Arts

All public school students should have access to high-quality arts education, which may include dance, moving image, music, theater, and/or visual arts. An arts education teaches important life skills, such as creativity, cooperation, discipline, and analysis. Students are able to grow creatively and intellectually by having positive outlets for arts learning and self-expression. Arts teachers and organizations support your child's arts learning in their classroom and school. To learn more about the specific arts opportunities in your child's school, please reach out to your child's principal and/or arts teacher.

Mayor Bill de Blasio added $23 million NYC schools to increase arts education. This money means schools have the following:

  • grants
  • supports for teachers
  • supplies
  • student art celebrations

The Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, PreK-12 guide to teaching and learning for the arts:

  • dance
  • moving image
  • music
  • theater
  • visual arts

Educators: Visit WeTeach for More information about the Blueprints for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, PreK-12.

Student Opportunities

Summer Arts Institute

Summer Arts Institute is a free summer arts intensive for NYC public school students entering grades 8–12 interested in advanced arts study. Students interested in Summer Arts Institute can email SummerArtsInstitute@schools.nyc.gov.

Music

The All-City High School Music Program is open to all NYC public high school students. Students audition for:

  • chorus
  • concert bands
  • jazz ensemble
  • marching band
  • orchestra

Students interested in the All-City High School Music Program can email Will Hakim, All-City Program Manager, at WHakim@schools.nyc.gov

The Salute to Music Program is open by audition to all New York City public school students in grades 4–8. Students audition for the chorus or instrumental programs in their borough. Students interested in the Salute to Music Program can email Catherine McGlone, Arts Program Manager, at CMcglone2@schools.nyc.gov.

Middle School Arts Audition Boot Camp

Middle School Arts Audition Boot Camp is a free two-week arts program for New York City public school students entering eighth grade in September. The program helps students prepare for the audition and screening process required by New York City's high school arts schools and programs. The Middle School Arts Audition Boot Camp accepts up to 350 students. Applicants must apply online and audition in person. Auditions are held in the spring.

If you are interested in the Middle School Arts Audition Boot Camp, email Darleen Garner, Director of Arts Education, Accountability and Support, at DGarner@schools.nyc.gov.

NYC High School Admissions Audition Guides

Learn more about the audition process for high schools offering these programs by reading through the Audition Guides below.

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How to Prepare a Visual Arts Portfolio

The portfolio is a critical part of the audition process for eighth-grade students applying to NYC high schools with special or screened art programs. A thoughtful portfolio shows your strengths and potential for high-school level work.

Always follow the instructions given by the school or program you are applying to for specific guidance. While individual schools may vary slightly in their requirements, the following guidelines will help you assemble a competitive portfolio.

Presentation

You can protect your work and make a good impression by using a sturdy, high-quality portfolio case. A neat and attractive presentation is extremely important. It tells the reviewing committee that you have taken care of your work and that you are proud of it. Include pieces that are:

  • Clean and undamaged
  • Unframed
  • Labeled on the reverse side with: your name, school, title, and date of work
  • In slide form, if the work is a photograph or three-dimensional. Place labeled slides in presentation sleeves.

Content

As you assemble your portfolio, consider these recommendations: Include 10–20 original pieces of artwork completed in either seventh or eighth grade. One of the selections may be a sketchbook of your ideas and preliminary drawings. Do not include copies or "works in the style of" famous artists.

Artwork should be from observation: portrait, figure, interiors, still-life, landscapes, and cityscapes. You may also add some work from imagination and memory.

The work should demonstrate your understanding of composition and the principles of design:

  • unity/variety
  • balance /emphasis
  • rhythm
  • repetition
  • proportion/scale
  • figure/ground

You may select works that are thematic to show an in-depth investigation of an idea or you may include a variety of subjects to show broad interests.

Include a variety of media such as drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, and media-technology to demonstrate your skill with different tools, materials, and techniques.

How to Prepare for a Theater Audition

For most high school theater/drama auditions, you will be asked to prepare two (2), one-two minute monologues. The monologue characters should be age-appropriate. The two monologues should differ in style, for example, one comic and one dramatic. All monologues should be from published plays. Original student writing or internet monologue material is not appropriate. Generally, classical theater or verse such as Shakespeare is discouraged unless the student can reveal real ease with complex language.

You should be coached on the presentation of the monologue for dramatic understanding, characterization, diction, and clarity of communication. If you have an in-school theater teacher, ask for assistance with your preparation. An English teacher may also be able to help.

