By Gabrielle Kratsas
When researching the best music schools in the country, many hopeful music majors are faced with the high tuition and low acceptance rates of major music conservatories like Juilliard without realizing that there are a plethora of accessible and cheap colleges with good music programs.
While, for the purpose of this ranking, we did not discriminate between the types of schools, it’s important to understand that there is a difference when it comes to earning a music degree at a state school versus a private liberal arts college, a conservatory or even a university that has its own conservatory.
Larger public universities run excellent programs through their music departments, and their students have the opportunity to have the “full college experience,” as well as the ability to expand their academic careers beyond performing arts. The curriculum at smaller college-level conservatories and music schools doesn’t stray from the performing arts, and these schools are typically more expensive and harder to get into. While students at conservatories and small, private schools don’t have the lifestyle choices of a large college, they are more likely to get individualized attention from high profile faculty members and occasionally free tuition. For those of you who want the best of both worlds, schools like the University of Southern California have a conservatory on campus, although some students struggle to balance their general education requirements with their music school commitment.
In the end, each individual planning to earn a degree in music should choose his or her school based on personal wants and needs, paying close attention to things like location, private lesson teachers for the desired discipline, class sizes and post-graduation employment numbers. Those graduating with a degree in music, today, are learning the benefits of having versatile diplomas that reach beyond a performance program. Many of the best music schools on our list offer varying ranges of musical majors, like music education for those looking to become teachers, music business degrees, audio engineering/music production, music therapy, industry studies and more. Some even offer or require their music majors to earn a double degree to better set them up for the working world.
We sourced information from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database, U.S. News & World Report, Wikipedia, the individual schools’ websites and other college resource websites listed at the end of this article.
We developed this ranking by starting with a list of 100 schools, colleges and universities regarded as having high quality music programs. We want to find the best value for our readers, so we narrowed that list down to the 60 cheapest colleges, and we ranked it using the point system below. **Some cheaper music schools ranked too low, so they we included a few more expensive programs in their place.
The point system we used in our ranking works as follows:
- Affordability: Net Cost less than $15,000 (2 points), less than $20,000 (1 point)
- Awards and Recognition: International accolade (2 points); national accolade (1 point)
- Competitiveness: 20+ acceptance rate (1 point); 30+ (2 points); 50+ (3 points); undergrad only (1 additional point); auditions not required (1 additional point)
- Average Class Size (within the music department): 10-19 students (1 point); 2-9 students (2 points); extensive individual attention (1 point)
- Available Undergraduate Disciplines (1 point each): Both classical and contemporary programs available; music education degree; music industry/business degree; more than 15 available undergraduate areas of study; double degree program; additional unique programs
- Additional Features (max of 3 points each): Gainful location; school partnerships/affiliations that benefit students; significant performance opportunities; notable facilities
- Graduate Success: Since this is difficult to quantify but incredibly important, schools offering information concerning graduate employment success (excluding alumni name-dropping) earned an extra 1-3 points at the editor’s discretion.
When two or more schools earned the same number of points, their rank order was determined by the schools’ affordability. The schools with lower net costs received the better ranking (lower net cost = lower number). Points are added together for the competitiveness, recognition and additional factors. Finally, while having big-name faculty and alumni on the roster is attractive to prospective students, this is difficult to quantify and has, therefore, been left out of the point system.
60. Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA
Points Awarded: 11
Net Cost: $31,726
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a private, four-year college with 2,600 students on a campus that’s two hours or less from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Gettysburg’s newer Sunderman Conservatory is small with accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). It requires both an audition and interview from prospective students.
Once admitted, students in the BA in music program have the option to double major (almost 50 percent do), but both the BA and BM in performance programs require weekly one-hour private lessons amongst other expectations within the curriculum. Those interested in Gettysburg’s bachelor of music education degree program have a nice 100 percent placement rate in jobs, graduate programs or professional schools to look forward to after graduation. About half of Conservatory students study abroad for one semester, and 35 percent of music majors at Gettysburg earn music/merit-related scholarships.
Students participating in one or more of the three bands, four choral ensembles, jazz ensemble, Symphony Orchestra and percussion ensemble have toured internationally to places like Nicaragua and Singapore. Back on campus, they perform and practice in facilities like the Luella Musselman Paul Recital Hall, Music Technology Lab, recording studio, Majestic Theater and Christ Chapel.
59. Ohio University in Athens, OH
Points Awarded: 13
Net Cost: $21,899
Chartered in 1804 as the state’s first university, Ohio University has a total enrollment just under 37,000, a “higher research activity” Carnegie classification and an average freshman total gift aid of $5,869. The School of Music, in the College of Fine Arts, celebrated its 100th anniversary in April 2017 and is a fully accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).
The current 230 undergraduates are working toward the following degrees: BM in composition, music education, music therapy and performance (organ, piano, voice or instrumental); a more-general BA in music that requires fewer credits; minors in music and jazz studies; and an Honors Tutorials College music program, which offers individualized instruction and a flexible curriculum.
According to the school, all OU music education and music therapy program graduates secure positions quickly after graduation. The School of Music calls the six-story Robert Glidden Hall “home.” It has classrooms, practice rooms, faculty studios and offices, a midi lab, keyboard labs, the Music & Dance library, administrative offices, instrument repair shops, recording facility, student lockers, graduate associate offices and student organization offices.
