The Top 15 Music Colleges In the US

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Choosing the right college could make the difference between success and failure in life. If you are planning to apply to some music college, we advise you to go through our list of the top 15 music colleges in the US. Hopefully, you will find it helpful.

Juilliard School

Founded in 1905 in New York, Juilliard school is one of the most reputable music schools in the world. Regarding musical training, Juilliard follows the tradition of famous European conservatories, and that has proven to be the best possible approach since the most of Juilliard’s former students are accomplished, world-known musicians. Some of the most popular Juilliard’s majors are strings (violin, viola, cello, double bass), brass instruments (trumpet, horn, trombone), woodwind instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet), piano and composition. Juilliard’s faculty include some of the best musicians and teachers in the world. The most notable faculty members are Joseph Lin and Itzhak Perlman (violin), Richard Aaron and Darrett Adkins (cello), Eugene Levinson and Timothy Cobb (double bass), Mark Gould and Kevin Cobb (trumpet), Julie Landsman (horn), Joseph Alessi (trombone), Carol Wincenc (flute), Elaine Douvas (oboe), Ricardo Morales (clarinet), Emmanuel Ax (piano). The most famous alumni are Yo-Yo Ma (cellist), Van Cliburn, Stephen Hough (pianists), Itzhak Perlman, Nigel Kennedy, and David Garett (violinists), Bernard Herrmann, Tito Puente, and Henry Mancini (composers), Christian McBride (jazz bassist), Nina Simone (jazz singer), etc. Juilliard has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the US, it never goes above 8%. Tuition for the 2017-2018 is $43,170. Juilliard offers financial aid to their students, but scholarships are more oriented towards graduate students. The graduation rate is around 80%, which is pretty high.

Curtis Institute of Music

Founded in 1924 in Philadelphia, Curtis Institute has been one of the most influential educational institutions in the world since the very beginning. Thanks to respected faculty members and great facilities some majors have become very popular among students – violin, viola, double bass, piano, music composition, bassoon, horn, trombone, etc. The most significant names among faculty members are Gary Graffman, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, and Eleanor Sokoloff (piano), Don Liuzzi and Robert Van Sice (percussion), Roberto Diaz and Steven Tenenbom (viola), Edgar Meyer and Hal Robinson (double bass), Blair Bollinger and Matthew Vaughn (trombone). Alumni that must be mentioned are Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, Nino Rota, Ned Rorem (composers), Lang Lang (pianists), Hilary Hahn, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Ray Chen (violinist), Juan Diego Florez, Anna Moffo (opera singers). Curtis Institute has incredibly restrictive acceptance policy – the acceptance rate is 4-5%. Tuition for the 2016/2017 school year was $41,087 for undergraduate students and $51,924 for graduate students. Curtis Institute has 90 years old tradition of providing merit-based full-tuition scholarships and other types of financial aid (loans, grants, work and study programs) to all students. The graduation rate of 94.7% is one of the best in the US.

New England Conservatory (NEC)

NEC is located in Boston, and it is one of the oldest music schools in the US. It was founded in 1866 and during 150 years many famous musicians walked through its halls. NEC is well-known for its concert hall called Jordan Hall, which is one of the best concert halls in the world in terms of acoustic engineering. The most popular programs at NEC are string instruments, percussion, jazz studies, and contemporary music, but you can find here other programs too – brass instruments, harp, classical guitar, piano, composition. The most notable names among the professors are Bert Seager, Ethan Iverson, Ran Blake, Luis Bonilla, Cecil McBee (jazz studies), Natasha Brofsky, Yeesun Kim, (cello), Martha Strongin Katz, Kim Kashkashian (viola), etc. Popular former students of NEC are Luciana Souza, Allegra Levy (jazz singers), Linda Watson (opera singer), Clint Bajakian (composer), Cecil Taylor (pianist), Vic Firth (percussionist). Acceptance rate is around 25-30% which is still lower than the average acceptance rate in the US. Tuition for 2017/2018 school year, for both undergraduate and graduate students is $46,100. NEC also offers financial aid to its students, but it doesn’t cover full tuition. Students can choose one of the options – scholarship, part-time employment, loan. The graduation rate is around 85%.