You should also be prepared to announce their name, monologue selection and the playwright. For example:

"My name is _____. I will be performing one of Anne's monologues from 'The Diary of Anne Frank' by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.

Costume and prop pieces are not appropriate for auditions. The teacher judging the performance wants to see the student to get a feel for the student's talent, interest, and energy. Costumes and props are a distraction.

Audition monologues are available from a variety of print and published sources. Additionally, monologues that are taken directly from plays and edited for your purposes are fine. Listed below are some published monologue books to consider. The following books are available through Amazon or:

The Drama Bookshop
250 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
212-944-0595
The Drama Bookshop website

You should also be prepared to answer questions about why they want to be in a theater program and why the particular program at that school. The teacher judging the performance will want to know that you are committed to this school and the demands of a theater program.

Additionally, you may be asked as part of the audition to participate in theater games or improvisations in order to gauge their ability to collaborate in a group and to be spontaneously creative.

Teachers may call the student back for a separate audition to perform a monologue again. Typically, no additional preparation would be required.

How to Prepare for a Dance Audition

Different schools have different audition requirements. Check your high school directory for specific requirements. In general, students may be required to do any of the following:

  • Participate in a dance class: Dance classes usually involve a combination of ballet and modern dance techniques, though some schools may require separate classes for each style. Some schools may also require students to participate in other forms of dance in the class, such as jazz or improvisation.
  • Perform a solo dance: The solo should show off the student’s best dance and performance abilities. Students should prepare a solo piece of original choreography, although some schools may allow pieces choreographed by someone other than the student. The solo may be in a style other than ballet or modern dance (such as Jazz, African, or Indian Classical dance) if that has been the student’s primary training. Schools may require the solo dance to be anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes in length. In some schools, all students have a chance to perform their solo pieces. In other schools, only students who are called back after the technique class will perform their solo pieces.
  • Complete a written audition. Some schools require students either to write an essay about why they want to attend the school or to take an exam to determine the extent of their dance knowledge.

Dance Criteria is the specific way students are evaluated and varies among schools. However, keep in mind the following criteria:

  • Poise and appearance: as shown through neatness and attentiveness
  • Attitude: Appropriate classroom behavior, showing respect to teachers and peers, a sense of commitment to dance, and a desire to learn
  • Technical ability: Demonstrated achievement in dance technique and the ability to pick up new movement
  • information, take verbal and demonstrated corrections, and revise one’s work on the spot
  • Body alignment: Knowledge of basic anatomical relationships
  • Musicality and rhythm
  • Creativity, as shown in improvisation and the student’s solo choreography
  • Performance skills: The ability to communicate with an audience
  • General understanding of dance, as demonstrated in movement and/or in verbal or written form

Attire: Students should come dressed in appropriate dance clothes for ballet and modern dance work: Footless tights, leotard, soft ballet slippers (no pointe shoes unless specifically requested). Other recommendations:

  • Wear solid colors – no fancy appliqués or patterns.
  • Do not wear midriff-baring outfits.
  • Do not wear baggy shirts or baggy pants.
  • Hair should be neatly pulled off the face in a bun or pony tail if long or neatly combed if short. This applies to girls and boys alike.

Remember to bring:

  • Audition ticket
  • Appropriate dance clothes and shoes
  • A pen or pencil
  • The CD for your solo
  • A light snack and water

NYC Arts and Cultural Institutions

The City of New York is home to more than 700 galleries, 380 nonprofit theater companies, 330 dance companies, 131 museums, 96 orchestras, 40 Broadway theaters, 15 major concert halls, five zoos, five botanical gardens, and an aquarium. Many institutions offer free hours or suggested admission.

Questions to Ask at an Art Museum

Before I enter the building

  • How does the museum relate to the surrounding buildings?
  • What words describe the museum building and its exterior?
  • What’s my general impression of the museum building?
  • What are my expectations of the interior based on my impressions of the outside of the building?

As I enter the museum

  • How does the space relate to my expectations?
  • What has the museum done to make me feel welcomed into the building?
  • Do I want to follow a floor plan or just wander around exploring the museum and be surprised (totally OK)?

In the galleries (as I enter one of the rooms or spaces)

  • What is the mood of the gallery or museum space?
  • What makes me say that? Is it due to the lighting, carpeting, crowds, lack of crowds, the artwork in the galleries, or something else?
  • Is there one work of art that I feel is the focal point of the room or space?
  • What makes me say that?

