Virtual Yearbooks: 1950s

During this period, the School is located at 238 East 105th Street.

Pictured here is the main entrance to the School and lobby.

Information on this page is arranged in ascending year order for this decade. It includes Manhattan School of Music historical facts and images from the School's archives, as well as items and quotes submitted by alumni. Each section also includes some Other Highlights of New York City's music history.


Raymond LeMieux joins the faculty and begins a graduate program in music education.

The opera department is formed, headed by Fredrich Schorr (pictured at piano).

Gunther Schuller (MSM Pre-College alumnus) joins Manhattan School of Music faculty.

Dick Katz (BM ’50) remembers: “The first vivid memory I have of MSM is taking the entrance audition with Mrs. Schenck in her office: I dutifully proceeded to play the required Bach Invention, and had begun a Mozart sonata when she said, 'Very nice, but I see here on your application that your main interest is jazz. Play me something.' I played a little of Gershwin’s 'The Man I Love'..."

Maxwell Roach (pictured) begins work toward a Bachelor's degree.

Raphel Bronstein joins the violin faculty where he teaches until his death in 1988.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Metropolitan Opera appoints Rudolph Bing general manager.
  • Mahalia Jackson makes Carnegie Hall debut.



Robert Goldsand (pictured, left) joins the piano faculty, where he teaches until his death in 1991.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Elliott Carter writes his String Quartet No. 1.
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.,26, makes Carnegie Hall debut.
  • Charlie Parker records “My Little Suede Shoes” and scores a hit.
  • The King and I, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, choreography by Jerome Robbins, with Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Byrnner, opens at the St. James Theater (1,246 performances).
  • Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera written for television, airs on NBC.



Class of 1952 (courtesy of Blanche Heisler Blitstein '52).

Bebe Shopp (BM '52) poses here with three friends, including her vibraphone, with which she had become Miss America in 1948.

Jonel Perlea, a conductor at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera, is appointed to the faculty. A reception is shortly after he joins, where trumpet student Joseph Wilder, representing the members of the School's orchestra, presents the maestro with a silver cigarette case in gratitude.

John Lewis (BM '52 / MM '53) founds the Modern Jazz Quartet.

October — A WNYC broadcast introduces the newly formed Manhattan Trio: Ernest Ulmer, piano; David Wells, cello; and Oliver Colbentsen, violin. They perform Mozart’s Trio in E Major.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Dave Brubeck makes New York debut.
  • Goddard Lieberson oversees Columbia Record’s introduction of the long-playing record (“LP”), the 33 1/3 rpm vinyl discs developed by engineer Peter Carl Goldmark.
  • Percussionist Candido Camero moves to New York from Cuba and begins recording with Dizzy Gillespie.



Jonel Perlea, a conductor at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera, is appointed to the faculty.

Joe Wilder (pictured on trumpet) completes his Bachelor of Music degree. Mr. Wilder writes: “I still count among the Other Highlights of my career, playing principal trumpet with the Manhattan School of Music Symphony under the direction of Jonel Perlea.”

Metropolitan Opera baritone John Brownlee joins the voice faculty and heads the opera department. The Harpies by Marc Blitzstein is performed.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Tony Bennett’s recording of “Rags to Riches” reaches #1 on the Billboard charts.
  • Pat Benatar born in Brooklyn, January 10.
  • Wonderful Town, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Comden and Green, opens with Rosalind Russell and Edie Adams at the Winter Garden Theater (559 performances), receives New York Drama Critics Award.
  • Can Can by Cole Porter opens with Gwen Verndon at the Shubert Theater (892 performances).
  • Cyndi Lauper born in Ozone Park, Queens, June 22.



School is expanded; library wing is added.

The School has 650 students representing 30 foreign countries and 36 U.S. states.

Comedy on the Bridge by Bohuslav Martinu is performed by the Opera Department.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Composer Elliot Goldenthal (MSM alumnus) born in NYC.
  • Van Cliburn receives the Leventritt Award.
  • Kurt Weill’s Three Penny Opera opens with Lotte Lenya at Theatre de Lys, renamed the Lucille Lortel Theater in 1981.



February — A broadcast on WNYC features a performance of Nicolas Flagello’s The Land, with basso Ezio Flagello '53 as soloist. A new piano sonata by Ludmila Ulehla '48 is given its World Premiere by pianist Leander Dell’Anno. Ms. Ulehla is interviewed during intermission.

Love Triumphant (L'Italiana in Londra) by Domenico Cimarosa is given its American Premiere by the Opera Department.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Marian Anderson and baritone Robert McFerrin are the first African Americans to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Brooklyn Philharmonic is founded.
  • Elvin Jones fails audition for the Benny Goodman band, instead joins the Charles Mingus band, and releases J is for Jazz.
  • Charlie Parker makes final appearance at Birdland.
  • Lukas Foss’s opera Griffelkin broadcast on NBC.
  • The Mayor’s Slum Clearance Committee (Robert Moses, chairman) is given the go-ahead to designate Lincoln Square for urban renewal to become Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.