Jacobs School of Music – Indiana University

Established in 1921, this school produced hundreds if not thousands of world-class musicians. Jacobs School offers to its 1600 students great facilities and reputable faculty. The school has one larger hall – Musical Arts Center (1,460 seats) and a smaller music hall with 400 seats. School became popular for its opera and jazz programs, but there are also other really good programs with great professors – piano, classical guitar, harp, orchestral instruments, music production and music composition.  The most significant names among the faculty are: Joshua Bell (violin), Kimberly Carballo, Sylvia McNair, Mary An Hart, Timothy Noble (opera), Kevin Murphy, Menahem Pressler (piano), Otis Murphy (saxophone). Well-known former students of Jacobs School are Joshua Bell, Angela Brown (opera singer), Larry Ridley (jazz bassist), Alberto Reyes (pianist), Kenny Aronoff (percussionist, drummer). The acceptance rate at Jacobs School is around 25%. Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 school year is $36,845 for undergraduate students and $30,768 (minimum of 16 credit hours per year) for master and PhD students. School offers financial aid to undergraduate and graduate students, there are merit-based scholarships and awards, need-based loans, grants, and work and study programs. Acceptance rate is around 25%, and the graduation rate is 77%.

Yale School of Music

Located in New Haven, Yale is one of the oldest music schools in the US. It was established in 1854, and since then it has been one of the most respected institutions for musical education in the world. The school has great resources and facilities – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Center for Studies and Music Technology, Collection of Musical Instruments, Digital Media Center for Arts, etc. Yale School of Music is well-known for its percussion and music composition programs, but also for string and brass instruments programs and piano program. Among the faculty, you can find some of the best musicians and professors in the US – Aldo Parisot (cello), Robert Van Sice (percussion), David Lang and Martin Bresnick (composition). Some of the world-known alumni of the Yale Music School are Marco Beltrami (conductor and composer), Jahja Ling (composer), Richard Stoltzman (clarinetist), Dorothy Bishop (entertainer). Acceptance rate is around 8% and every student that gets accepted is given full-tuition scholarship unless he/she already has some other type of scholarship from another institution. Yale school admits 200 students per year.

Shepherd School of Music – Rice University

Established in 1975 in Houston, Texas, Shepherd School of Music is one of the youngest music colleges in the US, and it is amazing how it has become such an influential institution in such a short time. The school has great resources – lots of practice rooms, teaching studios, rehearsal halls, and electronic music studio. The school will also get an opera house in 2018. The most popular majors are string, brass, and woodwind instruments, but there are also other programs that need to be mentioned – piano, opera, composition, and conducting. Faculty members are probably the main reason why this college is such a great place for young and talented musicians. Some of the professors at Rice School of Music are William Vermeulen (horn), James Dunham (viola), Benjamin Kamins (bassoon), Paul Ellison and Timothy Pitts (double bass), Leone Buyse (flute), Barbara Butler (trumpet). The most famous Shepherd School alumni are Lola Astanova (pianist), Caroline Shaw (violinist, singer, and composer), Rebecca Carrington (cellist and music comedian). Shepherd School of music has 15% acceptance rate, and 45 new undergraduate students are enrolled every year. Tuition is $45,608 for undergraduate students, and $28,553 for graduate students. School also offers financial aid to students, so there are merit-based scholarships and awards, loans, and grants (but only for students whose families have income above $80,000).