58. Duke University in Durham, NC
Points Awarded: 13
Net Cost: $21,295
With origins tracing back to 1838, Duke University is a private research university with a 9,000-acre main campus and just under 15,000 students. The BA in music was established in 1960, and today it requires 10 full course credits, at least 8 of which must be at the 100-level or above. Duke also offers a minor in instrumental or vocal performance, as well as programs leading to the Ph.D. in composition, musicology (optional emphasis in performance practice) and ethnomusicology.
With 75 percent of its student body taking advantage of service work opportunities, it’s no surprise that Duke offers plenty service learning programs for music majors. A Duke-unique program is In New York Arts & Media, where university professors take students to New York and supervise Duke credit courses. Duke graduates have gone on to win the BMI Young Composer Awards, the ASCAP Foundation’s Grants to Young Composers and the Charles Ives Fellowship from American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The Mary Duke Biddle Music Building, built in 1974, houses Duke’s Department of Music, Bone Hall, the G. Norman and Ruth G. Eddy Collection of Musical Instruments and the Music Library. The library holds over 100,000 books, scores, journals and microfilms, while the Media Center has around 30,000 sound recordings.
57. University of Redlands in Redlands, CA
Points Awarded: 14
Net Cost: $31,686
Opened in 1907, the University of Redlands is a private, nonprofit university with a total enrollment just under 2,500 and a school-wide average class size of 19 students. Just 60 miles from Los Angeles, Redlands’ School of Music is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. It is the second-oldest nationally accredited school of music in the state and one of only six private colleges accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to offer the Single Subject Program in Music.
All students audition for admission to the School of Music, during which they are automatically considered for a scholarship. This school’s classes are small, and BA in music majors receive weekly 30-minute lessons while BM performance majors receive full hour lessons without paying extra fees. Other degree programs include a BM in composition and the BM in music education, a nine-semester program with a student teaching component, which most students can still complete in four years. The performance major is available in about 20 vocal and instrumental study areas, a double-degree BM + BS or BA program allows students an extra 32 credits and the school offers a minor in jazz studies, instrumental or vocal music, music history and an interdisciplinary minor.
The School has a close relationship with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, having both faculty and qualified students play as members, assistants, substitutes or section players. On the education side, the California Teaching Credential has reciprocal agreements with all 50 states, and approved students in the program are paid to teach lessons to community members through the Community School for Music and the Arts. Even further, all of the music education graduates that want to teach find school teaching jobs.
56. Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, CA
Points Awarded: 14
Net Cost: $28,340
Azusa Pacific University opened in 1899 as a Training School for Christian Workers, and now offers 60+ undergraduate degree programs to almost 10,000 students on its main campus and at its seven offsite regional locations around the state. The School of Music, within the College of Music and the Arts, is fully-accredited by NASM and is comprised of the Department of Commercial Music, the Department of Musical Studies and the Department of Performing Arts, offering four master’s degree programs, eight undergraduate majors and a music minor.
Just 26 miles northeast of LA, music students have access to a variety of opportunities through APU’s connections with major recording studios, orchestras and music halls. Student performers can join any of the three vocal groups; six choral ensembles; symphonic, marching and basketball bands; symphony orchestra; jazz workshop; and wind, guitar, percussion, chamber and jazz ensembles, all of which travel frequently and tour during the summers.
After the entrance audition and admission, music majors enjoy small classes, and 95 percent of undergrads receive some sort of aid toward one of the following degree programs: a BM in commercial music, music and worship, composition, music education and performance; or a liberal arts-focused BA in music with emphases in music theory and performance.
55. Rice University in Houston, TX
Points Awarded: 14
Net Cost: $22,462
Founded in 1891, Rice University is a private research university with over 6,500 students and a 6:1 undergraduate student-faculty ratio. Located on a 300-acre campus in the nation’s fourth largest city, Rice’s Shepherd School of Music was established in 1975. The school is currently constructing a new music and opera house which is set to open in 2020 and house a three-tiered, 600-seat, European-style opera theater with an orchestra pit for 70 musicians.
Rice is competitive with a selective acceptance rate and some merit-based scholarships, but students are able to choose their faculty member for private study lessons. This top music school offers a four-year professional degree and a BM in 19 different areas of study, including composition, music theory and music history. For more contemporary music courses, Rice offers facilities like the Rice Electroacoustic Music Labs (REMLABS).
If you’re concerned about finding a music job in today’s world, Rice offers a full website dedicated to “Navigating Music Careers,” which offers short video lessons on a variety of topics including career ideas, performance skills, health and injury prevention and the music business. Rice music alumni have won Pulitzer Prizes and GRAMMY Awards; performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera; and held positions in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and more.
54. University of Texas at Austin in Austin, TX
Points Awarded: 14
Net Cost: $17,366
Founded in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin is a public research institution and the flagship university of the University of Texas System. UT Austin enrolls over 51,000 students, has 18 colleges and schools and 170+ undergraduate fields of study, allowing the students in UT’s Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music to take advantage of the wide variety of opportunities this large college has to offer. Located in Austin, “The Live Music Capital of the World,” Butler offers its students access to more music venues per capita than any other U.S. city.
UTA is home to about 650 music majors, but with a student-faculty ratio of 7:1, students are still getting the individual attention they need. More than 200 incoming freshmen receive merit-based scholarship awards to put toward earning a BA in music or a BM in composition, jazz (performance or composition emphasis), music studies (music education with a choral or instrument emphasis) or in performance. Students have 16 areas of study to choose from, including a concentration in electronic music.
