Did You Know?
Mad is an American humor magazine founded in 1952 by editor Harvey Kurtzman, M&A ‘41 and publisher William Gaines. Editor/artist Al Feldstein, M&A ‘42, cartoonist Al Jaffee, M&A ’40, artists Will Elder, M&A ’40 and John Severin, M&A ’41, all of whom met at M&A, were instrumental in starting the magazine. Sadly, Al Feldstein passed away on May 1.
Founded by Milton Glaser, M&A ‘45 and Clay Felker in 1968, New York is a weekly magazine concerned with life, culture, politics, and style broadly, and with a particular emphasis on New York City. As a competitor to The New Yorker, it was brasher and less polite, and established itself as a cradle of New Journalism. Over time it became more national in scope, publishing many noteworthy articles on American culture by writers such as Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Nora Ephron, Frank Rich, and John Heilemann.
Aaron Copland‘s piece, An Outdoor Overture, was written in 1938 for performance in the auditorium of the High School of Music & Art. The work owes its existence to a request from the school’s orchestra director, Alexander Richter, for a composition to begin the school’s long term plan to concentrate on “American music for American youth.” And, who better to inaugurate such a campaign than an American composer who had so recently affected a radical and crucial stylistic change in his music, a change from austerity and dissonance into folkish simplicity? Copeland subsequently composed a high school opera, The Second Hurricane, and followed this the next year with the first of the American ballets, Billy the Kid. In composing the piece, Copland kept in mind that, although he was writing for a high school orchestra of near-professional capability, he must still hold careful rein on the overall difficulties. But neither did he underestimate the expertise of the student players. By devising the music in his typically syncopated, brilliant manner, he provided them, and professional orchestras, with an attractive piece of Coplandia.
On December 11, 1958, William Schuman – musician, composer and first president of Juilliard for 16 years, went to the High School of Music & Art to tell the school’s principal and members of the student body about his idea He thought the high school should become part of the Lincoln Center complex, then not much more than an idea itself (it opened in 1962). At the cornerstone ceremony for LaGuardia High School in 1983, Mr. Schuman said, “So it’s with a special sense of personal pride that I’m here today. Not only is it an idea whose time has come but an idea whose place has come.”
In 1936, Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia established the High School of Music & Art. This was one of his pet projects during his tenure at City Hall. The mayor was very paternal about M&A and referred to it as “my baby.” He considered the High School of Music & Art to be the “most hopeful accomplishment of his administration.”
Mayor LaGuardia was a frequent visitor to Music & Art, often bringing gifts with him. One of the more memorable presents was a bronze statue of the world-renowned conductor, Arturo Toscanini, by the Italian sculptor Onorio Ruotolo, who was a friend of the mayor. The statue was displayed on a pedestal in the main lobby of the school. It quickly became a very popular meeting place for students who would make dates by saying, “I’ll meet you at Toscanini.” The sculpture is now located in the back lobby of LaGuardia outside of the Concert Hall.
Lydia Joel, former chairperson of the dance department at the School of Performing Arts, was also the Editor-in-Chief of Dance Magazine.
In 1947, the School of Performing Arts was established under the supervision of Dr. Franklin J. Keller in a 1894 school building on West 46th Street. The arts featured in the curriculum were dance, drama, instrumental music and, for a short time, photography.
When the 1980 movie Fame was filmed about the H.S. of Performing Arts, the Board of Education refused to give permission to the film’s producers to use the school building. Because of this, the outside scenes were filmed in front of a closed church located across the street and the indoor scenes at Haaron H.S. on 10th Avenue and 49th Street, which is now part of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Several classrooms were altered to resemble the interior of the Performing Arts building.
Benjamin Steigman, the founding principal of M&A (founded in 1936), hosted students for tea in his office.
The Gospel Choir originated in the early 1970’s and was created at the request of the Black Security Council, a student group promoting equality and integration, for more “representational” music to be added to the curriculum. The choir is still at the school more than 40 years later!
LaGuardia’s Concert Hall was created by the design and engineering team of Eduardo Catalano and Deborah Forsman, who also designed Alice Tully Hall. Both halls have seating for approximately 1100 people and the same fan-shaped amphitheater-like configuration.