16 Best Music Schools in the US

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Joining one of the best music conservatories in the US is a great decision for those who want to pursue a music career in the future. They have the most experienced faculty, the best music facilities, and a wide range of music degrees.

Some institutions even offer undergraduate programs while others allow students to combine courses.

Types of Music Schools

Music schools at the undergraduate and graduate levels exist in a variety of shapes and sizes.


The music conservatory is the most specialized of these. A conservatory student will dedicate most of his time to rehearsals, performance classes, studio lessons, and music sessions. Liberal arts subjects may also be part of the curriculum.


Another option is a university with a designated music department that doesn’t offer a specific undergraduate music gradation. Students at these music learning institutions can graduate with a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Music.

At this type of music school, students will end up spending 50 percent of their time learning other academic topics and only 50 percent on learning music.

10 Top Music Schools in the US

The best music schools in the US either focus on classical music, like Juilliard and Curtis, or contemporary music, like Colburn School. There are plenty of top music schools in the US, some of which we already featured in the 10 Best Music Schools in the World.

These are The Juilliard School, Berklee College of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, Yale School of Music, University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, and Eastman School of Music.

1. The Juilliard School

The Juilliard School Photo D Ramey Logan
Author: D Ramey Logan
The Juilliard School photo D Ramey Logan.jpg from Wikimedia Commons
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Founded: By Dr.Frank Damrosch in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art

Location: #60 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, USA

Notable Alumni: John Williams, David Bryan, Bernard Herrmann, and Barry Manilow

Acceptance Rate: 6.9%

Student-Faculty Ration: 3:1

Juilliard is widely seen as the top of the best music schools in the world for performing arts. It provides undergraduate and graduates music, theatre, and dance programs. Orchestral Conducting, Vocal Arts, Historical Performance, Composition, and Jazz Studies are some of the top programs available at the music school.

Its faculty is made up of world-class musicians and allies with Lincoln Centre, one of the most well-known presenters of musical events across the world. Every year, approximately 700 Julliard-funded opportunities of live performances in music are provided for its students, which is considered one of the school’s most notable elements.

More than 105 Grammy Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 12 National Medals of Arts, 47 Emmy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, 26 Bessie Awards, and 62 Tony Awards have been bestowed upon Juilliard alumni.

Famous Julliard music alumni include composers Rautavaara, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Nigel Kennedy, Itzhak Perlman, and Sarah Chang.

2. Berklee College of Music


Founded: By Lawrence Berk in 1945

Location: #1140 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Notable Alumni: John Mayer, Quincy Jones, Wayne Sermon, and Melissa Etheridge.

Acceptance Rate: 51.4%

Student-Faculty Ration: 7:1

Berklee, distinctly a contemporary music college, is the world’s most prominent independent college and is one of the best music conservatories in the world. There isn’t another music college dedicated to modern music engineering, music synthesis, and writing principles like Berklee.

The Berklee College of Music merged with its sister campus in Valencia, Spain in 2012 to become the institution called Berklee with the Boston campus called The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

It provides graduate degrees, diplomas, undergraduate degrees, summer programs, online degrees, and certifications. Students can specialize in Music Production, Music Therapy, Music Business, Jazz Composition, Design, Film Scoring, and Electronic Production.

Berklee generates more hitmakers than most music schools globally. Graduates have received several Latin Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, over 250 Grammy Awards, multiple Oscars, and plenty of other honors.

3. Curtis Institute of Music

1280px Curtisinstofmusic

Founded: By Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist in 1924

Location: #1726 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA

Notable Alumni: Gary Graffman, Leonard Bernstein, Lang Lang, and David Brooks

Acceptance Rate: 3.9%

Student-Faculty Ration: 2:1

The school’s forte is opera, making it the dream for every Opera musician aspirant. Curtis produces some of the most accomplished in the field. It is one of the best music schools in the world and is popular for its tuition-free aspect.

It offers a diverse curriculum, including the Professional Studies Certificate, Bachelor of Music, and Post-Baccalaureate Diploma. Secondary school graduates can study to achieve a Diploma.