The Fine Arts Career Services (FACS) offers resources to all music students and alumni. Other unique facilities include the University of Texas at Austin’s Electronic Music Studios (UTEMS), which are among the most extensive and technologically advanced of any college in the country. Off-campus, students have performed all over the world at events like the International Computer Music Conference and the Bourges Concours International de Musique Electronique.
53. College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA
Points Awarded: 14
Net Cost: $14,310
The second oldest college in the nation, the College of William and Mary is a “Public Ivy” research university that was chartered in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II of England. The Williamsburg campus is 1,200 acres, including the Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre and other natural features, located in historic downtown Williamsburg, home of the Virginia Musical Museum. The Department of Music doesn’t require auditions for admission, and it’s home to more than 400 students.
Students can audition, however, for the several Applied Music scholarships to supplement the cost of the department’s weekly one-hour private lessons. At least 14 other unique scholarships are awarded to students each spring. These help cover the cost of degree programs like the BA in music with sub-disciplines in music history, ethnomusicology, music theory, composition and performance, all of which have a curriculum grounded in classical music, world musics and a full complement of American music.
A performer in the Blue Man Group graduated from W&M’s music program, which runs a wide variety of different-sized ensembles, three music fraternities and sororities and the student-run Sinfonicron Light Opera Company. The SLOC gives students the opportunity to practice real-world directing, producing, designing and performing in their own show.
52. Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX
Points Awarded: 14
Net Cost: $11,872
Founded in 1879, Sam Houston State University is the 12th largest university in the state with over 18,000 students. The College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication is home to the School of Music, which is ranked No. 1 for placing students in the Texas workforce within 12 months of graduation. The Huntsville Cultural District is one of the first seven state cultural districts to be designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
All prospective music majors are required to audition for this school, which offers 14 divisions of study within BM degree programs in performance, composition and music therapy, as well as a degree with a teacher certification. Students have multiple performance opportunities through the school’s Chorale, Concert Choir, Symphonic Choir, Wind Ensemble, Bearkat Marching Band and Symphonic Band. If the net cost isn’t low enough for you, SHSU offers more than 20 music scholarships with awards ranging from $100 to $5,000. Unique facilities include the Center for Early Music Research and Performance, and the over 100,000-square-foot James & Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center, which houses an 800-seat concert hall, a 160-seat dance theatre and a separate 175-seat recital hall.
51. University of Denver in Denver, CO
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $32,063
Founded in 1864, the University of Denver is a mid-sized private university with about 12,000 students, an 11:1 student-faculty ratio and a Carnegie Foundation designation as a high-volume research institution. In 1941, the Lamont School of Music merged with the University of Denver and is now an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Located in one of the country’s “world-class arts areas,” the fewer than 300 students within the Lamont School of Music can experience the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, area jazz clubs, the Colorado Symphony and more.
The school merger allows DU music students to experience a performance-based, conservatory-style education while having the resources of a large university. The available undergraduate degree programs include a BA in music and a BM in recording and production, composition, jazz studies or performance. Graduates of these programs now call professional organizations home like the Metropolitan Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and acclaimed graduate schools like The Juilliard School. Examples of what these alumni are up to can be found here.
This top-ranking All-Steinway music school puts on 300+ performances annually, including opera, musical theatre and concerts by the 25 large and small student ensembles. Students at DU enjoy facilities like the 180,000-square-foot Robert and Judi Newman Center for Performing Arts, which has a 1,000-seat opera house, Lamont’s home in Virginia E. Trevorrow Hall, two recital halls, a flexible theatre, the music library, a keyboard/computer lab, a professional recording studio and more.
50. VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, IL
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $24,734
Established in 1909, VanderCook College of Music is the only college in the country with a sole focus on music teacher education. Located on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus, this private non-profit school offers a small college atmosphere, full access to IIT’s amenities and a short drive to the heart of downtown Chicago’s vibrant classical and new music scene. VanderCook is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as the National Association of Schools of Music.
VanderCook’s College of Music enrolls just 131 undergraduates, maintaining a 6:1 student-teacher ratio, and it offers some kind of financial aid assistance to 90 percent of undergrads, including five music-specific scholarships. This music educator school offers a bachelor of music education (BMEd), which prepares students for the Illinois State Board of Education Professional Educator License with a Special K-12 Endorsement in Music. You may choose an instrumental or choral track concentration, but the curriculum includes courses on both, regardless. The bachelor of music pre-certification (BMpc) offers the same curricular requirements of the BMEd, except for the four six-week senior seminar courses and the student teaching experience.
Full-time students at VanderCook participate in at least one of the 10 large ensembles each semester in unique facilities like the AAR Technical Center. Co-founders of this school, along with Howard Lyons of Lyons Band Instrument Company and Neil A. Kjos of the Kjos Music Company, formed the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 1946, which is now one of the most recognized instrumental music education clinics in the world.
49. Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $16,708
Founded in 1851, Florida State University is a public, high-volume research university with almost 42,000 students and a campus located on the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida. All undergraduate applicants must pass a recorded or live audition to enter the College of Music which is run by faculty and staff members who have earned Grammy awards, a Pulitzer prize in composition, two Guggenheim Memorial Fellowships, several Fulbright Scholars and the world’s pre-eminent scholar in medical music therapy.
Anyone admitted is automatically considered for one of the competitive music scholarships, which range from $500 to $3,000. Music majors at this top music school work toward a BA in music with tracks in commercial or sacred music and a BME with general, instrumental and choral track, as well as a BM in composition, music theory, music therapy, performance (tracks in Woodwind, Brass & Percussion; guitar, harp, jazz studies, piano, organ, music theatre, strings and voice). The College’s Specialized Studies Programs are dual-degree tracks that represent specific concentrations to be pursued with a degree: music entrepreneurial studies, jazz studies, performance, piano pedagogy, special music education and sacred music.