When I choose to stand before one work of art

  • Why did I select this one work of art to observe?
  • How does it fit into the other works in the gallery or space? (Museum staffs work to arrange works of art in very specific ways.)
  • How could I describe this work to a visually impaired person?
  • What questions do I have about this artwork? (This is not as easy as it seems!)

When watching people

  • Do other museum visitors seem to be gathering around one particular work of art?
  • When I observe the people, are they mostly alone or in groups?
  • Do people look like they are engaged in looking at the art?
  • How are people spending most of their time: reading labels or actually looking at art?
  • This is an optional piece: secondary students may enjoy approaching this through the lens of a sociologist!

Questions to Ask at a Dance Performance

Before I see a dance production

  • What do I know about the company, choreographer, or individual dancers?
  • What do I know about this particular production of this dance work? Is this a new dance or a re-staging of a previous dance?
  • What do others say about this dance production and what do I want to know before seeing it? What dance reviews, informal word of mouth, and publicity items give me more information?

Before entering the dance theater space

  • How, if at all, does the exterior of the theater capture my attention?
  • How does this theater exterior compare to other dance venues that I have seen or are nearby?
  • Who else seems to be attending the show? What is the make-up of the other audience members (for example, age, gender, ethnicity, race, etc.)?

As I enter the dance theater

  • What is the energy of the dance space compared to the street I just left?
  • What senses seem to be most activated for me? (Touch, sight, sound, smell?)
  • How do you navigate the building to find your seats? Who helped me? Are they easy to find? Why?

Once in the dance space

  • What strikes me about the design of the performance space? The lighting?
  • What do I notice about the “house” or audience seating. Are there accommodations for those who need assistance with stairs? Special seating for wheelchairs, etc.?
  • What do I notice about the stage or performance area? Are there set pieces or is it a bare stage? Is there a curtain when looking at the stage? What might I understand about the production before it even starts?

Observations about the production

  • What captures my attention during the dance? Is it the dancers? The set? Music? Movement?
  • What costumes are the dancers wearing? Do they complement the movement? How?
  • Does the movement engage me and hold my attention?
  • What do I think about the performances? Are the dancers committed to the work and concentrating?
  • How do the dancers interact with one another? With the space or set? With the music itself?
  • How do the choreographer and designers (costume, lights and set) stage the action to focus the dance for me? (Dance artists work to tell stories in varied and very specific ways.)
  • How might I describe this work to a visually impaired person? What might a deaf or hard of hearing person understand about the dance if not able to hear it traditionally?
  • What questions do I have about this production? What is the meaning of the dance? (This may not as easy as it seems!)
  • How did it feel when the lights came up and I was brought back to the reality that I was in a theater and it is now time to leave?
  • Who else in the dance audience with me?
  • I took note of who entered the theater with me. Now who captures my attention before the dance performance begins, during the production and at intermission? Why?
  • How do people interact with the dance? Do they seem to laugh when I laugh? Gasp when I am amazed by the dancers? Applaud? When? Why?
  • What is the interaction, if any, among the dancers and the audience?

Questions to Ask at a Music Concert

Before going to the concert

  • What are my expectations for this concert?
  • What do I know about this artist, type of music, and the era that the music comes from?
  • If the music will be unfamiliar to me, what might I read to learn about it before I go? What concert reviews, informal word of mouth, and publicity items give me more information?

Entering the concert venue

  • How do the audience members conduct themselves and show appreciation at this rock, classical, hip-hop, folk music, etc. concert?
  • Will I be free to express myself and my appreciation with my speaking voice?

At the concert

  • Does this piece of music tell a story? If there is a story, is it communicated with words (lyrics)?
  • If the piece uses instruments only, do the instruments communicate a story or message? How does that happen?
  • What is the mood of the piece? Is it celebratory, sentimental, passionate?
  • Which instruments do I see? What are the voice types that I hear?
  • Does the music move and does it move quickly, slowly?
  • Is there a recognizable theme or melody? How often is that theme or melody heard?
  • When the theme or melody appears, does it change? If so, how does it change?
  • Do I hear many melodies at once? Do they sound as if they move flowingly and horizontal or do they move vertically (up and down)?
  • Is there anything about the music/lyrics that stands out for me?
  • Does the music “touch me” or “speak to me” in a particular way? What emotions does it create in me?
  • Do I want to explore other performances by this composer or artist?
  • Does the music remind me of other music I have heard?
  • What country or culture is represented by this music?