September — Janet Schenck retires as director; she remains on the School’s board of trustees and becomes director emeritus and trustees’ representative to the administration.

Board of trustees appoint Metropolitan Opera baritone John Brownlee as the School’s new director. He serves as director/president until 1969.

School receives full membership to the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Rita by Gaetano Donizetti is given its Amercan Premiere (pictured), The Ruby by Norman Dello Joio is given its New York Premiere, and The Fatal Oath by Boris Koutzen is given its World Premiere – all by the Opera Department.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Maria Callas debuts at Metropolitan Opera.
  • Mstislav Rostropovich makes New York debut.
  • Harry Belafonte records Calypso, for RCA Victor, the first LP to sell more than 1 million copies.
  • Alan Freed, “the father of rock and roll,” introduces European audiences to African-American Rhythm and Blues on his Radio Luxembourg show Jamboree, broadcast via New York’s 1010 WINS .
  • Paul Simon, 15, and Art Garfunkel, 15, meet at Forest Hills High School and begin singing as the duo “Tom and Jerry."
  • My Fair Lady by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, opens at the Mark Hellinger Theater (2,717 performances).



Albert Barouch (BM ’58), pictured above, writes: “In 1957, while attending MSM, I had a relationship with an MSM student by the name of Evelyn Volpe. Circumstances changed our relationship and caused us to proceed in different directions. We had no contact or knowledge about each other until recently… Last month we vacationed together in Italy.”

Scenes from La bohème, Otello, Rigoletto, and Così fan tutte are presented by the Opera Department.

First time School makes a widespread drive for funds; slogan is “Help us to raise the roof,” as they need two new floors, one to be a new dining hall, the other to have a recital hall.

Under the baton of Jonel Perlea, the 86-piece Manhattan Orchestra premiere's Vittorio Gianinni’s Symphony No. 2 on American Festival Series, broadcast on WNYC.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Ezio Flagello (MSM alumnus) makes his debut at the Metropolitan Opera on November 9, as the Jailer in Tosca. Four days later, as a last minute replacement, he sings Leporello in Don Giovanni. and begins.
  • Julius Rudel appointed conductor at New York City Opera.
  • Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaboration Miles Ahead recorded for Columbia Records.
  • Thelonius Monk relaunches his career with a landmark residency at the Five Spot Café leading a quartet that includes John Coltrane.
  • John Cage teaches “Experimental Composition” at the New School for Social Research.
  • Grammy Awards presented for first time.
  • West Side Story, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, choreography by Jerome Robbins, opens at the Winter Garden Theater (732 performances).



Two additional floors are added, which include a large and beautiful dining hall, a recital hall, studios, and additional practice rooms.

Student body numbers 831 students.

Pablo Casals (pictured here with John Brownlee at MSM) returns to the School to teach a master class.

Scenes from The Magic Flute, Lucia di Lammermore, and Madame Butterfly are presented by the Opera Department.

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Mignon Dunn (current MSM faculty) makes Metropolitan Opera debut.
  • Leonard Bernstein appointed musical director and conductor of New York Philharmonic.
  • Itzhak Perlman, 13, appears on Ed Sullivan Show.
  • Vanessa, with music by Samuel Barber and libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, premieres at the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaboration Porgy and Bess recorded for Columbia Records.
  • Photographer Art Kane shoots historic photo of 58 jazz musicians on East 126th Street for Esquire’s January 1959 issue.
  • Van Cliburn makes his Carnegie Hall debut after winning the Tchaikovsky Competition; becomes the only classical musician honored with a ticker-tape parade.



The Pearl Fishers by Georges Bizet is presented by the Opera Department (May). A double-bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci is presented by the Opera Workshop (December).

Other Highlights of New York City Musical History:

  • Elliott Carter’s String Quartet No. 2 receives Pulitzer Prize and New York Music Critics Award.
  • Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaboration Sketches of Spain recorded for Columbia Records.
  • Bobby Darrin releases “Mack the Knife” from Kurt Weill’s Three Penny Opera.
  • Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein opens with Mary Martin at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater (1,443 performances).
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower breaks ground for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.


Mysterious & Miscellaneous Photos

If you can identify the time, place, and people in these photos, please let us know.

Anna Mione (BM ’51 / MM ’52) writes: “I’m thrilled to the gills about the 1950's... [The people in this photo are] pianist Leander Dell'Ano, cellist Leo Teraspulsky, and the violinist is my cousin, Philip Callaci. Philip inspired me to become a musician. He is 92 years old and is living in Chappaqua, and married Anna Di Bella, vocal extension student at MSM. I introduced them... So exciting to look back. Just thinking of MSM brings back a flood of memories of joy, friendship, and magnificent music… unforgettable...”

Do you have a photo with unknown people in it or are you just not sure when or where the photo was taken? Send us a copy and we'll help you find out.


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