This campus is home to three different research centers, the Center for Music Research, the Center for Music of the Americas and NICU-MT. In addition to these, students have access to other campus facilities like the Music Technology Resource Center, the Warren D. Allen Music Library and a state-of-the-art recording studio, five performance halls and the Music Living-Learning Center at Cawthon Hall.
48. Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $15,235
Created in 1923, Texas Tech University is a public university designated with the “Highest Research Activity” from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. It has 36,551 students, more than 500 of whom are enrolled in the School of Music. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, TTU offers majors at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels in areas like conducting, keyboard, strings, winds and percussion, voice, theory and composition, music technology, musicology and music education.
TTU’s net cost is fairly low, and it sweetens the deal through the multitude of TTU Friends of Music-endowed scholarships. Once admitted, students can audition for and perform in ensembles, including bands, choirs, jazz, opera theatre and orchestras. The School of Music’s library has an extensive collection of recordings and scores, and student performers can utilize the 541-seat Hemmle Recital Hall, which houses an 84-rank Holtkamp Organ consisting of 4,469 pipes. There’s also a unique 36-bell carillon on campus!
Many TTU music graduates have gone on to teach in public schools, colleges and universities, while some have achieved fame in specialized areas like electronic music or with organizations like the Metropolitan Opera.
47. Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $15,189
Established in 1891, Central Washington University is a regional public university with a 380-acre campus and 11,119 students. In addition to the main residential campus in Ellensburg–home of the annual Jazz in the Valley music festival–CWU has eight campuses that offer upper-level courses. CWU’s Department of Music is an accredited institutional member of NASM, and grants over $100,000 in scholarships to incoming and returning students.
Music majors at CWU can earn a BA in music, a BM in music education (broad, choral or instrumental), a BM in performance and composition, a minor in music or a certificate in jazz studies. The music education community has 300 declared majors, making it the largest National Association for Music Education (NAfME) student chapter in the country. Every music degree at CWU requires 1- to 2-credit applied lessons in addition to their instruction in studio class.
The school’s many ensembles have received invitations to perform at state, regional, national and international venues. On campus, students utilize the Jerilyn S. McIntyre Music Building with its 600-seat concert hall, the 150-seat Recital Hall and the Music Living Learning Community in Alford-Montgomery Hall.
46. CUNY Queens College in Queens, NY
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $10,515
The oldest department at Queens College, the Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) is located in the Flushing Neighborhood in the NYC borough of Queens and is considered the academic “jewel of the crown.” This music school’s undergraduate degree offerings are the general music BA degree program, BA with a music education PreK-12 certification, the bachelor of music performance and the bachelor of music degree with a music education certificate.
All students receive private lessons in their program, as well as a curriculum that includes courses in theory, history, ear-training, sight-singing and performance. ACSM and its 14 student ensembles produce over 300 recitals, orchestra, choir, ensembles, new music, early music concerts and opera productions each year.
Performance facilities include the recently renovated music building which is equipped with Steinway pianos in all practice rooms, a well-stocked music library and the award-winning 487-seat LeFrak Concert Hall with its Maynard-Walker Memorial organ. Another notable affiliate facility is the Queens College Choral Society’s home, the Kupferberg Center for the Arts (KCA). The largest multi-disciplinary arts complex in Queens, KCA has featured artists like Jerry Seinfeld, David Bowie, Piano Guys and many more at its on-campus and off-campus venues, in addition to its various annual events like the Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival.
45. Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX
Points Awarded: 15
Net Cost: $8,995
Founded in 1901, Texas Woman’s University is the nation’s largest public university primarily for women with campuses in Denton, Dallas and Houston. The main, 270-acre city campus is UNT’s neighbor, has a welcoming 75 percent acceptance rate and 44.9 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. The Department of Music offers liberal arts-based education while prepping grads for professional work, leadership and service in music education, music pedagogy, music performance and music therapy. The Department also offers a music minor and a music theatre certificate to undergraduates. Those interested in continuing their studies have the opportunity to earn a dual master’s degree: the MA in music with an emphasis in therapy and the MS in counseling and development.
The BA in music program with an EC-12 Teacher Certification comes with a band, choral or strings track, while the performance degree programs come with tracks in instrumental, piano and vocal. The BA in music with a liberal arts track is a less defined music degree program that provides students with a strong foundation in music theory, history and performance, as well as the flexibility to learn a foreign language and take 22 credit hours in the elective areas of their choice. The music department has been fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music since 1958. Its music therapy program is approved by the American Music Therapy Association.
Music students at TWU have the opportunity to participate in five vocal ensembles, eight instrumental ensembles and four music student organizations. Graduate students interested in studying abroad can travel to Budapest, Hungary for master classes, lectures by Franz Liszt Academy of Music faculty and performances at important Budapest venues. At home, the campus’ Margo Jones Performance Hall is the primary performance facility for the TWU Department of Music, which seats 1,074 and was built in the 1920s, serving as the premier theatre in North Texas.
44. Temple University in Philadelphia, PA
Points Awarded: 16
Net Cost: $20,236
Founded in 1884, Temple University is a doctoral research university with hundreds of degree programs and more than 38,000 students across its six national and two international locations. Founded in 1962, the Boyer College of Music and Dance is accredited by NASM, National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. This 105-acre residential campus is conveniently located near Philadelphia’s historic cultural institutions like the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and Opera Philadelphia.
