Top 12 Music Schools in the US

Every year, high school fledglings head off to unknown parts to follow their hearts and hone their talents at schools of music that will (hopefully) give them all the tools they need to turn their passions into careers.

So on to our list. But wait! When you are considering which schools to apply to, don’t just look at someone else’s list and accept the order; keep the following questions in mind instead. Every answer matters when it comes to making the best selection:

Will there be a career waiting for me when I finish? Can I compete in the marketplace with this degree?

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance in Ann Arbor, MI, has seen a number of its graduates begin the path to celebrity status. Bard College-Conservatory of Music in Annandale-On-Hudson, NY, requires that all students complete a double major to ensure a possible career path outside of music, should a music career not work out. The New England Conservatory, Boston, MA, offers the “Entrepreneurial Musician” program, which teaches students how to self-direct their musical careers.

How good are the teachers? What are the credentials of the teacher who will teach my instrument?

Where you go is less important than the teacher you will study under. All of the schools in the list of top 12 schools (see below) have musicians of renown in their faculties, so it will boil down to which teacher’s teaching style, accomplishments, and talent you feel you can best learn from.

What is each school’s area of specialization?

Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY, is particularly renowned for its number of award-winning student composers, New England Conservatory for its jazz band and advanced study, USC for its percussion ensemble, Rice for its opera, and Colburn for its strings, winds, percussion, and brass.

 How much does it cost and how many scholarships are available?

Nothing speaks to the heart as much as the word “free.” The Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA) offers all students free tuition, as do Yale and Curtis.

How competitive is the entry process?

Top schools, especially top schools AND free tuition, are always more difficult to get into. For example, Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia accepts fewer than 5 percent of its applicants. Eastman 13 percent, and Julliard 8 percent.

Yes, yes, you came to this page because you believed you’d get to read about the top schools that might change your future, but we’ve hopefully done more than that and encouraged you to redefine your search by narrowing your list down to what’s important to YOU. But we promised you a list, so here we go:

Top 12 (+3) Music Schools

According to Bill Zuckerman, founder of Music School Central, the list of top music schools changes each year, but he has researched the list below diligently and gives all his reasons in his post as to why he puts one school above another. He examines the quality of instruction, instruments covered, careers covered, productions, choirs, orchestras, successful alumni, and cost, among other criteria. Read Zuckerman’s list of the top 15 music schools in the US for 2015.

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