A haven for artists with a nice racial mix
The days are packed
Talented kids travel from distant corners of the city to study at the star-studded Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts. One of the most diverse and sought-after schools in the city, LaGuardia educates children of movie stars along with children poor enough to qualify for free lunch.
Students take a regular academic course load as well as two to three hours a day of their chosen art speciality: drama, dance, vocal music, instrumental music, studio art, or technical theater (which includes lighting, costume and set design). There are tons of performances ranging from opera to musical theater and a wide range of sports teams. The days are packed: Classes typically run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. With up to three hours of homework a night and rehearsals after school and even during school vacations, sleep deprivation is a common complaint.
The academics are traditional and the quality of teachers ranges from excellent to should-have-retired-long-ago. Students are assigned to "honors" or regular classes depending on their level of achievement. Some classes are lively, with lots of discussion among the teachers and students, while others are more by-the-book. Parents say the math, English and social studies departments are strong, while science is somewhat weaker. The school offers a wide range of Advanced Placement courses and offers Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese as foreign languages. Some parents complain that writing assignments in English and history tend to be short journal entries or responses to readings, rather than long research papers.
The eight-story building opened in 1984 with the merger of two older schools, the High School of Music and Art and the High School of Performing Arts (made famous by the movie "Fame.") The size of the school can be overwhelming for some kids, particularly in their first semester as they are getting used to their routines. And, however conscientious the teachers may be, it's hard to get a lot of individual attention in a class of 34 students. More than one quarter of kids complained in the Learning Environment survey t hat teachers didnt know their names.
Still, most kids are happy to be here. There is a spirited energy to the building that comes from being around students who are passionate about their work. On one of our visits, we heard an 80-member choir sing a beautiful gospel number in 4-part-harmony, listened to kids record music they wrote themselves in the school's recording studio, and watched while students made costumes on sewing machines in the basement. Art majors developed photos in a photography dark room.
[In 2013 long-time principal Kim Bruno announced that she was leaving LaGuardia for a job as the principal of the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles, California. Lisa Mars, former Assistant Principal of Language, Art and Music at Townsend Harris High School became principal.]
The school has attracted some celebrity children in recent years, including the offspring of Madonna, Robert De Niro and Suzanna Vega. It has a nice mix of white, black, Latino and Asian students as well as kids from all five boroughseven the southernmost tip of Staten Island. Nearly 30 percent of students qualify for free lunch. The student body is more than 70 percent female and has many openly gay and lesbian students.
College admissions: Most students go on either to 4-year liberal arts colleges or to conservatories including Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, Berkelee School of Music, Rhode Island School of Design, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent graduates attend Ivy League colleges including Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, or other highly competitive schools such as Vassar College, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago. Many students go on to CUNY and SUNY schools. Dancers sometimes choose to go straight into professional performing, postponing college until their prime dancing years are over.
Special education: Fewer than one percent of students have Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The school has very limited special education services.
Admissions: Auditions are held from November through December and are highly competitive. In addition to talent, students must have good attendance, strong academics, with at least an 80 in each of their core academic courses and a Level 2 or higher on standardized ELA and math tests. Most admitted students score a 3 or 4 on state tests.
LaGuardia refused our repeated requests to visit. This report is based on interviews, a review of data, news reports and several prior visits to the school, most recently in 2007.(Clara Hemphill, updated November 2011)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
The first two years comprise of training in traditional skills and disciplines, which include drawing, painting in water-based media, graphic design, and painting in oils and acrylics. After taking the core art courses, students take advanced courses in the subjects listed and with other elective offerings such as architecture, art history, ceramics, computer graphics, digital media, fashion illustration, mural painting, photography, print making, and sculpture. Applicants must bring a portfolio of 8-15 pieces of original artwork done in a variety of media. The artwork should be from observation, imagination, and memory, and labeled appropriately. Photographs - not originals - of three-dimensional (3D) works may be included. For the audition, applicants will be given three drawing assignments, including drawing the human figure from observation, drawing a still life from memory, and creating a drawing in color, based on imagination. All drawing materials for auditions will be supplied by the school at the audition.
Dancers receive four years of challenging conservatory-style training in ballet and modern dance through block programming. Supplementary courses include: anatomy, dance history, choreography, theater dance (tap and jazz), career management, repertory, and professional skills. Applicants participate in both a ballet class and a modern dance class. Applicants must wear ballet shoes and fitted black dance attire. Applicants are evaluated for their potential to succeed in the specific training offered.
Participants study sight singing, music theory, and music history. This studio's performing groups include four symphony orchestras, two concert bands, two jazz bands, and two musical pit orchestras. Participants also have the opportunity to compose, conduct, and perform original repertoire and utilize a state-of-the-art SoundLab recording studio. Applicants should prepare a solo selection to perform without accompaniment and bring one copy of the music they plan to perform. Applicants should bring their instruments to the audition, except those auditioning on piano, percussion, tuba, double bass, and harp. These instruments will be provided by the school at the audition. Amplifiers will also be provided at the audition for electric guitarists. Applicants will be tested for rhythm and tonal memory and will be asked to complete a sight-reading of a given selection.
Participants study sight singing, music theory, and music history. Students receive training in Italian, German, and French vocal literature. This studio's performing groups include Elementary, Mixed, Girls, Women's, and Senior Choruses; Gospel Choir; and Show Choir. In addition there is an annual full-scale opera production. Music electives include chamber music, guitar, music technology, piano, and songwriting. Applicants should prepare a song to sing without accompaniment for the audition. The musical selection can be classical or popular in style. In the audition, applicants will be asked to sing back melodic patterns and tap back rhythmic patterns. LaGuardia High School has a suggested online song list (www.laguardiahs.org). Applicants are not required to select from the song list.
The Drama program focuses on acting preparation through block-programmed courses in acting (Meisner and Stanislavsky method), voice and diction, physical techniques, theater history, musical theater, acting on film, career management, and script analysis. Students have numerous opportunities to perform in professional theater spaces throughout their four years, culminating in our Senior Drama Festival. Applicants should be prepared to perform two contrasting one-minute monologues. Applicants will be asked to do an impromptu reading and participate in an interview. Attire should allow free movement since applicants may be asked to demonstrate how well they move physically.
In block programs, students receive practical training in scenic carpentry, electrics, lighting technology, costume construction, sound properties, stage management, technical drawing (AutoCAD and Autodesk 3DS Max), welding, career management, and design. Students participate in both the production and performance aspects for the various school events. Students may earn transferable college credit through SUNY Potsdam. Applicants are expected to bring a prepared 3D design model/diorama for presentation, along with a photograph of the diorama. Applicants will be asked to participate in a small-group, hands-on practical in one or more aspects of technical theater.
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
French, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Italian Language and Culture, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP Calculus AB, AP Music Theory, AP 2-D Art and Design, AP United States History, AP Statistics, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP World History: Modern, AP French Language and Culture, AP Physics 1, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP Psychology, AP Biology, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Art History, AP Japanese Language and Culture, AP Calculus BC, AP Environmental Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP Computer Science Principles, AP Chemistry, AP Human Geography
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Fencing, Gymnastics, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Volleyball
Contact & Location
100 Amsterdam Avenue
Manhattan NY 10023
Trains: to 66th St-Lincoln Center; , to 72nd St; , , , to 59th St-Columbus Circle
Buses: BxM2, M10, M104, M11, M12, M20, M31, M5, M57, M66, M7, M72, X12, X14, X30, X42
This school is in its own building.