The Harlem School of the Arts

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HSA TheaterAddress: 645 St. Nicholas Ave Location: New York, NY

Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) in Harlem, New York was founded in 1964 by soprano Dorothy Maynor, and offers its programs to students of all ages. Mezzo-soprano Betty Allen succeeded Maynor as President in 1979 when a new 37,000 square foot facility designed by Ulrich Franzen was completed. Other Presidents include Allicia Adams, Camille Akjeu, and Daryl Durham. In August 2015, new President and CEO, Eric G. Pryor, was named.

According to its website, the mission of the Harlem School of the Arts is "to enrich the lives of children and their families in the Harlem community and beyond, through exposure to and instruction in the arts." [1] In 2005, the school was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.[2][3]

Harlem School of the Arts was able to weather the financial crisis experienced in 2010, and stabilize its fiscal position due to a generous gift of 6 million dollars from the Herb Alpert Foundation. Now HSA stands poise to implement sustainable business model, under the leadership of Board Chairman Charles J. Hamilton, Jr., Esq., Vice Chair Janice Savin Williams, and newly appointed President, Eric G. Pryor. This notable performing arts institution celebrated it's 50th anniversary in 2015.

The school offers courses in four disciplines; music, theatre, visual arts, and dance. Courses in music include classical, jazz, gospel, R & B, electronic and world music. Dance courses including ballet, modern, ethnic, jazz, and tap dance. In addition to theater classes, the visual art department offers courses which include sculpture, and photography (digital and film).

The school's students are of diverse cultural backgrounds, and tuition is relatively inexpensive in contrast to similar educational institutions in the United States. HSA provides financial aid on a first come, first serve basis through the generous donations on the Herb Alpert Foundation and other generous benefactors.[4]

Early History[edit]

Founder of HSA, Dorothy Maynor

In 1964, internationally acclaimed concert soprano Dorothy Maynor, brought a gift to Harlem; her fervent belief that world-class training in the arts stimulates the child, strengthens the family and gives pride of ownership to a community. She opened Harlem School of the Arts in the basement of the St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem at a time when the community suffered severe physical blight, high levels of poverty, and few cultural resources for its young people. From toddlers to adults, the students who came through its doors developed an invaluable sense of purpose and focus, whether or not they pursued profession careers in the arts. The school received rave reviews, and was featured in the May 1966 issue of Ebony Magazine.[5]

Betty Allen

In May 1979, under the leadership of Maynor's handpicked successor, legendary opera singer Betty Allen, HSA opened its state-of-the-art 37,000 square foot, award-winning facility nestled at the base of the historic Hamilton Heights. Along with the Studio Museum in Harlem, Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Apollo Theater, HSA became on of the pioneering cultural institutions whose robust presence uptown became a linchpin of Harlem's renewal.

Notable Alumni[edit]

Over the past 25 years, HSA alumni have experienced near 100% acceptance rate to prestigious high schools, colleges, universities and conservatories, including Berklee College of Music, Wesleyan University, New York University, Hofstra, SUNY Purchase, American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Fordham University, Hunter College High School, The Ailey School, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

Notable faculty[edit]


