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Should All Schools Offer Music Programs?

… Musical opportunities are now concentrated in a small group of arts-focused schools, like the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music, which require auditions, while students at most high schools in the borough have little opportunity to play music.

Music education in New York City schools faced challenges even before the breakup of the comprehensive high schools. During the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, schools laid off thousands of arts teachers. For years after, many schools relied on community groups, or in some cases the city’s elite cultural institutions, to provide part-time music instruction, often through visiting artist programs.

Music programs were rebuilt in the 1990s, thanks in part to funding from the Annenberg Foundation, and to a dedicated arts funding stream known as Project Arts, established by Rudolph W. Giuliani. But the renaissance was short-lived. In the early 2000s, federal pressure from No Child Left Behind legislation led urban school districts to focus more heavily on math and reading instruction, to the detriment of arts classes. In New York City, Project Arts was dissolved, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg began breaking up the city’s dropout factories.

The new, smaller schools have a hard time offering specialized programs, whether music or sports. Some principals say that, while they would like to be able to offer music programs, they have to prioritize core academic subjects.

Sandra Burgos, the principal of Astor Collegiate Academy, a school of 481 students on the second floor of the Columbus campus, said that she would love to hire a music teacher, but with limited resources — only 28 teachers and 17 classrooms — she feels it’s more important to offer science, technology, engineering and math courses.

“That’s where most of the

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