Places that Matter

P.S. 52 (now M.S. 52)

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Rehearsal space where Latin music legends met and performed
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Place Matters Profile

P.S. 52, now M.S. 52, is best known as the school that Secretary of State Colin Powell attended, but it is also significant as a site of tremendous musical creativity and talent during the height of the Latin music era in New York.

In the 1950s, a group of local teenagers who were alumni of the school and played stickball in front of the building formed a band. This band included musicians who would later become major figures in Latin music including Eddie Palmieri, Orlando Marín and Joe Quijano. The band started rehearsing at P.S. 52 because it had a piano and the space to accommodate the sound of the band’s trumpets. In exchange for rehearsal space, the band played at the school's Friday night dances. After playing dances at the school and at the nearby Police Athletic League for about six months, the band built quite a following and started to play gigs at places like Hunts Point Palace. Along with this band, the school had a number of other alumni who went on to be important in the Latin music field including Charlie Palmieri, Hector Rivera, Ray Barretto and Manny Oquendo.