If you want to start a career in music, enrolling in a music study program is one of the best things you can do.
To help you find some inspiration and guidance, or potentially your future school, we made a list of the best music schools in the US.
We made a selection based on the school’s reputation, student experience, accreditation, and other relevant factors.
Some of these schools also offer online study programs for those who don’t want to move to another city to enroll.
1. Juilliard School
Without a doubt, Juilliard School is one of the most prestigious music schools in the world.
Founded in 1905, Juilliard is known for producing many musicians who have become legendary artists, such as Miles Davis, Renée Fleming, and Yo-Yo Ma.
The school offers a Bachelor of Music, a Master’s of Music, a Doctorate of Music Arts, and various combinations of the three.
When it comes to its courses and fields, Juilliard is primarily known for classical music performance and composition.
So, Juilliard is more traditionally and classically oriented than some other music schools on this list.
And the school is proud of attracting top talent – but since it’s so small, the acceptance rate is low too.
2. Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music is also regarded as one of the top music schools in the US.
Located in Boston, Berklee offers a variety of study programs, including music business, music production and engineering, film scoring, songwriting, and music therapy.
The college is known for yielding great results with their students – their alumni earned 310 Grammy Awards and other prestigious awards in the industry.
For those interested in distance learning, Berklee offers online music degree programs (Berklee Online) and online certificate programs at the professional or advanced professional level.
And unlike Juilliard, Berklee is focused on more contemporary music styles and therefore attracts students interested in entering the music industry.
Their acceptance rate is a lot higher too – it’s around 52%.
3. Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
Eastman consistently ranks among the top-rated music schools in the US.
It’s a rather selective conservatory, but it offers quality courses, a well-rounded curriculum, and an impressive roster of teachers.
And thanks to its demanding programs, Eastman has former students in every major orchestra in the country.
That said, Eastman is a top choice for serious, ambitious musicians who want to get credentials and quality musical education.
Their programs cover a variety of fields and topics, including music teaching, piano, opera and vocal coaching, musicology, chamber music, and composition.
4. Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Oberlin is a respected conservatory located in rural Ohio.
It’s the oldest conservatory in the country, so it’s a truly special music school.
Oberlin offers a rather traditional program accordingly – it offers Baroque music programs, for example.
But it also offers a TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts) program.
Either way, Oberlin students can expect a rather rigorous program, especially if they opt for their dual five-year program.
But their traditional, four-year Bachelor of Music degree program is a bit less demanding.
5. New England Conservatory of Music
New England Conservatory of Music is often ranked among the top US music schools for a good reason.
It’s one of the largest conservatives in the country, and it attracts students from around the world.
It offers undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and it’s best known for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.
It’s also recently been praised for its new program, Entrepreneurial Musicianship.
Admissions for this respected Boston-based music school are rather competitive, but their acceptance rate is around 36%, which is still better than some other options.
6. Curtis Institute of Music
Located in Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music is regarded as one of the best music schools in the US for students interested in composition.
Many accomplished composers are their former students, including Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti, Ned Rorem, and Nino Rota.
And they’re known for their vocal graduates too.
That said, Curtis is arguably one of the most selective music schools in the country – their acceptance rate is less than 5%.
7. Manhattan School of Music
Manhattan School of Music offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral music degrees.
Located near Broadway, it’s hands down one of the best music schools in the US.
As you might assume, Manhattan School of Music is hard to get into, although their acceptance rate is 49%, which is not so bad compared to some other schools.
Nonetheless, the school offers top-notch study programs and courses, and it’s widely known for its musical theater program and Jazz studies.
It also has notable alumni, including Harry Connick, Jr., Herbie Hancock, Hugh Masakela, and Herbie Mann.
8. Mannes College – The New School for Music
The New School for Music is another top-rated music school to look into.
Their distinguished alumni include pianists Richard Goode, Murray Perahia, and Bill Evans and the 20th-century songwriting legend Burt Bacharach.
Located in New York’s Greenwich Village, the conservatory offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in departments such as classical music performance, voice, composition, and jazz.
Their curriculum is rigorous but also imaginative, and all courses are taught by world-class artists and professors.
