20 Best Music Schools in the US (Ranking 2024)

Best Music Schools in the US

If you are an aspiring musician looking to make a career in music, you may be wondering where you can study and learn from the best. There are numerous best music schools in the US that provide excellent education and opportunities for students who want to hone their skills and achieve their musical objectives.

This article will introduce you to some of the world’s top music schools based on various criteria, including reputation, curriculum, faculty, alumni, facilities, and financial aid. You will find a school that meets your needs and preferences, whether you are interested in classical, jazz, pop, or any other genre of music.

Here are the top music schools in the world to which you should apply.

What is a Music School?

A music school is a learning environment dedicated to the study and practice of music. These institutions provide a structured environment where students can receive formal education and training in various aspects of music, such as performance, composition, music theory, music history, etc.

Music schools serve students of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to advanced musicians.

Best Music Schools in the US

1. Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)

Berklee College of Music is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The college, founded in 1945, was the first in the United States to incorporate jazz into its curriculum. This college stands out among many of the conservatories on our list due to its emphasis on contemporary music rather than classical music.

The college provides various programs, such as certificates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Music therapy, composition, film and media scoring, music teacher education, songwriting, music management, and general music performance are all popular program options.

2. Juilliard School (New York, NY)

The Juilliard School, founded in 1905, is considered America’s most prestigious music school. It is located in New York City’s Lincoln Centre and is renowned for its rigorous standards. Has produced many well-known musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, and Miles Davis.

The school is one of the best music colleges in New York, offering Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Doctorate of Music Arts degrees, and combination degrees. Juilliard admission is extremely competitive and requires an in-person audition.

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3. Curtis Institute of Music – Philadelphia, PA

The Curtis Institute of Music is another of the best music colleges on our list. Since its inception in 1924, the school has earned a global reputation for producing top-tier talent.

Curtis’ intensive musical education has effectively launched students into successful musical careers. All four campus ensembles in which students can participate are led by elite faculty. Curtis is a great place to start if you’re looking for a reputable music college to launch your music career.

4. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music (Bloomington, IN)

The Jacobs School of Music is the largest accredited music school in the United States, with a stellar reputation. The conservatory was founded in 1921 as part of Indiana University Bloomington.

A live audition is required as part of the application process, as it is for most prestigious music schools. Students must participate in at least one ensemble each semester, with options for choir, band, and orchestra. Jacobs also offers music degrees such as the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Master of Arts, and others.

5. Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY)

Another great option for music education is the Manhattan School of Music, especially if you’re a jazz musician. The school, founded in 1917, is best known for its prestigious jazz department, which has produced many notable alumni.

Nonetheless, the conservatory provides exceptional programs, all directed by a world-class faculty that includes the New York City Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra members.

To build a solid foundation across disciplines, all Manhattan School of Music students must take music theory, music history, and various performance arts courses.

6. Yale School of Music (New Haven, CT)

Admitted students to Yale School of Music’s highly competitive graduate program can now attend tuition-free thanks to a generous $100 million endowment. This prestigious program, considered one of the best in the country, boasts a renowned faculty like composer Martin Bresnick, clarinettist David Shifrin, and cellist Aldo Parisot, making it an even more attractive option for aspiring musicians.

While Yale University offers undergraduate music courses, the Yale School of Music curriculum is primarily designed for graduate students. The school is well-known for its top-tier programs in music composition, percussion, strings, winds, and brass performance.

7. Bard College-Conservatory of Music (Annandale-On-Hudson, NY)

The Bard College Conservatory of Music was founded in 2005 in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The undergraduate program at the school lasts five years and allows students to earn both a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Arts in a non-musical subject.

Bard’s faculty is well-known, and many members also teach at other prestigious music schools, such as Juilliard and Curtis Institute. Bard’s programs are rigorous, but they are known for giving students plenty of opportunities to perform.

Undergraduate programs in standard orchestral and chamber instruments and composition are available, and popular graduate programs include conducting collaborative piano and vocal arts.

8. New England Conservatory (Boston, MA)

Since its inception in 1867, the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston has been regarded as one of the largest conservatories in an urban setting. The Boston Symphony Orchestra is closely associated with the Conservatory, and Boston has a vibrant music community that includes many regional orchestras and performance ensembles.

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The Conservatory’s admissions process is moderately competitive. Composition, jazz, and strings are among the most popular programs. The Conservatory is famous for Jordan Hall, a National Historic Landmark regarded as one of the world’s most acoustically perfect performance spaces.

The Conservatory is also well-known for its mentorship program. Its Entrepreneurial Musicianship program, which assists students in establishing successful careers in the music industry, recently received positive feedback.

9. Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY)

Despite being a pure conservatory, the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music allows students to take academic courses or minors through the University of Rochester. The conservatory is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country.

Eastman is also among the most expensive conservatories in the United States. Almost all students, however, receive a scholarship to attend. Eastman is well-known for its rigorous programs, particularly its graduate program, which draws many prospective students from other conservatories.