For admissions, students must complete the audition and/or interview requirements, during which they’ll be evaluated for Boyer or University Academic Scholarships. Available undergraduate degree programs are a BM in instrumental performance, guitar performance, piano performance, harpsichord performance, jazz instrumental performance, jazz vocal performance, jazz composition/arranging, music education (with a variety of specialized concentrations), composition, music history, music theory and music therapy, as well as a BS in music technology or music.
While in these programs, music majors can participate in any of the 13 instrumental studies ensembles, seven choirs, at least three jazz ensembles, five university bands, a percussion ensemble and other ensembles for early music piano, contemporary music and more to show off their skills in one of the impressive facilities like the Tomlinson Theatre, a 425-seat proscenium theater for the school’s opera productions. Graduates perform with major orchestras around the world, and have earned Grammy nominations and awards.
43. James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA
Points Awarded: 16
Net Cost: $16,683
Founded in 1908, James Madison University is a public research university, enrolling over 21,000 students at its 675-acre campus in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. JMU’s School of Music is accredited by NASM, offers a 16:1 student-faculty ratio and requires undergraduate student registration for private lessons with professors in any discipline. The school sponsors several large music scholarship awards that can cover full tuition for the first year and approximately half tuition for each of the following three years. Other awards, like a major book allowance, are available and assigned based on an evaluation during the live audition.
All undergraduate music majors work toward a bachelor of music with emphases in music industry (major/minor), composition, performance, jazz (major/minor), music theater and music education. The music industry program includes courses in music production and promotion, music business and technology, all with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. Graduates of the program, according to the school, “have launched careers at such diverse businesses as American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), BMG Music Publishing, Columbia Creative Services, Epic Records, Creative Artists Agency and Red Light Management, in locations from Charlottesville, VA to New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.)
Music majors at JMU can choose from the 25 music student organizations and 30 large and small ensembles, which put on over 250 performances each year. The Marching Royal Dukes is one of the largest collegiate marching bands in the country with 465 members! Students get the chance to perform at this All-Steinway School’s $82 million Forbes Center for the Performing Arts’ five venues: the Mainstage Theatre (450 seats), the Concert Hall (600 seats), the Recital Hall (196 seats), the Studio Theatre (200 seats) and the Earlynn J. Miller Dance Theatre (200 seats).
42. Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ
Points Awarded: 16
Net Cost: $15,869
Established in 1766, Rutgers University is a Big Ten research university, The State University of New Jersey and has nearly 69,000 students. The Mason Gross School of the Arts was founded in 1976, and is consistently one of the most selective schools at Rutgers. Known for student-faculty engagement, this arts school offers intimate class sizes and scholarships for undergraduate applicants that range between $3,500 – $10,000 each year.
This top music school offers a BM degree program with areas in classical performance, composition, conducting, jazz studies, music education, musicology and theory, as well as certificate programs in the Music Program in American Language Studies (MPALS) and music technology. Applicants can avoid the required audition by applying to the School of Arts and Sciences’ BA in music. Music majors can take advantage of study abroad opportunities like the Rutgers Conservatory at Shakespeare’s Globe program in London and the Vienna ConcertoFest.
In addition to the 550 annual events on campus, Rutgers has hosted a Rutgers in New York Event Series since 2001 where it showcases its students in professional settings in the Big Apple. Students have also performed in venues like Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Majestic Theatre. On campus, they perform in the 650-seat Kirkpatrick Chapel and the Voorhees Chapel, which houses one of the nation’s few German Schuke organs.
41. University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS
Points Awarded: 16
Net Cost: $12,055
Founded in 1910, the University of Southern Mississippi is a doctoral research university with 15,000 students and a 300-acre campus in the center of Hattiesburg. More than 450 of USM’s students are enrolled in the School of Music and benefit from the thriving art community in the area, which has a rich history of blues and rock. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, USM Music considers students for its competitive scholarships upon their auditions, which are required for admission.
Music majors at USM can earn a degree through the following programs: the BA in music, BM in jazz studies, BM in history and BM in performance, as well as a BME with either an instrumental or choral concentration. The school boasts a strong placement record for graduates into competitive jobs and graduate programs, including professional performance work with the Rascher Saxophone Quartet and the English National Opera. Southern Miss is one of a select group of schools that has accreditation for all four areas of the arts.
Some of the nine student ensembles at USM have performed at national conventions of the ACDA, CBDNA, American Bandmasters’ Association, MTNA, MENC, World Saxophone Congress, International Tuba-Euphonium Conference, the European Handbell Festival and more. A unique ensemble at this school is the Carillon Handbell Choir. These music majors get to perform in facilities like the 740-seat Mannoni Performing Arts Center Auditorium, the Marsh Auditorium and the 997-seat Bennett Auditorium. The local Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company offers USM students the opportunity to perform in opera and musical theatre productions.
40. Boston University in Boston, MA
Points Awarded: 17
Net Cost: $32,732
Boston University is a private research institution with over 33,000 total students, a 133-acre campus and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio. The BU School of Music was founded in 1872, making it the oldest degree-granting music school in the U.S. It offers a conservatory-style program and is accredited by the National Association of School of Music (NASM) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). It’s also a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). About 30 members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the “Big Five” American orchestras, are BU faculty members.
