A music mutiny has erupted at the “Fame” high school.
The music faculty at Fiorello LaGuardia HS says Principal Lisa Mars has made changes and cutbacks at the renowned arts and performing arts powerhouse that have “stressed our department beyond the breaking point.”
Mars, who joined the school in 2013, has stirred controversy by putting more emphasis on academics at the elite Upper West Side institution. Recently, she has cut music classes, eliminated a key coordinator’s post, and turned the instrumental music office into a drug-counseling center, teachers complain.
“If your intention is to further erode morale, accelerate faculty turnover, and sabotage our dual mission by phasing out music, then your actions make sense,” teachers wrote in a joint statement obtained by The Post.
Last week, Mars met with all 17 music teachers who demanded she face them as a group.
Founded as an arts school in 1936, LaGuardia was immortalized in the 1980 film “Fame.” Alumni include a galaxy of stars such as Liza Minnelli, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Vanessa Williams and Jennifer Aniston, along with top artists, composers and musicians.
The music teachers blame Mars for scrapping the position of instrumental music coordinator, a teacher who is relieved one period a day to help conduct competitions, concerts and auditions, among other duties. Mars told the teachers she can’t afford the $7,000 cost per semester to fill the post, they said.
Mars referred questions to a Department of Education spokesman, who said she is addressing the concerns by delegating the coordinator’s duties to an assistant principal, and finding other space to store instruments.
Two weeks ago, LaGuardia music student Anna Young launched a Change.org petition — with more than 1,700 signatures so far — to protest the loss of the office, which is in the basement where the instrumental classes take place. The room will now be reserved for drug counselors to hold sessions.
“For a school that is centered around the arts, it does not make sense that the heart of our department has been taken away,” the petition says.
Meanwhile, piano and guitar classes have been slashed, and courses on jazz, Bach, and orchestration and conducting have been lost, teachers say. Once boasting five full symphony orchestras and three symphonic bands, LaGuardia is down to two of each. A flute ensemble no longer exists. The DOE countered that Mars has added courses such as audition prep, pit orchestra and music recording.
Some students and alumni don’t buy it. “I am worried that the arts are being taken away slowly, one step at a time,” said Inna Langerman, a professional violinist who graduated from LaGuardia in 2006. “Many teachers are getting frustrated by it. They are great teachers. Without them, I would not be the person I am today.”
Mymoena Davids, a vocal major who graduated from LaGuardia last year, agreed: “I feel sick to my stomach at the things I’ve been hearing.”
LaGuardia Parent Association co-president Linda Hahn insisted that the arts are not being “sacrificed for academics.”
“We put on the best shows in town. Our students get into the nation’s top conservatories” and other top colleges, she said.
Superintendent Fred Walsh issued a statement saying, “Dr. Mars is deeply committed to the success of all of LaGuardia’s students — including its music students.”