Who We Are Today
The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg (FMDG) Music School is a community school of the arts dedicated to helping individuals of all ages pursue their interest, and study of music, while addressing the challenges posed by vision loss. Our students are children and young people enrolled in public and private schools, professional musicians, college-bound students and people who wish to enrich their lives through lifelong learning in music. Since our separation from Lighthouse Guild in 2018, we are embracing our independence and moving forward, living the mission to which we have always aspired.
The FMDG Music School owes its existence to a series of visionary female philanthropists. The Music School was founded by the Holt sisters, Winifred and Edith, in 1905 after they returned to New York from a trip to Florence. While attending a violin recital, the sisters observed a group of children who were blind and entirely absorbed in the music. Winifred and Edith subsequently created a free ticket bureau for concert-goers who were blind. Quickly realizing that basic services were needed just as much as free tickets, the Holt Sisters began a service organization, New York Association for the Blind (later Lighthouse International), dedicated to assisting individuals who were blind and visually impaired.
In 1913 the Music School was officially established. As the Music School grew, so did the student’s needs. In the late 1930s, Florence Dix Kronsky, a dedicated benefactor of the Music School, established a volunteer program focused solely on music transcription. Working with the team of volunteers she produced beautifully hand-drawn, enlarged music, much of which is still housed within the Music School library collection to this day. The Music School continues to provide this service to students and outside musicians using music technology to produce both large print and braille music.
Established as an independent entity in 2019, the FMDG Music School is proud to be named for the philanthropist and self-made stock trader Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg. As one of the first women to graduate from New York University Law School, Filomen’s name graces several buildings on the NYU campus today. A piano student of the Music School in her later years, her generous donation has allowed the FMDG Music School to thrive for generations of students beyond her lifetime.
An Esteemed Choral Tradition
The FMDG Music School has also enjoyed a rich and vibrant choral tradition. Begun in the earliest days as a men’s glee club and women’s choral class, the chorus had numerous transformations throughout the twentieth century. The Music School garnered national attention in 1951 when the Women’s Ensemble, also known as The Lighthouse Singers, was invited to appear on national CBS broadcast show, “Strike It Rich.”
Today the choral legacy continues with the FMDG Music School Vocal Ensemble, a small group of twenty-five singers selected by audition. The Vocal Ensemble is invited to perform at various venues throughout the city and region. During the holiday season, the group presents its holiday caroling tour throughout the five boroughs of NYC, caroling for neighborhood businesses, public and private enterprises. Repeatedly, the holiday caroling tour has been recognized in the media on Fox 5, NY1, New York Daily News, and the New York Post.
Through its partnerships and joint performances with choirs in the tri-state area, the Vocal Ensemble continues to educate others that individuals with vision loss may achieve the same results as sighted choirs but through alternate methods of music learning and music formats.
A Special Relationship with The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A fixture of the Music School’s contemporary history, the event formerly entitled, “Lighthouse at the Met,” has gained recognition and a large following since its inception in 1997. Initiated as a collaborative venture between the Lighthouse and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this annual concert was developed in an effort to provide individuals with vision loss the opportunity to experience visual art through music. The concert will resume in 2020 as "The Fil at the Met".
Music is selected to coincide with paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, and photographs, and accompanying verbal descriptions as narrated by actor Michelle Hurst provide an objective perspective of the selected art. Artistic interpretation is left to the observer and listener. In recent years the element of poetry, written by our own students, has been introduced as the catalyst to drive the selection of art and music. This has added considerably to the program as it gives yet another perspective of our own students’ voices and how one views art when one cannot see it with one’s own eyes.
Each year the theme is diverse. The innovative concept of the concert and its high quality has developed its own loyal audience following. In the last several years 750 individuals filled Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the event.