History and Mission


Washington Heights Musical Society (WHMS) takes its name from a concert that took place in 1904 at the old Holyrood Church Guildhall, then located at 181st street and Kingsbridge Road (now Broadway). The concert was led by Miss Harriet Depuy, then a well-known musician and conductor who served as an outreach educator under the directorship of Frank Damrosch, conductor the New York Philharmonic Society. WHMS was a product of the People’s Singing Classes: music classes that took place all over New York City, including areas like Washington Heights which were considered rural at the time. WHMS was a crucial detail in the history of musical New York: before the boroughs were consolidated and before the city was largely developed by subways and rezoning from farms and estates, there was the People’s Singing Classes and concerts presented by the instructor Miss Depuy and the Washington Heights Musical Society. These classes led directly to the founding of the The Institute of Musical Art (now The Juilliard School) and other large musical institutions such as Manhattan School of Music and Mannes that survive today as some of the top schools for fostering professional musicians worldwide.


Washington Heights Musical Society’s mission is to offer world-class performances that are inspired by music in history to the concert-going public of Washington Heights.