Harlem School Of The Arts, Advancing The Educational And Career Prospects Of Its Students

For more than a half-century, the Harlem School of the Arts has built a reputation as one of the most respected, multidisciplinary cultural institutions in New York City. The organization, located at 645 St. Nicholas Avenue, in the historic Hamilton Heights section of Harlem, provides a robust, comprehensive arts curriculum. It reaches over 10,000 individuals through a variety of public and community programs, and through its community outreach. HSA has become a lead provider of arts programming in NYC partner schools, community centers, housing developments and other local organization and institutions as well. Over 800 students annually, enroll in dance, music, theatre, art & design, as well as classes in digital media at HSA.

In recent years, the organization has experienced a boost in its national standing as one of the premiere arts education facilities in the country. That is due in part, to the consistently high number of students who transition through its training programs and into competitive performing arts high schools, top-ranked colleges, universities, conservatories, and careers in the arts. One can attribute this to HSA’s highly selective pre-professional, merit-based program; to the rigorous training, master classes, college and specialized high school application workshops, and to the mentoring, career preparedness, and performance opportunities offered as enhancements to the arts curriculum offered by the organization.

Over 600 students took part in the 2019 College Fair, and met with representatives from over 28 of the nation’s top ranked colleges, universities, and conservatories. Juilliard, NYU, Pratt Institute, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory and Cleveland Institute of Music were among the institutions represented.

In 2018, HSA introduced its first College Fair. It allowed students who could not otherwise afford the expense of college visits/tours – a one-stop-opportunity to meet with representatives from top academic institutions right in Harlem. A year later, the HSA College Fair doubled its student attendance, as well as the number of participating schools and moved its College Fair to the Forum at Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus. Over 600 students took part in the 2019 College Fair, and met with representatives from over 28 of the nation’s top ranked colleges, universities, and conservatories. Juilliard, NYU, Pratt Institute, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory and Cleveland Institute of Music were among the institutions represented.

As a complement to the College Fair, HSA has created enhanced workshops, focused on helping students improve critical skills for college admissions. Masterclasses taught by special guests such as Alicia Graf Mack, Director of the Juilliard Dance Division, and Ingrid Silva of Dance Theatre of Harlem augment rigorous training offered in the HSA Dance Department, one of five certified schools in the world offering the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) National Training Curriculum. The organization has also partnered with important arts and academic institutions such as Disney and the Jazz Museum in Harlem on programs to both inspire and amplify educational and cultural experiences. As well, HSA has provided career readiness and performance opportunities for those serious about careers in the arts. These public appearances, at a variety of events and venues around the city (prior to COVID, now virtual), allow students to experience the professional world of entertainment, build discipline, patience, and maturity.

This year alone – HSA partnered with Pratt Institute on an interactive virtual presentation centered on Preparing a Portfolio, that featured a discussion with Pratt fine arts BFA student, Deven Alexander and alumnus, Mario A Robinson. HSA teamed with The Juilliard School to host a program on, Preparing for College Auditions, with guest speaker, Kathleen Tesar, Juilliard Associate Dean for Enrollment Management. The organization joined The Harlem Chamber Players, under the leadership of Liz Player, in hosting a panel discussion on Careers in Music with – bassoonist Monica Ellis a member of Imani Winds; Gary Padmore of the New York Philharmonic; Titus Underwood of the Nashville Symphony; Weston Sprott of the Juilliard School; Liz Player, Executive and Creative Director of The Harlem Chamber Players; music director and composer Andrew Sotomayor, and moderated by Hassan Anderson, the Chamber Player’s director of educational programming. The Harlem Chamber Players also presented A Masterclass and Student Performance led by noted violinist Amadi Azikiwe via Zoom and in partnership with HSA@Home, for music prep students, that included a discussion on mastering the audition process and tips for delivering a captivating performance. The performance was conducted by HSA teaching artist, violinist Majid Khaliq.

Earlier this year Berklee’s Masters on the Road series made a virtual stop at the Harlem School of the Arts providing a music clinic followed by a Q&A session with members of the Berklee College admissions office. The group was led by Berklee alumnus, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, jazz saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenon, with pianist Alec Shulman from Los Angeles; trumpeter Bastien Rieser from Munich; bassist Gonn Shani from Caesarea, Israel; and drummer Roni Kaspi from Tel Aviv.

Jazz for Young People on Tour, a partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center, underwritten by the Herb Alpert Foundation, has brought outstanding jazz artists to the organization, to perform in a series of concerts that were based on Wynton Marsalis and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – Let Freedom Swing: conversations on jazz and democracy – a series of in-school concerts that included performances by HSA’s Jazz Ensemble.

…Dorothy Maynor’s vision that access to a quality arts education and world-class training is a right, not a luxury. She believed this access empowered and enhanced a child’s “academic achievements by developing self-confidence, discipline and learning skills”.

HSA’s executive leadership and Board of Directors place enormous value on what happens to the students under their care, once they have moved beyond the mantle of the organization. Their success is a representation of the organization’s success, living up to its founding principles, and Dorothy Maynor’s vision that access to a quality arts education and world-class training is a right, not a luxury. She believed this access empowered and enhanced a child’s “academic achievements by developing self-confidence, discipline and learning skills”.

Over the past 56 years, the organization has had a nearly 100% rate in college acceptance among high schools seniors enrolled in programs at HSA, with many receiving full or partial scholarships.

Over the past 56 years, the organization has had a nearly 100% rate in college acceptance among high schools seniors enrolled in programs at HSA, with many receiving full or partial scholarships. Today, HSA boasts an impressive and growing list of alumni. Recently HSA introduced, “How I Did It”, a Zoom conversation between HSA president Eric Pryor and select alumni telling their transition stories from college to careers – a way to help students navigate through the challenges that may lie ahead and provide insight on their transition. The series has thus far interviewed two rising stars; former HSA dance student, Bronx native Tiffany Mellard — a graduate of Florida State University whose career included a role in the international tour of West Side Story, the national tour of Chicago, and local production of the musical, Memphis, before landing in the San Francisco production of Hamilton the Musical; and former music student award-winning multi-instrumentalist, Gabrielle Garo. Since leaving HSA, Ms. Garo has shared the stage with jazz legend Eddie Palmieri, The Christian McBride Big Band, Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Esperanza Spalding, Arturo Sandoval, rapper T.I. and more recently, with Lizzo at the 2020 Grammy Awards, among her many accomplishments.

The full breadth of the Harlem School of the Arts experience is not simply captured in the quality of training and the freedom offered, to find and develop the artist, student and citizen within – it is found in the commitment that the organization invests in the success of each student in their care, from the moment they enter the 37,000 square foot facility to the time they leave and beyond.

This Fall, the organization will unveil its new $9.5-million-dollar renovation, underwritten by Herb and Lani Alpert through the Herb Alpert Foundation. When students return to safe, in-person classes at HSA, under guidelines from New York’s Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and local officials, they will be greeted by a spectacular transformation in the physical appearance of the building. Students, however, can expect continuity in the exceptional, robust multidisciplinary curriculum and the added value support it provides, that has set the organization uniquely apart, among the premier arts institutions in New York City.


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HSA’s virtual Fall classes are forming soon. To learn more, visit HSANYC.org. Come find your passion, explore your creativity, discover your gift for music, dance, theater, art & design.

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Harlem World Magazine is a lifestyle and brand for anyone who has a Harlem state of mind, dedicated to news, history, the renaissance and stories that celebrate our lifestyle.

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