Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Theatre and Performance


James Wilson

Committee Members

Jean Graham-Jones

David Savran


arts education, New York City public education, applied theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music


This project examines the development of an education department at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the oldest performing arts institution in the United States (1861), and argues that education programs in cultural institutions attempt to fill gaps in cultural capital that have been reproduced across generations while also highlighting the need for comprehensive arts education in public schools. An investigation of education for young people at BAM—from weekend programming for the children of Academy subscribers, to a fully staffed branch serving students throughout the tri-state area (often during the school day)—offers a porthole into the larger municipal history, particularly the history of public education, of New York City. The dissertation chronologically charts three education programs at BAM (the “Young Members Course,” which began in 1915; “Shakespeare Teaches” [1997-2018]; and “Arts and Justice” [2006-present]) in order to compare and contrast the evolving goals of the department. The project outlines the struggles that the department faced after BAM’s split from the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (BIAS), the umbrella organization under which BAM existed until 1971. These challenges point to an enduringly complicated relationship between pleasure and instruction; they similarly raise questions related to young people and cultural stratification, particularly as BAM (under the leadership of Harvey Lichtenstein) became a bastion of highbrow, avant-garde culture.