10 Best Music Schools in the US

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 but 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. 

Those mentioned in that article will not be repeated here, though they top this list. 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. Other top music schools in the US include:

#1: 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.

#2: 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.

#3: 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.

#4: 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.

#5: 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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#6: 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.

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#7: 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.

#8: 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.

#9: 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.

#10: 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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