Reading a review of the concert

  • What parts of the concert did the reviewer mention or highlight?
  • Do I agree with the reviewer’s opinion? Why or why not?
  • What else did I learn about the music as a result of reading the review?
  • What was the best think about this concert?

Questions to Ask at the Theater

Before seeing a theater production

  • What do I know about the play, musical, or theatrical event? What do I know about this particular production of this piece if this is not a new work?
  • What do others say about this production and what do I want to know before seeing it? What theater reviews, informal word of mouth, and publicity items give me more information?

Before entering the theater

  • How, if at all, does the exterior of the theater capture my attention?
  • How does this theater exterior compare to other theaters I have seen or are nearby?
  • Who else seems to be attending the show? What is the make-up of the other audience members (for example, age, gender, ethnicity, race, etc?)

As I enter the theater

  • What is the energy of the theater space compared to the street I just left?
  • What senses seem to be most activated for me? (Touch, sight, sound, smell?)
  • How do I navigate the building to find my seats? Who helped me? Are my seats easy to find? Why?

Once in the theater

  • What strikes me about the design of the theater? The physical space? The lighting? Looking up— what do I see? Looking at the frame of the stage (proscenium), does anything catch my eye?
  • What do I notice about the “house” or audience seating. Are there accommodations for those who need assistance with stairs? Special seating for wheelchairs, etc.?
  • What do I notice about the set design or curtain when looking at the stage? What might I understand about the production before it even starts?

Observations about the production

  • What captures my attention during the play? Is it the actors? The set? Music? Why?
  • Does the plot engage me? Do I care about the characters? Why?
  • What do I think about the performances? Are they believable? If not, why not?
  • How do the actors seem to interact with one another? With the set and the world of the play?
  • How does the director, actors and designers (costume, lights and set) stage the action to focus the drama for me? (Theater artists work to tell dramatic stories in varied and very specific ways.)
  • How might I describe this work to a visually impaired person? What might a deaf or hard of hearing person understand about the play if not able to hear it traditionally?
  • What questions do I have about this production? What is the meaning of the play? (This may not as easy as it seems!)
  • How did it feel when the lights came up and I was brought back to the reality that I was in a theater and it is now time to leave?
  • Who else in the theater audience with me?
  • I took note of who entered the theater with me. Now who captures my attention before the play begins, during the production and at intermission? Why?
  • How do people interact with the production? Do they seem to laugh when I laugh? Gasp when concerned about the action? Applaud? When? Why?
  • What is the interaction, if any, among the cast members and the audience?

Parent Tips: Visiting an Art Museum

Speak with your child about art before you visit an art museum. It can be as easy as:

  • Talking about the artwork in your home and asking, “Would you like to know the family history of that quilt? (painting? piece of pottery?)”
  • Reading picture books with your child and asking, “How are the pictures helping to tell the story? What materials did the illustrator use?”
  • Being interested in the artwork your child does at school and asking, “Can you tell me about the artwork you are doing in school? Can you bring some of your artwork home? What materials did you use? What decisions did you make in creating it?”
  • Walking in the neighborhood and asking, “What decorations do you see on the building? Where do you find patterns and textures?”
  • Riding on the subway and asking, “What artwork can you find at the station platform? What artwork do you see as we walk through the station? Why do you think the artwork was put here?”

When you are in an art museum

  • Let your child decide what they would like to look at. Look at the artwork first, not the label. Gently guide your child by asking:
    • Why did you stop here?
    • What do you see?
    • Can you tell me more about that?
    • What do you like about this artwork?
    • What questions do you have about it?
  • Terms you may wish to use:
    • Line
    • Color
    • Contrast
    • Texture
    • Shape
    • Emphasis
    • Movement
    • Pattern
  • Let your child determine when it is time to move on to another artwork.

Always keep in mind:

  • It is more important for your child to look at and talk about the artwork than to be told what they are seeing.
  • It is better to plan several short trips than to plan an entire morning or afternoon in an art museum.
  • The trip should be a positive experience that encourages your child to want to visit the art museum again and again.

For more information, please email ArtsAndSpecialProjects@schools.nyc.gov.

Educator Resources

Teachers and other educators can find curriculum and instructional materials on We Teach NYC.

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