This selective school’s incoming freshman class typically consists of 50 students, but auditions aren’t required for the BA in music and scholarships are available. Undergraduate programs of study include a BM in composition and theory, BA in music, BM in music education, BM in performance and a BM in musicology & ethnomusicology. Study abroad opportunities at the Royal College of Music in London, an interdisciplinary minor in arts leadership, double-degree programs, the Kilachand Honors College and a five-year program are also available.
More than 50 BU School of Music graduates have succeeded in joining major metropolitan symphonies like the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. While working toward their degree, BU music majors can take advantage of the university’s Centers for New and Early Music, in-residence music ensembles, the largest installation of Wenger modular practice rooms in the country, the CFA Media Production Studio and 10 performance venues as small as a 60-seat black box theatre and as large as a 900-seat Broadway-style proscenium-staged BU Theatre.
39. The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH
Points Awarded: 17
Net Cost: $17,971
Founded in the late 1800s, The Ohio State University is one of the largest universities in the world with campuses and research centers located around the state. This public land-grant university has over 65,000 students, 400 of which are undergraduate music majors within the School of Music, part of the College of Arts and Sciences. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), OSU offers four music fraternities and sororities, as well as 23 music student organizations like the Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association (MEISA).
OSU’s main campus is located in the 14th largest city in the country, which is home to performing arts institutions like the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Opera Columbus, the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. Here, students receive individualized studio instruction, and can take part in the Student Mentor Program, an initiative where student mentors volunteer support to new freshman music majors. Music majors at OSU can utilize one of the alumni scholarship funds toward earning one of the 10 undergraduate degrees available: a BM in performance, theory, composition, musicology and jazz studies; a bachelor of music education and a broader-based BA in music.
Faculty, guest artists and students perform 400+ events annually, through outreach programs and concerts, including those by all of the student ensembles, large bands, orchestras, jazz bands and combos, small instrumental ensembles and choirs like the men and women’s glee clubs. This university’s music majors learn, practice and perform in facilities like the Music Cognition Lab, Ethnomusicology Lab, Helen Swank Voice Teaching and Research Laboratory, Hughes Recital Hall, an expansive Music/Dance Library, Weigel Hall and the 2,400-seat Mershon Auditorium.
38. Princeton University in Princeton, NJ
Points Awarded: 17
Net Cost: $17,901
Chartered in 1746, Princeton University is a private, Ivy League research university with a 5:1 student-faculty ratio, 26 Nobel Prize-winning faculty and staff and an impressive reputation. The Department of Music at Princeton benefits from its location between Philadelphia and New York City, but its acceptance rate is less than 10 percent.
Since music majors are expected to pursue performance study, the department subsidizes the entire cost of the 10 weekly private lessons. Departmental representatives work closely with music majors to help them design their own program within the BA in music degree or a certificate program. Undergrads can focus their curriculum on emphases like writing music (or about music), music theatre, composition, musicology, jazz studies and more. The department has been “among the leaders of the field in graduate education in this area for the past 40 years.”
A number of music graduates with successful careers include pianist Robert Taub, jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan and singer Mimmi Fulmer. During their time at Princeton, students can benefit from its partner programs, like a professional series with four resident ensembles, an interinstitutional exchange agreement with Westminster Choir College and a collaboration with the Royal College of Music in London, in which students can participate in a five-year double-degree program (AB and MM) after spending one semester in London.
37. University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK
Points Awarded: 17
Net Cost: $16,909
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university with a main campus located 20 minutes south of Oklahoma City, two other campuses in the state and an undergraduate enrollment of over 20,000 students. The Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts School of Music is in the heart of the OU Arts District and is an institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music. This school of music has the only comprehensive music programs in the state, and 450 majors are currently working toward degrees like a BA in music (instrumental, composition and voice tracks), a BMA, a BFA in musical theatre performance, a BME and a BM in composition, performance and piano pedagogy.
Applied music students receive a minimum of 13 weekly private lessons each semester, and OU’s organ program currently has a 100 percent job placement rate. Other unique study areas include interactive performance, electroacoustic composition, sound design and sound production. All undergraduates are required to participate in one or more of the school’s ensembles, and the school presents over 400 performance and scholarly events annually.
Students in the school of music can take advantage of its partnerships abroad for opportunities like performing in the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria. On campus, they have facilities like four state-of-the-art performance halls, the American Organ Institute (AOI), the Ruby Grant Piano Pedagogy Resource Center and the Grayce B. Kerr Gothic Hall, The Hall houses the Mildred Andrews Boggess Memorial Organ, a $750,000 instrument designed by the C. B. Fisk Company. The Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center was built in 1918 as part of OU’s original campus and is one of the state’s most historic buildings and only European-style performance hall.
36. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, IL
Points Awarded: 17
Net Cost: $16,841
Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the world’s leading research universities with 44,000+ students from all 50 states and over 100 different countries. The School of Music is within the College of Fine and Applied Arts and is home to 100 faculty and staff and more than 700 students. It opened in 1895 and has been accredited by NASM since 1933. This is a highly-selective music program, but it doesn’t require auditions for its BA students.
All applicants are automatically considered for one of the school’s merit-based scholarships with awards ranging from several hundred dollars to full tuition. Students in this top music school can earn a BM with concentrations in composition-theory, instrumental performance, jazz performance, vocal performance, musicology and open studies, as well as a BME in instrumental education, choral, general or music technology. They can also work toward a BA in music with concentrations in musicology, composition, music technology and Music+. In the Music+ program, students create their own ‘dual-degree’ music curriculum, like Music+ Popular Arts or Business.