Berklee College of Music

It was founded in 1945, in Boston, Massachusetts, and it is one of the largest music colleges in the US, and probably the most influential school in the field of contemporary music. Rock and electric guitar studies, electronic production, music business and management, and jazz studies are some of the majors that were first introduced by Berklee. Berklee faculty members are some of the most reputable musicians and music teachers in the US. Some of the names worth mentioning are: Nancy Zeltsman, Ian Froman (percussion), Steve Bailey (electric and double bass), Norman Zocher, (guitar), Jon Finn (electric guitar, rock improvisation), Richard Davis, Alison Plante (film scoring), Robert Doezema (contemporary writing and production). Some of Berklee alumni are world-known musicians and music producers: Joe Satriani (rock guitarist), Joey Kramer (drummer of the Aerosmith), Roy Hargrove (jazz trumpeter), John Petrucci (guitarist), Steven Tyler (singer and songwriter of the Aerosmith), Quincy Jones (producer), Natalie Maines (singer and songwriter). As we said earlier, Berklee is one of the largest music colleges – it has roughly 4500 students, and the acceptance rate is 34% for undergraduate students and 37% for graduate students. Tuition for the 2017/2018 school year is $41,530. Berklee offers all kinds of financial aid – scholarships, grants, student employments, federal loans, veteran benefits.

School of Music, Theatre, and Dance – University of Michigan

It was established in 1880, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During 137 years of its existence, many great musicians and music producers got their bachelor, master, and PhD degrees here. The school has been well-known for its musical theatre, music production, music composition and saxophone programs. Brass instruments, string instruments (especially cello), conducting, jazz and contemporary music, organ, and piano departments are also worth mentioning. The school has great resources, lots of classrooms and studios, 4 halls (Hill Auditorium being the largest with more than 3,500 seats). Some of the most respectable faculty members are Aaron Richard (cello), Vincent Cardinal, Brent Wagner, Ron DeJesus (musical theatre), Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers (composition), Timothy McAllister (saxophone). Some of the most famous alumni are Jessye Mae Norman, Michael Fabiano (opera singers), Chip Davis (pianist), Colin Stetson (saxophonist). Many former students of this school are now playing in numerous Broadway shows, which is no surprise, if you have in mind that its musical theatre program is probably the best in the US. Acceptance rate is around 25%, and almost 800 students get accepted every year. Tuition for the 2017/2018 school year is $47,476 for undergraduate students and $45,484 for graduate students. All students can apply for financial aid – there are scholarships, loans, grants, work and study programs, and there is also emergency financial assistance. The graduation rate is around 90%, which is considered extremely high.

Eastman School of Music

Established in 1921, in Rochester, New York, Eastman school has become popular for its strings, percussion, saxophone, organ, and brass instruments programs. The school has large endowments and great facilities. Eastman is highly oriented towards performance and has well-known moto ‘’Eat, Sleep, Music”. Other popular majors are opera studies, jazz studies and contemporary media, chamber music and composition. Faculty members are the most important factor that makes this school so famous. Some of the greatest professors are David Ying (string and chamber music), John Beck and Michael Burritt (percussion), Ramon Ricker, Pillow Charles (saxophone), Mark Kellogg (trombone). Renowned alumni of Eastman School of Music are Renee Fleming (opera singer), Steve Gadd (percussionist, drummer), Maria Schneider and Dominick Argento (composers), Frederick Fennell (conductor), David Higgs (organist). Acceptance rate almost never goes above 13%. Some 200 students (undergraduate and graduate) get accepted every year. Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 school year is $51,440 for undergraduate students and $35,420 for graduate students. All students can apply for financial aid – awards, merit-based scholarships, loans, etc. The graduation rate is higher than 85%, which is better than most colleges in the US.