  • 1947: After an illustrious international career as an opera singer, on April 21, 1947, Dorothy Maynor incorporates the St. James Community Center, Inc. in the basement of the St. James Presbyterian Church where her husband was the pastor.
  • 1964: Officially renamed The Harlem School of the Arts. Mrs. Samuel Duskin and Mrs. Artur Rodzinski elected Co-Chairmen of the Board of Trustees
  • 1966: Arthur Mitchell, leading dancer with New York City Ballet, joins faculty. School is at full capacity with 300 students enrolled. May 17 – New York State Award presented to school by Governor Nelson A Rockefeller “for outstanding dedication and accomplishment in developing the artistic talents of the children of Harlem.” Five children from the School performed at the event, held at Union College in Schenectady. John Philip Sousa, III (grandson of the famous “march king”) elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Mrs. Vladimir Horowitz forms Women’s Committee with Leontyne Price serving as Honorary Chairman.
  • 1967: The New York Times publishes article “To Make Beauty in Harlem” on HSA November 5, “What we are counting on is that we can add new dimensions to their lives, the most important of which is beauty.” –Dorothy Maynor
  • 1969: HSA inaugurates its new theater faculty with a production of Aime Cesaire’s A Season in the Congo. The new theater was converted from an abandoned garage.
  • 1972: Dorothy Maynor serves as visiting lecturer for Yale University’s Department of Drama (1971–72)
  • 1974: The Harlem School of the Arts Heritage Society One Hundred Voice Choir, with Dorothy Maynor as conductor, makes its Lincoln Center debut on March 4. The sold out Gala Benefit Performance at Alice Tully Hall features soloists Betty Lane; Louise Parker, George Shirley and McHenry Boatwright with a surprise performance by Metropolitan Opera star Martina Arroyo. The Honorable Mayor Abraham D. Beame and Mrs. Beame are honorary chairmen, and Ms. Alice Tully is Chairman of the event.
  • 1975: HSA celebrates its 10th anniversary and breaks ground for the new building.The Heritage Society Chorus also performs at the United Nations in celebration of Human Rights Day, and HSA Founder Dorothy Maynor becomes the first woman to conduct at the U.N.On March 4, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame issues a proclamation to “Dorothy Maynor In recognition of her outstanding career as a world renowned soprano and her devotion to the people of New York. Her Harlem School of the Arts has given an entire community entrée to the World of Art.”
  • 1977: HSA inaugurates its Opportunities for Learning in the Arts program, which provides arts instruction to children in NYC public schools, in response to severe cuts in city funding for public school arts programs.
  • 1978: The Municipal Art Society presents HSA with its Citation of Merit in recognition of the school’s distinctive contribution to the cultural life of New York City. On June 6, The Bard Awards for excellence in architecture and urban design cite HSA building architects Ulrich Franzen & Associates for the design of the building, with special mention of “a grand and welcoming central hall, an attractive exterior courtyard and a myriad of lively class and practice rooms.” Dorothy Maynor is presented with the Louis Armstrong Award from the Knickerbocker Business and Professional Women’s Club, Inc. The award is presented by Mrs. Louis Armstrong.
  • 1979: HSA’s new building is dedicated. Founder Dorothy Maynor retires, appointing internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Betty Allen as new President & CEO.
  • 1982: Harlem School of the Arts Orchestra is formed. 50 children between the ages of six and thirteen perform at the opening of Central Park’s Belvedere Castle
  • 1988: ARTScape Summer Program is introduced. Gala opening of the 25th anniversary season of HSA begins with a benefit concert at the Apollo Theater. Actress Phylicia Rashad and pianist Andre Watts are honorary co-chairs. Maestro Zubin Mehta conducts the New York Philharmonic.
  • 1989: HSA enters new relationship with classical radio station WQXR, and launches annual radiothon on-air fundraiser.
  • 1990: Student enrollment at HSA exceeds 1,500 for the first time.
  • 1992: November 4, 1992 – HSA Concert Chorale, “Legaci”, directed by Yvonne Hatchett, performs at the One Hundred Year Association at The Museum of City of New York.August 10, 1992 – HSA presents The Marie Brooks Caribbean Dance Theater in performance, followed by the legendary Ruby Dee, who reads from her new children’s book, Glow Child at HSA. July 1992 – HSA students perform at a reception hosted by democratic committee Chairman Ron Brown’s wife, Mrs. Alma Brown during the Democratic Convention held in NYC. Audience members included Tipper Gore, Hillary Clinton, Virginia Kelly (Bill Clinton’s mother), and Joyce Dinkins, wife of former NYC Mayor David Dinkins. Betty Allen becomes President Emeritus of HSA, and Alicia Adams is named CEO.
  • 1993: Miranda McDermott, HSA Chairperson of the Drama and Creative Writing Department for nearly 3 decades, awarded a Harlem School of the Arts Humanitarian Award. Fourth annual WQXR Radiothon, Co-hosted by radio host Robert Sherman and Ms. Betty Allen, President of HSA, features celebrities such as Bobby Short, Martina Arroyo and Mario Barnardi, conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, who lend their support to share why arts education is so important. HSA students Oswald Tomlinson and Faith Wallace-Badensen win first and second prizes respectively in a photography competition sponsored by The Black Photographers Circle of The Center for Creative Photographers at Hunter College/CUNY. HSA student Nkenge Simpson takes first place at New York Newsday’s Lena Horne Vocal Scholarship Competition.
  • 1994: Max Roach and Urban Bush Women are Artists-in-Residence at HSA.
  • 1996: Harlem School of the Arts Founder Dorothy Maynor passes away in West Chester, PA at the age of 85.
  • 1999: HSA is named one of the eight leading African-American, Asian, Latino or Native American arts organizations in the nation.
  • 2000: Camille Giraud Akeju, a former HSA student, becomes President and CEO of HSA.