Performers and composers at this school have put on events in the nation’s leading venues like Tanglewood, the Metropolitan Opera House and the Newport Jazz Festival. On campus, students get to perform in the likes of the 870-seat Smith Memorial Hall, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Other facilities include the Music Building’s Computer-Assisted Music Instruction Laboratory (CAMIL), Experimental Music Studios, the Computer Music Project and a new Yamaha digital piano lab, as well as the A.A. Harding Band Building’s Carl Busch Historical Instrument Collection or John Philip Sousa’s own music library.
35. Northwestern University in Evanston, IL
Points Awarded: 18
Net Cost: $30,552
Northwestern University is a private research university with a 240-acre main campus, two other campuses in Chicago and Doha, Qatar and 21,000 total students. Founded in 1895, the Bienen School of Music is just 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, home to the third largest music industry within a US metropolitan area, according to the University of Chicago Cultural Policy Center.
Admissions and scholarship awards are more selective at Northwestern, but it offers five different five-year dual-degree programs for undergraduate students: A BA/BM in music and liberal arts; BS/BM or BS/BAM in music and engineering; BM/BS or BAM/BS in music and journalism; BM/BA, BM/BS or BAM/BS in music and communication; and a BM/BS or BAM/BS in music, education and social policy. The standalone BM is available with 12 different study areas like music cognition. Students have the option to design their own majors, leading to innovative degrees in arts administration, music criticism, music theater production and popular musicology.
The Bienen School operates 16 majors ensembles that annually put on about three major performances each. The Pick-Staiger Concert Hall seats 989 guests, and the Music Library is among the nation’s largest, holding over 300,000 cataloged items. It’s known internationally for its post-1945 music and special collections.
34. Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL
Points Awarded: 18
Net Cost: $29,933
Starting off as an audio recording workshop in 1979, Full Sail University is now a for-profit university that has 15,500 students and 78 degree programs online and on its non-residential campus, which is located just 15 minutes from downtown Orlando and 35 minutes from Disney and Universal Studios. Accredited by ACCSC (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges), Full Sail has made The Hollywood Reporter’s list of top music schools three years running.
Scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $35,000, like the Entertainment & Media Industry Scholarship for Women, are available to help students afford Full Sail’s faster-paced degree programs, which can be completed in 20 months rather than four years. Undergraduate degrees include the BS in audio production, recording arts, music production, show production or music business, as well as an online audio production certificate program; all of the bachelor’s degrees are offered in online formats. Forty-one Full Sail graduates were credited on 46 artists’ releases that were nominated in 36 separate categories during the 2017 GRAMMYs. The BS in show production has the highest employment rate at 91 percent.
Every student at this music school receives a MacBook Pro, including the professional software and tools necessary for some degree programs! Students have over 880,000 square feet of media production facilities to ‘play’ in, including three live performance venues, over 110 studios and labs, more than six professional soundstages and buildings like the Entertainment Business Center.
33. Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City, OK
Points Awarded: 18
Net Cost: $27,477
Established in 1904, Oklahoma City University is a private United Methodist university that enrolls more than 1,800 undergraduates on its 104-acre park-like campus in the heart of the city. OKCU’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music resides within the Margaret E. Petree College of Music and Performing Arts and has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) since 1944. OKCU is also now accredited in education by the National Council of Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE).
The nearly 400 music majors are considered for any of the 30 endowed scholarships to help afford one of the school’s BM degree programs in instrumental performance, music theatre, vocal performance, music education (instrumental or vocal concentrations) and composition, as well as the broad-based BA in music. Graduates of these programs have been incredibly successful; those from the instrumental education programs have a 100 percent pass rate on the state certification exams and a 100 percent placement rate for those seeking teaching positions, earning titles like Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. Other alumni have been recognized with Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards.
Bass students perform in one of the many vocal or instrumental ensembles, and they study at an All-Steinway School and Apple Digital Campus. Significant facilities include the new Bass Music Center and the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center, which houses a three-theater complex comprised of Kirkpatrick Auditorium (1,100 seats), Margaret E. Petree Recital Hall (500 seats) and Burg Auditorium (250 seats).
32. University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA
Points Awarded: 18
Net Cost: $14,558
Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa is the state’s flagship public research university and second-largest institution of higher education. With 33,334 total students, it’s surprising that 78 percent of classes at UIowa have fewer than 30 students, and with 450 music majors, the School of Music’s student-faculty ratio remains at 9:1.
UI’s School of Music offers 14 named scholarships to majors, which are awarded based on the student auditions. Once accepted, students can work toward a BA in music or a BM with concentrations in composition, music therapy and performance, but they can add a second emphasis in jazz studies to a performance concentration. The BM also offers professional certifications in music education and music therapy. Plus, music majors can combine their music study with the Division of Performing Arts’ BA in performing arts entrepreneurship.
Students can choose from over 30 performing ensembles at this music school, which hosts 400+ annual performances and live events. They can also take advantage of unique facilities like the Center for New Music, a performance organization devoted to the late 20th and early 21st century repertoire. The Arts Living Learning Community, along with the Piano Workshop, Reed Room, Electronic Music Suite, Piano Lab, Computer Lab, Recording Studio, Tom Davis Percussion Suite and the Music Therapy Classroom and Observation Room are other unique resources on campus.
31. University of California Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA
Points Awarded: 18
Net Cost: $13,816
The University of California Los Angeles is a large public research university offering over 125 different majors to its nearly 40,000 total undergraduate students with 52 percent receiving some sort of financial aid. Founded in 2007 and supported in part by a $30 million endowment from the Herb Alpert Foundation, the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is made up of the ethnomusicology, music and musicology departments, which came together in January 2016 to formally become the first and only accredited music education program and standalone music school in the University of California System.
