Our History

Founded in 1894, Third Street Music School Settlement helped to establish community arts education throughout the United States. The School traces its roots to the late 19th-century settlement house movement. It was the unique inspiration of Third Street founder Emilie Wagner to make high-quality music instruction the centerpiece of a community settlement house that would also provide social services to the immigrant population of the Lower East Side. In this context, music would provide a source of spiritual and cultural nourishment, inspire achievement in its young students, and serve as a universal language to unite the community’s Jewish, Irish, Italian, Russian, Greek and Hungarian immigrants. By 1915, Ms. Wagner’s vision had inspired similar music school settlements in thirty American cities. Today, as always, Third Street’s programs of high-quality music and dance instruction help children thrive in school and in life by promoting healthy personal and academic development, by opening avenues to further study and eventual careers and by encouraging a lifelong love of the arts.


In 1976, Third Street Music School established its first preschool program to address neighborhood demands for an arts-infused early childhood program. Music teacher Fran Onne was its founding director and ensured that every faculty member was also a practicing artist. Classrooms were designed to resemble ateliers with tarps along the floor to allow for vigorous painting. What is currently our lobby was once a classroom with a “treehouse”! Single art, movement and music classes such as, “Make Mix Sing & Paint!” and “LAM – Learning, the Arts & Me” served toddlers through four-year-olds. More recently, the Preschool added Toddler and Toddler Tots classes, as well as a six-week Summer Camp. Today, Third Street Preschool is at its largest and most diverse. In fact, it recently outgrew its physical footprint, prompting us to add new classroom space, so that we can continue to grow and support young children through rich early childhood opportunities.