Peabody Institute

Established in 1857 in Baltimore, Maryland Peabody Institute is one of the oldest in the US, and during 160 years of existence it has become such an important music institution. It was affiliated with the John Hopkins College in 1977. Institute has 5 music halls, Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall being the largest with the capacity of 625 seats. There are 3 libraries and huge archive, concert office and ensemble office, lots of classrooms and studios. The most reputable majors are piano, percussion, music production and saxophone. Other important majors are strings, woodwinds, organ, opera, jazz, harp, guitar, conducting, and especially computer music, historical performance, music for new media and recording arts and sciences. Some of the most respected faculty members are Brian Ganz and Leon Fleisher (piano), Robert Van Sice (percussion), Nasar Abadey (percussion/jazz), Timothy Murphy (jazz pianist), John Thomas (saxophone/jazz), Michael Hersch (composition). Notable alumni of the Peabody Institute are: Ann Schein (pianist), Norman Scribner (composer, pianist, organist), James Morris (opera singer), Marry Howe (composer/pianist), Dorothea Freitag (composer, performer), Philip Glass (composer), Colin McPhee (composer/musicologist), Tori Amos (film score composer, producer), Kim Kashkashian (violinist). Peabody has one of the highest acceptance rates among the schools on our list (around 50%). Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 year is $46,328 for all degree programs. Peabody offers a few types of financial aid – scholarships (Baltimore Scholars Program, State Scholarships, FAFSA), graduate assistantships and DMA fellowships (for max. 3 students). The graduation rate is around 70%.

Conservatory of Music – Oberlin College

Established in 1865 in Oberlin, Conservatory is one of the best colleges in the Midwest. Conservatory consists of 5 buildings – Bibbins Hall, Central Unit, Robertson Hall, Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, and Willian and Helen Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space. It has 9 concert halls, more than 150 practice rooms, 6 music labs, and one music library. There are 10 divisions, and the most popular majors are opera and voice studies, organ, contemporary music, jazz studies, keyboard studies, strings, wind and brass instruments. Notable faculty members are Salvatore Champagne, Marilyn Horne, Daune Mahy (opera), Stanislav Ioudenitch, Angela Cheng (piano), Billy Hart (jazz percussion). Many former students have become world-known musicians. Some of the most important alumni are Dorothy DeLay (violinist and violin instructor), Benjamin Bagby (composer and harpist), Stanley Cowell (jazz pianist), Peter Evans (trumpeter), Jennifer Koh (violinist). Oberlin College has bachelor, master, and artist degree programs, but also double degree program which gives you the opportunity to get bachelor of music and bachelor of arts degrees in 5 years or less. The acceptance rate at Oberlin Conservatory is around 15-17%. This is small music school with 580 students. Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 school year is $52,762. Around 70% of students get some type of financial aid – there are scholarships and grants, loans, and work and study programs.

USC Thornton School of Music

Founded in 1884, in Los Angeles, California, USC Thornton School of music has been one of the top music colleges in the US for decades. School has 11 rehearsal halls, studios, and performing spaces. The largest hall is Bovard Auditorium with 1,235 seats. School has been famous for years for its music production program, keyboard studies, jazz studies, music industry program, screen scoring and music technology programs. Some of the best musicians, producers, composers and professors in the US are members of the faculty. Notable names among the faculty are: Jon Burlingame, Garry Schyman, and Bruce Broughton (screen scoring), Jeff Brabec and Michael Garcia (music industry), Jason Goldman, Bob Sheppard (jazz studies – saxophone), Lina Bahn (violin), Andrew Shulman (cello), Pepe Romero and Scot Tennant (classical guitar). Famous Thornton school alumni are Christophe Beck, Basil Poledouris, Leroy Robertson (composers), Nicolas Chumachenco (violinist), Paul Ellison (bassist), Gerald Clayton (jazz pianist), Andrew York (guitarist), Grant Gershon (conductor and pianist), Rodney Gilfry (opera baritone). Acceptance rate is around 20%, so we can say that USC is selective, but not more than Juilliard or Curtis Institute. Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 school year is $53,448 for undergraduate program and $28,800 for master and doctoral programs. The graduate certificate costs $14,400. Students can get financial merit-based aid, USC scholarship or teaching assistantship. The graduation rate is above 90%, which makes USC one of the best music colleges in the US.

