Kaufman Music Center
Kaufman Music Center is a notable performing arts complex in New York City that houses Lucy Moses School, the Special Music School, and Merkin Concert Hall. Originally known as the Hebrew Arts School, it was founded in 1952 and is currently located on West 67th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. More than 75,000 people use the Center annually.
Kaufman Music Center was founded by Dr. Tzipora H. Jochsberger in 1952 as a community school for pre-conservatory music training. Located at 129 W. 67th St. on Manhattan's Upper West Side, today's Kaufman Music Center is home to Merkin Concert Hall; Lucy Moses School, New York's largest community arts school; and Special Music School (PS 859), a K-8 public school for musically gifted children.
First known as the Hebrew Arts School for Music and Dance, the school moved to its permanent home, the Goodman House, on W. 67th St. in 1978. Named after Abraham Goodman, the building was designed by Ashok Bhavnani in the Brutalist style and received the Albert S. Bard Trust Award for excellence in architecture. Merkin Concert Hall opened its doors in 1978, and in 1991 the organization was renamed the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center in recognition of a major gift by Elaine and Henry Kaufman. At that time the Hebrew Arts School was renamed Lucy Moses School. In 1996, Kaufman Music Center partnered with the New York City Department of Education to open Special Music School/PS 859, a K-8 public school for musically gifted children. Major renovations by architect Robert A. M. Stern in 2007 significantly improved Merkin Concert Hall and the exterior of the building.
During the early 1980s, the HAS benefited from a large influx of Jewish émigrés leaving the Soviet Union and arriving in New York City. Many music instructors were not allowed to take their credentials with them when they left, and having a difficult time finding equivalent positions in the United States, found a home at the Hebrew Arts School. Their former students came to the HAS to study, and the school made scholarships available for these students.
Dr. Jochsberger retired in 1986 and was succeeded by Lydia Kontos, who is still currently the Executive Director of Kaufman Music Center.
Architecture and renovation
Designed by Ashok Bhavnani and completed in 1978 the Goodman House was created in a Brutalist raw-concrete style, which was lauded at the time of construction, but over time it was felt that the aesthetic of the building no longer matched the attitude of the schools and concert hall inside. In 2007 the Kaufman Music Center launched a $17 million campaign to renovate the complex. The lead donors were Elaine and Henry Kaufman, who pledged $7 million towards the project. Elaine Kaufman has been a member of the Center’s board for more than twenty years, and served as its chairman from 1999 to 2005. She said, “The Center is a unique organization, placing equal emphasis on education and performance, an essential balance for developing the artists and audiences of the future.”
Architect Robert A. M. Stern oversaw the 2007 renovation of the lobby and balcony levels, as well as a drastic overhaul to the exterior. “The Kaufman Center is kind of rough and tough, because of the Brutalist aesthetic of the building. It’s a powerful building, with good, strong bones, but it’s a little short on grace notes.” Most noticeably, a new marquee unifies the entrances to both Merkin Concert Hall and the two schools. "It visibly unites under one marquee all three parts of the Kaufman Center physically and psychologically,” Kontos remarked.
- Barbour, David. "Grace Notes for the Kaufman Center", Lighting and Sound America, p. 77-78, May 2008
- Cosnowsky, Jamie. "Venue Review: Kaufman Center", Jazz Improv NY, p. 12, March 2008
- Scherer, Barrymore Laurence. "Cause to Celebrate at Merkin Hall", The Wall Street Journal, 2008-02-19