Specializations in several areas including Organ, Vocal Studies, Strings, Brass, and more are available. Students have access to a unique ‘career studies’ program to educate them with entrepreneurship, pedagogy, trends, community-based initiatives, hands-on technology, and industry skills.

4. Yale School of Music


Founded: By Irene Battell Larned in 1894

Location: #98 Wall St, New Haven, CT 06511, USA

Notable Alumni: Reena Esmail, David Lang, Michael Daugherty, and Marco Beltrami

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Student-Faculty Ration: 3:1

This is the only Ivy League Educational Institute with a music school. Yale School of Music is one of the best music schools in the world. It is one of Yale University’s 12 professional schools. Thanks to a gift of $100 million in 2005, the school extends a tuition-free facility.

The graduate degrees available are Ph.D. in Musical Arts, Master of Musical Arts, Master of Music, and Certificate in Performance and Artist Diploma programs. Numerous film composers and accomplished musicians are graduates of this institution.

5. University of Southern California Thornton School of Music

Usc Thornton School Of Music Logo

Founded: By Robert M. Widney in 1884

Location: #840 W 34th St, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

Notable Alumni: Michael Tilson Thomas, James Newton Howard, and James Horner

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Student-Faculty Ration: 6:1

USC features in the top music schools in the world. It is one of the oldest continuously running music schools in Los Angeles, making it one of the West Coast’s and Los Angeles’ most vibrant cultural hubs. The school provides degrees in erudite training, Contemporary music, research, Classical performance, and composition.

In addition to jazz and classical studies, it was the first music school to train for common songwriting and music performance degrees. To date, USC produces some of the world’s most renowned composers, conductors, and performers.

6. Eastman School of Music


Founded: By George Eastman in 1921

Location: #26 Gibbs St, Rochester, NY 14604, USA

Notable Alumni: Alexander Courage, Renée Fleming, and Ron Carter

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Student-Faculty Ration: 6:1

The school has a Bachelor of Music program for undergraduates, and a Ph.D., Master of Arts, or Master of Music for graduates. Depsite a reputation of being in the top music schools in the world, Eastman school has fairly priced tuition. However, one can get notable monetary assistance – nearly all students gain merit-based scholarships.

7. Jacobs School of Music

Jacobs School Of Music building

Established: In 1921 but was known as the Indiana University School of Music until 2005

Location: Indiana University – 205 S Jordan Ave, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

Notable Alumni: Larry Ridley, David Baker, Kenny Aronoff, and Joshua Bell

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Jacobs School of Music offers more undergraduate options compared to other top music schools in the US. They offer everything from accreditation in string instrument technology to a major in traditional instruments.

Scholars can also seek dual music degrees in some programs. For illustration, it is possible to get a Bachelor of Music in composition to complement a Sound Production and Audio Engineering degree.

8. Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Building of Oberlin Conservatory Of Music, one of the best music schools in the US

Established: In 1865

Location: Oberlin College – 77 W College St, Oberlin, OH 44074, USA

Notable Alumni: Jon Theodore, Robert Spano, James McBride, and George Walker

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Oberlin is the country’s oldest continuously running conservatory and the second oldest conservatory in the US. It is one of the best music conservatories in the US. It is popularly known for its unique Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA) curriculum and its elaborate and contemporary music programs.

Most of the students choose the orthodox 4-year Bachelor of Music program, but some (approximately 30%) would pursue a dual-degree, 5-year program in collaboration with Oberlin College.

9. School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD)

School Of Music, Theatre, And Dance (smtd)

Established: In 1880

Location: University of Michigan – 1100 Baits Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

Notable Alumni: Madonna and James Earl Jones

Acceptance Rate: 7-16% (depending on major)

SMTD focuses primarily on performing arts, jazz, and originality. As part of one’s application, a prospective student must present an artistic profile. Then, scholars can pursue a Bachelor of Musical Arts, which integrates non-music coursework with a music performance (classical or jazz) concentration.

