About us

Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music

The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music is a small school for students seriously interested in continuing their music studies while pursuing a challenging academic course of study. In addition to music instruction, students are expected to complete course requirements that lead to an Advanced Regents Diploma, college acceptances, and career readiness.

Our Mission

The Celia Cruz High School of Music, a Magnet school, will provide a high quality music program with strong academic courses in a safe and nurturing environment for New York City youth who wish to explore and expand their musicianship. Through music, students will use their mind, hands, heart and soul to respond to an ever changing, complex world. Through the integration of music into all areas of the curriculum, students will utilize their unique, creative skills to develop varied approaches to successful learning on their way to becoming well-rounded, educated adults. Students, through an in-depth course of study and music performance, will emerge with the skills necessary to become positive, active members of society demonstrating talent, intelligence, caring, and a strong work ethic. Our partner, Lehman College, City University of New York, and all other partnerships will share in the commitment to assist in the enhancement of educational instruction, musical training, and citizenship for all students. Through ongoing professional development, all members of the staff will be committed to personal and professional growth in the service to our students, parents, and community. Faculty, staff, parents, and the community will work together to sustain our educational philosophy.

Program Highlights

Advanced Regents Diploma Program, double period blocks of Music Ensemble and various music electives; ensembles include various Bands, Jazz Band, String Orchestras, Full Orchestra, Piano and Choirs; Honors Courses, College Now; students participate in a minimum of two major performances yearly, and are evaluated by New York State School Music Association as soloists and ensembles.

Disney’s Magic Music Days

Since 2006, the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music participates in Disney World’s Magic Music Days, in Orland, Florida. It is a workshop and performance opportunity where middle schools, high schools and colleges receive high level instructional music clinics from Disney music personnel, followed by a performance in Walt Disney World. Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music has returned to Disney’s Magic Music Days in Orlando, Florida in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018.

Brief History of the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music

The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music was born from The Bronx New Century High School Initiative. In school year 2000-01, a call went out to all Bronx educators to come together as teams to create new small schools. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation and others, a piloted program to create new small high schools across the country was now in full swing in New York City.

Among those willing to open a new small high school was Dr. William Rodriguez. Dr. Rodriguez felt a music high school was a real need for the Bronx, as it was the only borough without a high school of music at the time. With help from his team, including Ms. Deborah Lopez, Foreign Language teacher, and Ms. Penelope Smetters, Band teacher, Dr. Rodriguez proposed the opening of “The Bronx High School of Music.

Department of Education announcement

The Department of Education, under Mayor Bloomberg, was to select 20 schools to open in 2002 and 2003 from over 300 proposal submissions. The Bronx High School of Music was selected as one of them. The city prepared DeWitt Clinton High School to be the site for the new school set to open September 2003. There was much fanfare as the famed Clinton HS and its alumni were against having any new school established in its building. So it was settled as a temporary measure. The new school was given space there to begin with its incoming group of ninety ninth graders.

New name

In July of 2003, the world lost international singing star Celia Cruz. Mayor Bloomberg wanted to name a city school after her. Her history mentions that as a young woman she studied to become a teacher before her singing career catapulted her to international stardom. Someone mentioned to the Mayor that a new school of music was opening in the Bronx in just two months. A call went to Dr. Rodriguez in early August, mentioning that the Mayor wanted to rename the school. On August 21, 2003, the Mayor held a news conference in Lehman College renaming the “Bronx High School of Music” to the “Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.”

September, 2003 School begins

Leading to September 2003, auditions were held for band and chorus throughout middle schools in the borough to select the first incoming ninth grade. The school would then add a grade each year until its full complement of ninth through twelfth grade. With an English teacher, Science, Math, History, Foreign Language, Band, and Chorus, along with supporting staff, the school was on its way to ground a newly formed institution, “The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.” In its second year, the school was moved to its permanent location on the Walton Campus. It was a location closer to Lehman College where students did not have to cross any streets or lose too much instructional time travelling. A short walk now across the campus got them to the college music building.


The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music mandates all students to be assessed by the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA). Each year, all Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music students perform a solo for a professional adjudicator, and earn a grade based on their performance. All school ensembles also participate, earning a grade as a group. Through the NYSSMA evaluations, students as soloists and with their ensembles have earned Bronze through Gold With Distinction at all levels, as well as high scores on their individual evaluations. Several even earned placement in the very competitive and prestigious All-State ensembles. Since 2006, more students have made the All-State ensembles from the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music than any other New York City school, including LaGuardia High School, Talent Unlimited High School, and Frank Sinatra High School.

Hard Rock Café

The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music participated in the Daily News, Hard Rock Café sponsored event to select the best NYC pubic school chorus. Twenty-five schools throughout the city participated with music star judges. Celia Cruz won first place: a $2500.00 prize for the vocal program, a large spread of pictures and write-ups in the Daily News and a command performance at the Hard Rock Café Times Square for 150 guests.

Mayor DiBlasio Inauguration

On January 1, 2014, the students of the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music were invited to sing the Star Spangled Banner to open the inauguration ceremony of Mayor Bill DiBlasio. Being telecasted by a number of local, national, and international news outlets, the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music Woman’s Choir performed for all of those in attendance, including Mayor DiBlasio, Mayor Bloomberg, President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Marvin Hamlisch

Just before his untimely death, Marvin Hamlisch wrote a children’s book “Marvin Makes Music” It comes with an accompanying CD. The background voices heard are those of the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music students. Choir teacher Ms. Gwasda was able to provide this opportunity to our students to perform with them at Carnegie Hall. They were then selected to work with Mr. Hamlisch in the studio to produce the accompanying CD. Following his death just a few months after, the students were invited to perform at the star-studded memorial held at Juilliard. On stage with Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music students were, among others, Lisa Minnelli, Barbara Streisand, Itzhak Perlman, Michael Feinstein, Chris Botti and Aretha Franklin. This was followed by a book release and reading with our students at the Barnes and Noble, NYC with Lucie Arnaz as the reader.

Tony Bennett

The Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music is a partner school with Exploring the Arts: an organization built by Tony Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto to support music programs throughout the city. They provide a series of professional development opportunities to enhance our music program as well as scholarships and internship opportunities for our students. Tony and Susan occasionally visit the school to hear student recitals.

Good Morning America

In the winter of 2014, the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music was chosen to perform on Good Morning America. The performance was in celebration of the 50th anniversary of “The Sound Of Music.” The choir performed for Hollywood star Julie Andrews in studio, and appeared on national television a number of times throughout the program.

Outlook for the future

The Celia Cruz Bronx HS of Music continues to provide the Bronx and the entire city with an opportunity for high school students to fulfill their required New York State requirements for graduation with a Regents Diploma with Honors, all while they explore and enhance their love of music with National and State Standard of music instruction.

The Celia Cruz Bronx HS of Music has just completed its EIGHTEENTH year. Lehman College, City University of New York continues its ongoing work as the school’s Community Based Organization. Together with that partnership, which grows and strengthens with every year, the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music is assured a continued bright future with even greater accomplishments yet to achieve.

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