My son has recently moved to NYC from Stockholm, Sweden. In Stockholm he attended a wonderful academy of music called Lilla Akademien. My son was born in Sweden and could not imagine his life without his friends and the music they shared. To his great surprise and to his very happy sense of well being. He joined the Special Music School and found that from the first day, he made friends, He has teachers who are dedicated to his learning and the music director J. Undercoffler made sure that my son would not lose all the years of study he has put into his cello. On the first day of school his classmates came up to me and introduced themselves. My son came out of the elevator with the biggest smile on his face and I knew... not only was this a wonderful music school , with inspiring teachers and staff but a place where his sense of well being and his love of music could be shared and grown. The mathematics, ESL and Science are taught by incredible teachers. We could not have imagined a better place for our son.
This is an excellent, specialized school with warm and caring teachers and a freat parent body. We've been very pleased even though the music requires a lot of parent involvement. The musical education is very rigorous, which can be stressful at times, but if your child loves music, they will thrive. The class size is small (15 kids per grade!) and the music teachers are outstanding. Academically, the school seems to do very well. The kids test well and are very creative in many other aspects besides music.
If your kid can get in, and enjoys music then it is like hitting the public school jackpot. Small classes, great teachers, FREE MUSIC LESSONS... No school is perfect but I have loved almost every second of being a parent at this school and my kid has thrived here...and so have most if not all of the others in the class. It is packed with talented teachers (think I said that already but it bears saying again.) I am going to be sad when my kid graduates. What you are really getting here is a private school education for your public school child, if your child is lucky enough to get in. I wish all who apply the best of luck because you and your child will LOVE it
The school is great in every way. They put strong emphasis on friendship and praising, and discourage competition. Still, those who are behind in their music skills, will feel it. Academically, it is ranked second only to Anderson.
I have had a child at SMS for elementary and middle school. We have been overall happy with our child's education and the new principal appears to be addressing many of the concerns regarding differentiated pedagogy and supporting students' social/emotional as well as academic development. The teachers on the most part are dedicated and caring and with continued professional development with help strengthen the program overall. Hopefully the academic staff will remain open to new approaches and ideas. The music program is very rich and, with the support of a good and caring instrument teacher, the children flourish and become confident performers. This is not to say that some children have negative experiences and the school is by no means for everyone. Finding the right fit between teacher and student is important. There is strong communication between administration (both academic and music) and parents. There is a recent attempt at transparency that is refreshing. The students and parent body are fantastic.
This school lacks a consistent academic program. For many years, teachers lacked guidance which resulted in a school where teachers taught to only one type of student assuming that because the children were "musically" gifted that they were also "academically" gifted. The children that didn't fit this profile were given little academic help eventhough class size is so small compared to a regular NYC classroom. With a new adminstrator, things may change. Musically, a child's experience will depend on their music teacher. Some teachers forget that they're still children and place incredibly stressful demands on the kids and their families. There is so much pressure to be the best that some children struggle with confidence when it's time to perform. There is a tendency to pigeon-hole students and focus on a few kids. This school has a supportive parent body and great kids. It should have a great academic program as well.
My child attended this school during the elementary years, then decided to attend another middle school. While the academic side of SMS is very strong with wonderful teachers, the music portion of the school borders on dysfunctional. By the upper elementary years, the students who are considered the most talented (a very small percentage) are the only ones who receive accolades and encouragement. This encouragement comes in the form of opportunities for these few kids to perform more often, take master classes, and be a part of the school's "public face." On the contrary, I have seen 8-10 year olds who aren't at the top exhibit extreme anxiety before performing due to their feelings of inadequacy. Sadly, this didn't seem to alarm any music staff or administration. It seems that the musical side of the school is all about keeping up appearances, and the biggest concern is the reputation of the school and its music faculty and administration. The school could - and should - be so much better. But until SMS's top priority is the child (and not the school's reputation, or what Julliard thinks of it), I can't imagine it will change.
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