High School of Music & Art

The High School of Music & Art, informally known as "Music & Art" (or "M&A"), was a public specialized high school located at 443-465 West 135th Street in the borough of Manhattan, New York, from 1936 until 1984. In 1961, Music & Art and the High School of Performing Arts (est. 1947) were formed into a two-campus high school. The schools fully merged in 1984 into the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & the Arts.

The High School of Music & Art
443-465 West 135th Street

New York
New York

United States
TypePublic specialized school High school
FounderFiorello H. LaGuardia
PrincipalRichard A. Klein (1969–1987)
Color(s)burgundy & light blue
Merged withHigh School of Performing Arts
To formFiorello 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, in the campus of the City College of New York across the street from 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][3] Comic book artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, did as well, though they were slightly younger than Jaffee and the rest.

R. O. Blechman, Milton Glaser, Ed Sorel,[4] and Reynold Ruffins[5] – three of the four co-founders of the 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,[6] Diahann Carroll, Susan Stamberg, Jonathan Tunick, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Yarrow, Tony Roberts, James Burrows, Erica Jong, Felix Pappalardi, and Jeremy J. Shapiro.

Notable M&A graduates from the 1960s include Peter Hyams, Steven Bochco, Robbie Conal, Graham Diamond, Maira Kalman,[7] Bob Mankoff,[8] Diane Noomin,[9] and Margot Adler; while notable graduates from the 1970s include musicians Paul Stanley[10] and Kenny Washington.

Notable M&A grads from the 1980s include writers Jonathan Lethem[11] and Lynn Nottage, and hip-hop musicians Slick Rick.

Merger with Performing Arts


As per Mayor LaGuardia's vision, Music & Art and Performing Arts merged on paper in 1961[12] 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 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.[13] 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 much thought went into humanizing the space and creating a good environment for learning, with plenty of natural light and air, expansive collaborative spaces, and much 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: students who graduated after 1984 are considered graduates 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. ^ a b c d e f Mark Evanier, Mad Art, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2002, ISBN 0-8230-3080-6.
  3. ^ "Mad Magazine's AL JAFFEE". acast. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  4. ^ Grimes, William. "Art; The Gripes of Wrath: 25 Years of Edward Sorel". The New York Times. (May 16, 1993).
  5. ^ "LaGuardia Arts Alumni," Archived 2014-04-08 at archive.today LaGuardia High School official website. Accessed Dec. 26, 2014.
  6. ^ "Obituary: Gloria Davy". Opera News. December 3, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Master of the Month: Maira Kalman from IllustrationFriday.com
  8. ^ Mankoff, Robert. "Comics: Meet the Artist," (transcript), Washington Post (November 5, 2004).
  9. ^ Noomin profile Archived 2016-06-23 at the Wayback Machine, UF Conference on Comics & Graphic Novels 2003: Underground(s)]. University of Florida. Retrieved on 2008-01-30.
  10. ^ "Nicki Minaj Forbidden From Meeting Students at Her Old High School: "I Guess I'm Not Good Enough", E! Online, September 14, 2014.
  11. ^ Reed Tucker, "Fame’s Honor Roll", New York Post, September 20, 2009.
  12. ^ "LaGuardia Arts: The .Mission". LaGuardia High School website. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  13. ^ Landmark designation for the New York Training School for Teachers Archived 2017-03-01 at the Wayback Machine From www.nyc.gov. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Esposito, Mike, in Stroud, Bryan D. (2008). "Mike Esposito interview (part 1)". The Silver Age Sage. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2009. I went to the High School of Music & Art ... in HarlemAdditional, June 16, 2012.
  15. ^ Biography Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine at Stanley Aronowitz official website. Accessed March 16, 2016.
  16. ^ Sorel, Edward. "1999 Hall of Fame: R.O Blechman, Advertising/Illustration". The Art Directors Club. Archived from the original on November 20, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  17. ^ Bolle, Frank. "Frank Bolle". National Cartoonists Society. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2015. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. June 23, 1924 and started drawing on any scrap of paper I could find.
  18. ^ Rigdon, Walter (1966). The Biographical Encyclopaedia & Who's Who of the American Theatre. New York: J.H. Heineman. p. 402.
  19. ^ Diane Nottle (December 11, 2018). "Alvin Epstein, Actor, Director and Master of Beckett, Dies at 93". The New York Times.
  20. ^ BERNSTEIN, FRED A. "Charles Gwathmey, Architect Loyal to Aesthetics of High Modernism, Dies at 71," New York Times (AUG. 4, 2009).
  21. ^ Alumni Notes (Alumni & Friends of Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Spring 2018), p. 6.
  22. ^ Roberts, Sam (September 10, 2019). "Susan Kamil, a Top Book Editor and Publisher, Dies at 69". The New York Times.
  23. ^ "Obituary: Amy A. Kass". Chicago Tribune. August 21, 2015.
  24. ^ Hannah, Jim (20 November 2014). "A Bronx tale". Wright State University. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  25. ^ KILIAN, MICHAEL. "Playwright tells intimate tales: Lynn Nottage wrote 2 works simultaneously," Chicago Tribune (June 17, 2004).
  26. ^ Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna da (2019-02-11). "Nancy B. Reich, Scholarly Champion of Clara Schumann, Dies at 94". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-10-24.
  27. ^ Grimes, William. "", The New York Times, April 27, 2010. Accessed December 28, 2023. "Upon graduating from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan in 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, which assigned him to a unit that trained pilots."
  28. ^ McBride, Jerry (2008). "Richard Taruskin". Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources. Archived from the original on 30 January 2021. Retrieved 24 September 2021.

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