Choosing to attend a music college is a big decision, choosing which music college to go to may be an even bigger decision. The music college a person chooses can affect his or her career, both inside and outside of the music industry. While all music schools provide courses in music, music theory and other music-related material, every music school has something special to offer.
Here are the top ten traditional music colleges in the nation, their locations, and alumni:
Top 10 Music Programs in the U.S.
1. The Juilliard School
The Juilliard School is the most prestigious and recognizable performing arts university in the nation. Known simply as “Juilliard”, this college offers dance and acting in addition to music. The school offers education in vocal arts, instruments, jazz studies, historical performances, composition, conducting, and more. Located at Lincoln Center in New York City, Juilliard is close to New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera; Juilliard students often have the opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center. This institution focuses more on classical and opera, although students have gone on to perform in other genres.
Notable musical alumni include Miles Davis, Barry Manilow, Nina Simone, Pat Benatar, and Yo-Yo Ma.
2. Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music is located in upscale, yet friendly Back Bay neighborhood of historic and beautiful Boston, MA. This college offers 12 majors leading to a baccalaureate degree (B.M.) or professional diploma and more than 30 types of degree programs at their main campus, along with certificates and individual courses. Berklee focuses on getting artists to the Top 40 list, so many of the alumni work in pop, rock, and other modern genres.
Notable alumni include Melissa Etheridge, Esperanza Spalding, Quincy Jones, and John Mayer.
3. Yale School of Music
While Yale might not be the first school to come to mind when it comes to music, the Yale School of Music is a global leader in educating creative musicians. It is the only music school in the Ivy League, and it is highly selective, admitting only about 200 students into its music programs.
Yale School of Music alumni includes triple Grammy winner Michael Daugherty, Oscar-nominated composer Marco Beltrami, and cellist, bassist, keyboardist, composer and arranger, Matt Brubeck.
4. Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music has been around for nearly 100 years. This school specializes in opera, but offers programs in composition, conducting, vocal studies, strings, brass, guitar, harp, piano, organ and more. With only 175 students, the tuition-free Curtis Institute of Music is extraordinarily selective.
Alumni include Leonard Bernstein, David Brooks, and Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang.
5. New England Conservatory of Music
The New England Conservatory of Music trains and educates musicians of all ages, who represent more than 40 countries. The school states that they believe that the study of music builds human capacity, elevates the soul, and prepares our students for lives that enhance the public good. They offer a variety of majors, including chamber music, collaborative piano, composition, conducting, brass, music theory, contemporary improvisation, and more.
Notable alumni include the pop opera singer who won America’s Got Talent in 2008, Neal E. Boyd, progressive bluegrass singer Aoife O’Donovan, and percussionist Vic Firth.
6. Mannes School of Music
Mannes School of Music infuses real-world experience and cross-disciplinary learning into their rigorous traditional classical training program. Based in New York City, the Mannes School of Music offers more than 50 minors and a five-year dual degree program in Orchestral Instruments and Arts Management and Entrepreneurship.
Alumni include widely successful composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, and singer Burt Bacharach.
7. Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University
Jacobs School of Music is located at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.
This public university has more than 1,600 students at any given time. There are 180 full-time faculty members here, including performers, scholars, and internationally renowned teachers. Facilities include five buildings with recital halls, more than 170 practice rooms, rehearsal rooms, and more than 100 studios and offices. The Musical Arts Center features some of the nation’s best technical capabilities.
Alumni include Grammy award-winning violinist and conductor Joshua Bell and rock musician Carl Broemel.
8. Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University
Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, is exclusively for undergraduates. The school’s Bachelor of Music degree programs focus heavily on individual performance instruction in the classical tradition. Students gain practical experience through solo recitals, master class participation, and performance while earning their academic credits.
Alumni include violinist Dana Kelley and pianist/composer Evan Mack.
9. Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University
Bienen School of Music dates back to 1873 when the Northwestern Female College and the Evanston College for Ladies merged into the Northwestern University Woman’s College to create the Conservatory of Music. Located in Evanston, IL, which is near the City of Chicago, the school is a nationally ranked music academy that offers five dual degrees programs. More than 2,000 students apply to Bienen each year, but each year’s class has only 200 undergraduate and graduate students.
Notable alumni include Grammy Award-winning music director and principal conductor for Chicagoland Pops Orchestra, Arnie Roth, and Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist and album producer, Steve Rodby.
10. Cleveland Institute of Music
Cleveland Institute of Music promises to provide classical training for the modern musician. Students can earn dual degrees, including an education degree so that they can teach music, or earn double majors in theory, composition, eurhythmics, or audio recording. Areas of study include various instruments, audio recording, music theory, composition, and voice (opera).
Alumni include classical guitarist and Grammy winner, Jason Vieaux, and Martin Leung, also known as Video Game Pianist.
For more information about each of these music schools, contact their respective admissions offices.