10. Peabody Conservatory-Johns Hopkins University

Peabody, located in Baltimore, has provided professional music education for over 150 years and has produced many accomplished musicians.

In addition to music education, the school emphasizes community involvement and leadership skills. Unlike other prestigious conservatories, Peabody prioritizes collaboration over competition among its students.

Peabody offers Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Master of Art, and performance diplomas. Performance, jazz, computer music, music education, music theory, and recording arts and sciences are among the most popular programs.

11. Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Oberlin, OH)

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the country’s oldest conservatory and a distinct school affiliated with Oberlin College. The Conservatory offers two degree programs: a traditional four-year Bachelor of Music degree and a demanding five-year dual-degree program with Oberlin College.

After completing the five-year program, students graduate with a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College and a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory. Oberlin is well-known for its contemporary and baroque music programs and one-of-a-kind TIMARA program.

12. University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance

The University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is known for its musical theatre programs in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Madonna, Iggy Pop, and Aaron Dworkin are among its notable alumni, as are established actors such as Luci Liu, James Earl Jones, and others. Graduates are also well-known for their achievements on Broadway and in symphonies worldwide.

An impressive roster of accomplished faculty backs the institution’s high program ratings. Cellist Richard Aaron and violinist Matt Albert, both of whom have received numerous awards and accolades, are two notable teachers.

13. Rice University Shepherd School of Music (Houston, TX)

Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music is known worldwide for its world-class music program and has a long history of admitting talented international students. This school joins other prestigious institutions, such as the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Austin, as one of the leading music colleges in the south.

They also provide numerous performance opportunities, presenting over 400 concerts per year, including two large-scale opera productions. Rice music graduates routinely land top positions in world-class orchestras and college professorships.

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14. University of Southern California – Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles, CA)

USC-Thornton is one of California’s top music schools, with impressive statistics and alumni. The school is particularly well-known for its outstanding composition, cello, and classical guitar programs.

Regarding personnel, USC has put together a true dream team. Grammy Award-winning artists Amy Andersson and Andrae Alexander and legendary film music composer Pete Anthony are among the notable faculty members.

15. University of North Texas College of Music

The University of North Texas (UNT) is one of the world’s largest accredited music conservatories. It has a wide range of excellent programs and was the first institution on the planet to offer a degree in jazz performance.

UNT graduates have gone on to play in many of the world’s major professional ensembles and hold highly sought-after teaching positions worldwide. If you are a jazz musician, UNT may be your place.

16. University of Miami Frost School of Music – Coral Gables, FL

The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami offers a range of programs, including music engineering, music business, and instrumental performance. Graduates often find success in the dynamic music industry of South Florida.

The Frost School’s location in a vibrant cultural hub, combined with its innovative programs, prepares students for the multifaceted demands of the contemporary music landscape.

17. University of Illinois School of Music – Urbana-Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois School of Music stands out for its emphasis on research, technology, and diverse musical offerings. Graduates often pursue innovative paths, leveraging their skills in contemporary music and scholarship.

The school’s commitment to embracing technology in music education positions it at the forefront of advancements in the field, preparing students for careers that merge tradition with cutting-edge practices.

18. University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music – Cincinnati, OH

The CCM at the University of Cincinnati is a leading institution for performing arts education, with programs in opera, musical theatre, and electronic media. Its graduates contribute to the flourishing arts community in Cincinnati and beyond.

The CCM’s emphasis on preparing students for real-world performance and production experiences ensures graduates are well-equipped for success in the competitive fields of opera, theatre, and media.

19. Northwestern University Bienen School of Music – Evanston, IL

Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music is recognized for its commitment to excellence in classical music, conducting, and music education. Its graduates often excel in both performance and scholarly pursuits.

The Bienen School’s collaborative environment promotes a sense of community among students, and its innovative programs prepare graduates to navigate the evolving lifestyle of the classical music industry.

20. San Francisco Conservatory of Music – San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is a hub of artistic innovation, offering classical music, composition, and technology programs. Graduates contribute to the vibrant music scene of the Bay Area and beyond.

The conservatory’s location in the heart of San Francisco provides students with unique opportunities to engage with the city’s diverse and dynamic cultural lifestyle.

FAQs

What makes these music schools the best in the US?

These schools are recognized for their outstanding faculty, comprehensive programs, historical significance, and contributions to the music industry.

How do I apply to music schools?

Depending on the program, each school’s application process involves submitting academic records, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an audition or portfolio.

Are music schools only for classical music?

No, these schools offer diverse programs, including classical, jazz, contemporary, and other music genres.

What is the difference between a conservatory and a music school?

Conservatories emphasize intensive musical training and performance, often with a more limited focus. Music schools may offer a broader range of academic programs alongside musical training.

Are scholarships available for students at music schools?

Yes
Many music schools offer scholarships and financial aid. Prospective students should check with each school regarding the scholarship availability and application process.

Conclusion

Choosing a music school is a tough job, so we hope this list has given you some ideas for crafting your list. Pursuing a degree in music can be a highly rewarding and enriching experience, and attending one of the best schools for music in the US can help set you on a path toward success in the music industry. 

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