Colburn School

Colburn School maybe doesn’t have such a long tradition as some other top music schools in the US, but it certainly represents one of the most influential music schools in the country. School started as part of the University of Southern California in 1950. Back then, it was preparatory school for school children and there were just a couple of piano teachers. During the 1980’s, school changed and grew a lot, and until the end of 1990’s school got its own resources, halls, performing places. Since the 1998 Colburn School is located on Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Aside from the Colburn Conservatory, there are Community School (for children) and Music Academy (for pre-college training). Colburn Conservatory has great resources, music library, lots of classrooms and studios and Zipper Concert Hall with 415 seats. The most popular majors are strings (especially violin) and piano. Other good programs are percussion, vocal and opera studies, chamber music, brass instruments. Colburn has some of the best violin teachers in the country. Notable faculty members are Martin Beaver, Robert Crawford Lipsett (violin), Fabio Bidini (piano), Ronald Leonard (cello). Some of the former students are David Fung (pianist) and Leila Bronia Josefowicz (violinist). Colburn Conservatory is small, it has around 100 students, and they accept only a couple of students every year. Acceptance rate is 5-8%. Colburn offers full-tuition scholarship to every student, and it is one of the few colleges in the US that has that kind of financial aid.

Manhattan School of Music

It was established in 1917, in New York. During this 100 years period, Manhattan School of Music managed to earn its place among the best music conservatories in the country. The school has great facilities which include 8 performance spaces (studios, concert and rehearsal halls), 132 practice rooms, and 22 classrooms. There are approximately 1000 students from more than 40 countries. The most popular majors are strings (especially violin), woodwinds (especially clarinet), jazz studies, musical theatre, saxophone, chamber music, piano, percussion. Some of the faculty members are also members of Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic and other reputable music institutions in the US. The most notable faculty members are Pinchas Zukerman (violinist), Anthony and David Krakauer (clarinet), Paul Cohen (saxophone), Frank Morelli (bassoon). Some of the former students of this school are Kate Aldrich and Beth Clayton (opera singers), Evangeline Benedetti (cellist), Margo Garrett, Yuan Sheng (pianists), Viviane Hagner (violinist), Judith Blazer (singer and actress), Joe Wilder (trumpeter). Acceptance rate is 40-45%. Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 school year is $45,375, and there are different types of financial aid – Manhattan School of Music Scholarship, Manhattan School of Music President’s Award, and different types of grants and loans. The graduation rate is around 80%.

Cleveland Institute of Music

Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) was established in 1920, and the first president was famous composer Ernest Bloch. CIM has great facilities which include two concert halls – Mixon Hall (235 seats) and Kulas Hall (535 seats), recording studios, classrooms and rehearsal halls. CIM has 422 students and offers them undergraduate and graduate (master, PhD, and Professional Studies and Artist Diploma) programs. The most popular majors are violin, brass, and woodwinds. There are also piano and collaborative piano programs, voice and opera studies, composition and conducting, flute, classical guitar, and harp programs. Almost one-third of the faculty are members of The Cleveland Orchestra. Among the faculty members, there are some prominent names like Jinjoo Cho, Olga Dubossarskaya Kaler, Ivan Zenaty (violin), Sergey Babayan, Kathryn Brown (piano), Frank Rosenwein and Jeffrey Rathbun (oboe), Michael Sachs (trumpet), David Bamberger (opera theater). Notable CIM alumni are: Larry Baker, Wataru Hokoyama, Martin Leung (composers), Daniil Trifonov (composer and pianist), Wesley Collins (violist), Irene Roberts (opera singer), Laura Albers (violinist), Orion Weiss, Gerardo Teissonnière (piano), Chloe Trevor (violinist), Steven Smith (conductor), Thomas Moore (music producer). The acceptance rate at CIM is around 40%. Tuition fee for the 2017/2018 school year is $47,200. CIM offers different types of financial aid – CIM Scholarship, CIM Grant, CIM Endowed Scholarship, Graduate Assistantships, there are also federal grants and loans, veteran’s benefits, work and study programs, etc. The graduation rate is 81%.