In January 2017, Tara García Mathewson published an article on the EducationDIVE website, stating that some of New York City’s highest-performing students spend much of their time studying music.
These students attend the Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center, a public school founded in 1996 as a public-private partnership, which includes children from kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12 or 4-19 year-olds).
The curriculum at the Kaufman Music Center, New York City’s only K-12 school with music as a core subject, includes an intensive music education that begins in kindergarten. But the focus on music doesn’t detract from other subjects as the School’s standardised test scores prove. The School’s students routinely rank among the highest in the city on mathematics and English language exams.
Lydia Kontos, executive director of the Kaufman Music Center, says that music helps students understand deferred gratification, and she counts this as one of the key learning advantages of music. She says it provides a good parallel to other academic subjects, for example, practicing a song mirrors the individual effort required to complete a mathematics or English homework. What’s more, music education, like other core subjects, can start very early and can be built upon as students develop greater capacity as they progress from year to year.
The principal of the Special Music School at the Kaufman Music Center, Katie Banucci-Smith, says the rigorous music programme teaches students how to read music, listen, respond and collaborate. It creates inquiry-minded students who question, argue and think critically.
The school, on New York City’s Upper West Side and open to students across all five of the city’s boroughs, is unique, but Kontos hopes it won’t always be considered ‘special’. “I think every child deserves to learn music,” she said, “just like every child deserves to learn how to read and do math.”