Students are also offered unique opportunities for collaborative work.
9. Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Founded in 1867, Boston Conservatory has a long history of producing successful musicians.
It’s the nation’s only interdisciplinary conservatory with dance, music, opera, and theater
And they’re one of the few conservatories in the US offering programs in all major instruments.
They also offer summer programs and extension programs for those interested in shorter music courses.
Boston Conservatory offers admission to around 40% of its applicants, and they have a quite high yearly retention rate.
10. Full Sail University
Full Sail started out in 1979 as a recording school offering courses in audio engineering.
The school is now regarded as one of the best universities for studying music, media, and arts.
Full Sail covers a variety of fields, from digital arts to computer programming, and they’re widely known for their innovative music industry programs.
Their music degree programs include music production, audio engineering, music management, radio and television broadcasting technology, and so on.
You can choose from associate, undergraduate, and master’s degrees, as well as single courses and course stacks.
And they offer a variety of online music degree programs.
Should You Go to Music College?
All of the schools we mentioned today are excellent, reputable music schools that equip their students with valuable knowledge, experiences, and skills needed to enter the field and fulfill their dream.
So if you’re still not sure whether applying to music college is something you should do, the answer is simple: if your dream is to become a musician, you should definitely consider it.
Now, not every successful musician has a music degree.
When it comes to music, talent, and skills are much more important.
However, some positions do require a music degree.
For instance, some technical fields require a degree, as well as some research fields such as music therapy.
But if you want to be a freelancer producer or play in a successful band, acquiring the necessary skills and gaining hands-on experience is much more important.
On the other hand, a good music study program will help you learn these skills and help you learn from experts, gain experience, and make connections.
Plus, it will probably equip you with a broader knowledge and help you become a more well-rounded musician while giving you a chance to focus on your passion.
Also, getting a music degree would undoubtedly improve your career prospects and give you an edge over competitors.
But again, it all depends on your specific goals.
However, you should conduct thorough research before deciding anything.
If you’re not ready to commit to a full degree program, maybe there’s a certificate program that might interest you.
Or there’s an online music degree program with a flexible schedule.
And if you’re worried about tuition fees, maybe there’s a scholarship you can apply for.
There are also some great community colleges worth considering, and they offer more affordable fees.
There are many options for learning nowadays – you just need to set specific goals, write down your priorities, and explore all the studying options you have at your disposal.
Is Majoring in Music Hard?
Once you create a shortlist of the best music school you would like to attend, everything will feel less overwhelming.
But one of the questions that usually come up in this stage is: how tough is music college, really?
Well, as you might assume, the answer is not so simple.
Some study programs require a lot of dedication, and they include a ton of classes, rehearsals, and performances.
And some music degree programs are more flexible and focused on theory.
The difficulty of studying music depends on the school as well as your previous experience, skills, and talent.
But it all comes down to your motivation and persistence.
If you work hard to achieve your dreams and do well in your classes, there’s no reason for that not to happen.
How to Choose a Music School
One of the prerequisites for achieving your goals and graduating successfully is to choose the right music school.
And that mainly depends on your career goals and previous experiences.
So, one of the first things you should do is to make a shortlist of all the schools that offer what you’re looking for.
And then you can make that list even shorter by making sure you meet all of their requirements.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you can start checking for application dates.
Meeting the deadline for each aspect of the application is crucial, and that’s why you need to be well-organized.
Prepare everything you need in advance, and make sure you don’t send your application at the last minute.
Most schools require an essay, letters of recommendation, and some kind of music portfolio, and some of them require you to complete an audition too.
Applying for music college can seem daunting and overwhelming, but if you’re organized and you approach it one step at a time, you’ll realize it’s not as difficult as it seems.
Best Music Schools in the US – Final Thoughts
The best music schools in the US are usually hard to get into.
But they’re definitely worth a try, especially if you’re sure of your skills and career goals.
Either way, there are many excellent music schools worthy of consideration.
Therefore, you should do thorough research, make a list of your goals and priorities, and apply for schools that meet your needs.
And once you get accepted, that’s only the beginning of a long but exciting and rewarding journey.
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