10. Peabody Institute

Peabody Institute Building

Founded: In 1857

Location: Johns Hopkins University – 1 E Mt Vernon Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202, USA

Notable Alumni: Angelin Chang, Carter Brey, and Richard Cassilly

Acceptance Rate: Low (varies by program)

Peabody provides a non-academic undergraduate credential (performance certificates) and degrees in Bachelor of Music. If you are an undergraduate student, you will only need to apply to the Peabody Institute. If you want to pursue a dual degree, you can enroll at Johns Hopkins as well. Peabody’s curriculum promotes student collaboration and civic responsibility.

Other Great Music Schools in the US

Other top music schools in the US include:

11. Thornton School of Music (USC)

Thornton School Of Music (usc)

Founded: In 1884

Location: University of Southern California – 840 W 34th St, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

Notable Alumni: Bear McCreary, Sara Gazarek, and Marilyn Horne

Acceptance Rate: 20% (varies depending on year and program)

Thornton School of Music has two undergraduate programs: the BA in Music – permitting students to pursue a degree by giving more focus to liberal arts, and the BM – principally a conservatory degree.

The admission process here differs from most – applicants must apply to USC, choose a “music major,” and include all portfolio material requirements. Its location in LA makes it perfect for students to gather out of the class hands-on experience.

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12. Frost School of Music

Exterior of Frost School Of Music

Founded: In 1926 but was called the University of Miami School of Music (until 2003)

Location: University of Miami – 1314 Miller Dr, Coral Gables, FL 33146, USA

Notable Alumni: Jon Secada, Patti Scialfa, and Bruce Hornsby

Acceptance Rate: 40%

To get in the Frost School of Music, one must also apply and pass the University of Miami’s applications – cross-registering classes are available once admitted.

Most students opt for a BA in Music with a non-music subject minor, but some pursue dual degrees. Leading iconic classical music performers are part of the faculty, making the school ideal for those pursuing careers in classical music.

13. Colburn Conservatory of Music

Colburn Conservatory Of Music

Founded: In 1950

Location: California Plaza – 200 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA

Notable Alumni: David Fang, Tamaki Kawakubo, and Eric Reed

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Colburn’s curriculum is comprehensive. Their programs can vary from graduate music lessons to pre-college study, but they only offer performance majors. This US music school focuses on dance and music and has various classes, including ear training, orchestra, music history, music theory, and many other programs.

Each student gets a full-ride scholarship that covers meal plan costs, tuition fees, and housing on campus, making it among the best music schools in the US.

14. UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

UCLA Herb Alpert School Of Music building

Founded: In 1882

Location: The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), CA 90095, USA

Notable Alumni: Jim Morrison, Jackie Robinson, and Mayim Bialik

Acceptance Rate: 12%

UCLA has a strong repute amongst its alumni and students for its emphasis on classical and ethnic music. One of the most notable benefits of this school is the pretty large tuition discounts it offers to California residents.

The music school course outline has intense jazz, world music, and Western classical traditions training, led by professional artists. Talented scholars and musicians study, create, perform, and celebrate music in all of its forms.

15. Manhattan School of Music (MSM)

Manhattan School Of Music Building

Founded: In 1917

Location: 130 Claremont Ave, New York, NY 10027, USA

Notable Alumni: Hugh Masakela, Ron Carter, Miguel Zenón, and Jason Moran

Acceptance Rate: 45% (varies depending on year and major)

Some of the popular degrees at Manhattan School of Music (MSM) include Orchestra Performance, Jazz Arts, and Doctorate of Music Arts. Students can also pursue a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre. They can even major purely in instruments like cello, clarinet, saxophone, tuba, and many others.

Faculty staff includes members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Philharmonic.

16. Mannes School of Music

Mannes School Of Music

Founded: In 1916

Location: The New School – 55 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011, USA

Notable Alumni: Burt Bacharach and Nadine Sierra

Acceptance Rate: 35-60% (varies depending on the program)

Most of Mannes’ undergraduate programs are focused on performance. The school is ideal for those who’d like to major in conducting and theory, a unique feature of the institution.

Despite being one of the smaller conservatories on our list, Mannes is still highly-regarded and well-known because the faculty members are from the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

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Bobby is a viola player who currently lives in Seattle. He has been playing viola for over 20 years in various orchestras.


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