  • 2001:The Classical Theatre of Harlem serves as HSA Artists-in-Residence.
  • 2002: October 12, 2002– 1st Annual HSA Alumni Homecoming. Honorary Chairperson, Inaugural Homecoming Committee, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Faculty Alumna and star of ABC’s The Practice; Guest Host, Claudio Lescano. Alumni include Charles Lovel, pianist; Camille Giraud Akeju, HSA President & CEO; T. Ray Lawrence, bass-baritone; Priscilla Baskerville, soprano; Gwendolyn Bynum, pianist accompanist; Patricia Bates Eaton, professional chorister with Metropolitan Opera, NYC. The Classical Theatre of Harlem serves as HSA Artists-in-Residence.
  • 2003:The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities recognizes HSA as “one of the top after-school arts and humanities based programs in the country” HSA honors Betty Allen with Dorothy Maynor Lifetime Service Award. The Classical Theatre of Harlem serves as HSA Artists-in-Residence
  • 2005: HSA concludes year-long 40th Anniversary celebration with a benefit honoring legendary actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee and corporate sponsor Saatchi & Saatchi. HSA students perform with multi-Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Alicia Keys as part of VH1’s Save The Music campaign. HSA collaborates with Target to celebrate Black History Month with a special performance by singer/songwriter John Legend featuring HSA students.
  • 2007: HSA dance students work with London-based choreographer Adesola Akinleye and dancer Sean Graham as Akinleye develops a new work inspired by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
  • 2008: HSA and the African Film Festival New York present The 2nd Annual Harlem Teen Film Festival. HSA honors Actress Alfre Woodard, Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg and Opera Legend Betty Allen at Art Is Life Gala. HSA presents Prolepsis, the first group exhibition of works by HSA Teaching Artists, and introduces The G-Space Gallery, the newest contemporary gallery space in Harlem. HSA presents the Harlem Teen Film Festival, celebrating the works of Harlem and Greater New York teen filmmakers (12–18), in collaboration with the Ghetto Film School, the Downtown Community Television Center, Pro-TV and the Global Action Project.
  • 2009: HSA honors Ovation TV with the Visionary Partner Award; Former Board Chairman Robert Levison, with the Betty Allen Lifetime Achievement Award; JPMorgan Chase & Co., with the Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award; and actor Giancarlo Esposito, with the The Dorothy Maynor Outstanding Achievement in the Arts Award at 2009 Art Is Life Gala. President Emeritus and second President of HSA Betty Allen passes away.
  • 2010: HSA presents French artist and textile designer Ghislaine Sabiti in two exciting workshops open to the public that focus on making art with fabrics. HSA presents a solo exhibition of Elaine Defibaugh’s large-scale paintings. HSA presents Hank Paper’s Ascension: The Journey of John Coltrane, a photographic exhibit ten years in the making about the legendary John Coltrane.
  • 2011: Yvette L. Campbell becomes new President and CEO of HSA. Mayor Bloomberg names Saint Nicholas Avenue at 141st Street Dorothy Maynor Place. HSA board and new leadership successfully complete two matching fundraising campaigns each raising over $100 million: 100 days $1 million, and Herb Alpert Challenge.
  • 2012: Crain’s New York Business on October 21, 2012, reports “A Miracle on 141st Street!” Legendary musician and philanthropist, Herb Alpert donates $6 million to the iconic Harlem School of the Arts.
  • 2013: The Harlem School of the Arts building is renamed The Herb Albert Center in honor of leadership gift from musician and philanthropist Herb Alpert. The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) selects the Harlem School of the Arts as one of only four affiliate schools in the world to offer ABT National Ballet Curriculum to its dance students. HSA’s entire ballet faculty has been certified in the ABT National Curriculum; recognized for its commitment to excellence as an essential part of its ballet program.
  • 2014: For the second consecutive year, Harlem School of the Arts remains one of only four affiliate schools in the world to offer the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) National Ballet Curriculum to its dance students. HSA entire ballet faculty, remains strong in their commitment to excellence, and certified in the ABT curriculum. 100% of HSA’s students training in the curriculum passed their assessments.Legendary Jazz club Minton’s presented HSA’s Advanced Jazz Combo as part of a three part Sunday Jazz Brunch Series: Rising Stars of Jazz. Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) conducted 3 Jazz for Young people concerts at HSA. GRAMMY award-winning musician, Arturo O’Farrill returns as HSA Artist-in-Residence.
  • 2015: HSA celebrates 50 Years and the 50,000 lives changed, having awarded more than $1.1 million dollars in Financial Aid and Scholarships. For the third consecutive year, Harlem School of the Arts remains one of only four affiliate schools in the world to offer the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) National Ballet Curriculum to its dance students. HSA ballet faculty, certified in the ABT National curriculum.
  • Celebrating 50 Years and the 50,000 lives changed: HSA has awarded more than $1.1 million dollars in Financial Aid & Scholarships.Five HSA children have starred on Broadway and off-Broadway productions and on television, including Sesame Street, The Lion King, Little Miss Sunshine, and performed on tour with Bruno Mars.Two HSA Prep scholarship program students have been accepted to the Clive Davis Institute for Music Moguls at New York University.


  1. ^ School of the Arts website.
  2. ^ N.Y. Times.
  3. ^ Carnegie.
  4. ^ "HSA".  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help);
  5. ^ Company, Johnson Publishing (1966-05-01). Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. 
  6. ^ a b c "HSA Alumni Association | Harlem School of the Arts". Retrieved 2015-09-10. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°49′19.95″N 73°56′45.17″W / 40.8222083°N 73.9458806°W / 40.8222083; -73.9458806