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Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School: A Home for the Whole Family

By Joanne Sydney Lessner, Contributing Writer, May 8, 2018

Only in New York City can a community music school offer access to one of the country’s premier concert halls. As part of an array of educational programs that includes music, dance, and theater, Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School gives students of all ages the chance to perform at Merkin Concert Hall, a 449-seat auditorium with outstanding acoustics that professional ensembles vie to use.

“We produce over 100 performances for our students during the year. We like to get them performing—even the youngest ones who have studied only a month,” says Igal Kesselman, Director of Lucy Moses School.


A young cellist at Lucy Moses School; photo: Da Ping Luo.

Prospective students ages four and up gather every year for a free Discovery Day (this year’s event is on June 6, 2018 from 3:30-6:30 PM), where they can try out different instruments. There are also options to sample a group class in creative or modern dance, or in Dalcroze, an intuitive method of exploring the elements of music using movement, singing, percussion, and props like balls and scarves. A student concert in Merkin gives parents a glimpse of what their children might accomplish in the program.


Dancers in class; courtesy of Kaufman Music Center / Lucy Moses School.

Assigning students to teachers is a careful and thoughtful process. “We try to create the best match between the prospective student and the teacher, based on an interview with both the parent and the child,” says Kesselman. “At many schools around the country, this process happens over the phone with the registrar. But we do it in person and take pride in making it an individualized process.”


A student at the Lucy Moses School; photo: Da Ping Luo.

Students commit to a 30-week curriculum of regularly scheduled lessons, which encourages consistency and establishes good practice habits. While Lucy Moses School is best known for music, the school has offered dance since its founding in 1952. A unique five-week summer musical theater workshop gives students ages 6-16 the opportunity to perform original work written expressly for them by a team of professional theater artists.


A performance by the Summer Musical Theater Workshop at the Kaufman Music Center / Lucy Moses School.

“Each year we produce seven mini-musicals around a particular theme designed for each group’s age and stage,” explains Alicia Andrews, Assistant Director of Lucy Moses School. “In the morning they’re working on skill-building classes. Then in the afternoon they’re rehearsing. The younger students are doing something very short, while the older ones work on something more substantial. Kids come back year after year. We have campers who have become interns, and interns who have become faculty. It really feels like a community, and that’s one of the big things our program here is all about.”


A performance by the Summer Musical Theater Workshop at the Kaufman Music Center / Lucy Moses School.

During the third week in August, Summer String Fest allows intermediate to advanced string players, ages nine and up, to play in an orchestra with faculty or with the Grammy-winning Harlem Quartet. During the year, advanced students can participate in the Composer Festival, Contemporary Music Festival, and Chamberfest, or enter a concerto competition whose winners play with a professional orchestra.


A student preparing for an upcoming concert; photo: Da Ping Luo.

The school’s thriving adult division offers individual lessons, dance and theater classes, chamber music, jazz programs, Dalcroze teacher training, and a popular sight-singing class that Liz Fleischer has taught for forty years.


A chamber music performance in Merkin Concert Hall by a student ensemble; photo: David Andrako.

“It’s one of the wonderful things about our school,” says Andrews. “You can have one kid doing music and one kid doing dance, but also the parents and grandparents can be taking classes and lessons here, too.” One woman who brought her granddaughter to a music class spotted a flyer about chamber music and decided to take up the flute again. “Now she does two chamber groups each semester and has ended up bringing three generations of her family.”

For more information about Discovery Day and Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School click here.


An aspiring trumpeter; photo: Da Ping Luo.


Cover: Students of the Kaufman Music Center’s Lucy Moses School; photo: Da Ping Luo.


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