catalano in the Lincoln Square area of Manhattan. The Board of Education posthumously honored Mayor LaGuardia by naming the new building after him.

Architectural significance

The 1924 gothic revival building was designed by William H. Gompert, Architect & Superintendent of School Buildings for the New York City Board of Education, to house the New York Training School for Teachers. The Training School became the New York Teachers Training College from 1931 to 1933. That school was abolished during the Depression when there was a surplus of teachers for the city's school system, and Mayor LaGuardia used the opportunity to create the High School of Music & Art.

Architecturally, the building blends in with the older gothic revival buildings of the City College campus, designed by noted architect George B. Post around 1900 to create a setting that came to be known as “the poor man’s Harvard.”

Music & Art students and graduates often referred to the building as "The Castle on the hill," a reference to the design of its gothic towers, and the decorative gargoyles done in a quirky and playful style that the Landmarks Commission report describes as “finials in the shape of creatures bearing shields.” The tower rooms have dramatic acoustics, which Music & Art used as choral practice rooms. The large gymnasium features large Tudor-arch-shaped windows on two sides that at certain times during the day stream sunlight into the room. The auditorium has excellent acoustics, and features diamond-shaped amber windows that during daylight cast a warm glow on its dark wood interior. The iron ends of the auditorium seats have a casting with an image of the Tudor window arches in the gymnasium.

The building won status as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1997.[10] According to the Landmark Commission report, this was not an expensive building for its time, and many of the structural components (like the staircase bracings in the stairwell) were left exposed to save money. Yet lots of thought went into humanizing the space and creating a good environment for learning, with plenty of natural light and air, expansive collaborative spaces, and lots of playful decoration thrown in for good measure:

The five- and six-story (plus basement and central tower) L-shaped [building] was designed in an abstracted contemporary Collegiate Gothic style and clad in limestone and mottled buff-to brown iron-spot brick, with large window bays filled with unusual folding-casement steel sash windows. Exterior articulation, divided vertically by pavilions, buttresses, and square towers, also differentiated the model school and training school portions, as well as a "churchlike" wing housing an auditorium, above which is a gymnasium.

Notable alumni

Note: anyone who graduated after 1984 is considered a graduate of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, not Music & Art


  1. Steigman, Benjamin: Accent on Talent -- New York's High School of Music & Art. Wayne State University Press, 1984 LCCN 64-13873.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Mark Evanier, Mad Art, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2002, ISBN 0-8230-3080-6.
  3. Grimes, William. "Art; The Gripes of Wrath: 25 Years of Edward Sorel". The New York Times. (May 16, 1993).
  4. "LaGuardia Arts Alumni," LaGuardia High School official website. Accessed Dec. 26, 2014.
  5. "Obituary: Gloria Davy". Opera News. December 3, 2012.
  6. Noomin profile, UF Conference on Comics & Graphic Novels 2003: Underground(s)]. University of Florida. Retrieved on 2008-01-30.
  7. "Nicki Minaj Forbidden From Meeting Students at Her Old High School: "I Guess I'm Not Good Enough", E! Online, September 14, 2014.
  8. Reed Tucker, "Fame’s Honor Roll", New York Post, September 20, 2009.
  9. "LaGuardia Arts: The .Mission". LaGuardia High School website. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  10. Landmark designation for the New York Training School for Teachers From Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  11. Biography at Stanley Aronowitz official website. Accessed March 16, 2016.
  12. Sorel, Edward. "1999 Hall of Fame: R.O Blechman, Advertising/Illustration". The Art Directors Club. Archived from the original on December 8, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  13. 1 2 BERNSTEIN, FRED A. "Charles Gwathmey, Architect Loyal to Aesthetics of High Modernism, Dies at 71," New York Times (AUG. 4, 2009).
  14. "Obituary: Amy A. Kass". Chicago Tribune. August 21, 2015.
  15. Hannah, Jim (20 November 2014). "A Bronx tale". Wright State University. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  16. KILIAN, MICHAEL. "Playwright tells intimate tales: Lynn Nottage wrote 2 works simultaneously," Chicago Tribune (June 17, 2004).

Coordinates: 40°49′06″N 73°57′00″W / 40.818379°N 73.95005°W / 40.818379; -73.95005

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