UCLA’s School of Music offers three majors to its 318 music school undergrads: a BA in music (with concentrations in performance, composition and music education), ethnomusicology (with concentrations in jazz studies and world music) and music history, as well as two minors in music history and music industry, science and technology. The department teaches and conducts research on jazz, heavy metal, techno, musical theater and much more. For performance majors, the school requires participation in one of the 20+ ensembles, two recitals and the department’s noon concert series. The National Research Council recently recognized UCLA Musicology as the top ranked academic music doctoral program in the country. Those in the composition concentration can earn a film visual media degree, offering the opportunity to collaborate with UCLA’s film students.
This university’s facilities include the Music Library, which contains the largest academic music collection in southern California and one of the largest in North America; the 1,442 sq. ft. recording studio with production and vocal isolation booths; a 144-seat recital hall; a 500-seat concert and lecture hall; the Mike Curb Music & Technology Lab and more. The World Music Center houses over 800 instruments, and the Center for Music Innovation works toward securing the future of music majors by exploring how technology and innovation are impacting the music scene. All music school applicants are required to interview or audition, on campus or via video/audio, as a part of the admissions process, and about 18 percent of UCLA applicants were admitted in Fall 2016. Big name alumni include The Doors’ founders Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison, composer, pianist and singer-songwriter Randy Newman and multi-platinum music producer Jeff Blue.
30. Colburn School in Los Angeles, CA
Points Awarded: 18
Net Cost: Free for all enrolled students
Founded in 1950, the Colburn School is a college-level performing arts school for students at all levels of music and dance. College-age students can earn diplomas or degrees through the Colburn Conservatory of Music, which is centrally and appropriately located in LA’s downtown arts corridor, surrounded by the likes of Walt Disney Concert Hall. This top music school boasts a sole mission: to get its graduates into the musical workforce. A free school aimed at getting me a job? Sign me up!
Colbourn has a very selective admissions process because its conservatory is small, but offers a pre-college Music Academy and the following degree programs from the Conservatory: a BM, a four-year Performance Diploma, a master of music in performance, a Professional Studies Certificate, an Artist Diploma, all with at least 15 areas of study. The bachelor’s of music program requires individual lessons, participation in chamber music ensembles and a curriculum with music history, music theory, ear training and more. The Colburn Music Fund is what provides the full tuition and housing costs for Conservatory students.
Conservatory graduates from the BM program experienced 100 percent employment rates in 2014 and 2015, landing jobs with organizations like the National Symphony, after working with Colburn’s Career Development Center. On campus, students can benefit from performance experience with the Colburn Orchestra, the 12-story residence hall, the Grand Hall and its 430-seat Zipper Hall auditorium, as well as the Lloyd Wright-designed studio of legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz, a historical landmark that sat in Heifetz’s backyard.
29. University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA
Points Awarded: 19
Net Cost: $31,384
Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California is a private research university with a student enrollment of 44,000 and a campus in Los Angeles’ Downtown Arts and Education Corridor. While the school-wide acceptance rate is 16.6 percent, USC has established “one of the largest financial aid pools in the country,” awarding more than $320 million in just one academic year (2015-16). USC’s Thornton School of Music was founded in 1884 and is the oldest continually operating cultural institution in the city.
Today, the School presents more than 500 concerts annually, offers five divisions of academic programs and is the only college music school that hosts a weekly broadcast radio station featuring student performances. Thornton regularly partners with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the GRAMMY Foundation, The Recording Academy and more, offering its students high quality performance opportunities. USC is among the first in the nation to offer degrees in jazz studies, studio guitar, film scoring and music industry. Other music degree programs include popular music, music technology, music teaching & learning, arts leadership and early music performance. Each program has individual application requirements like auditions and portfolio submissions.
Thornton faculty consists of members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the LA Opera. The Board of Councilors Mentorship Program is a unique way to pair selected students with creative pioneers, like music executive Mo Ostin and songwriter Glen Ballard, who share career guidance, music industry insight, artistic motivation and even friendship. In cooperation with international partners, USC can send music students abroad for as long as one semester. At home, Thornton students have access to facilities like the Doheny Memorial Library, which houses over 90,000 items, the historic 1,235-seat Bovard Auditorium, the Ground Zero Performance Café and more. Famous alumni include Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, singer-songwriter Macy Gray and Grammy Award-winning record producer Rob Cavallo.
28. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY
Points Awarded: 19
Net Cost: $28,656
Founded in 1865, Cornell University is a private Ivy League university and a partner of the State University of New York with 21,904 students and 14 colleges and schools. The School of Music has been around since 1941 and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Potential music majors are to apply to the College of Arts & Sciences, so they aren’t required to perform an audition since they don’t typically apply to the music major until their sophomore year. Individual lessons are available for music majors to take over the course of their 14-week semesters with additional fees that aren’t covered in the school’s financial aid packages, but some scholarships are available and students can earn .5 to 3 credits depending on the lesson length.
The BA in music degree offered in the College of Arts & Sciences has a broader curriculum, designed to allow room for a dual-degree program or second major in another department. Courses cover topics like medieval chant, hip-hop, Western music theory and musical systems from around the world. A minor, graduate and doctoral programs are available, as well as a number of department and school-run music organizations like the Cornell Piano Society, a cappella groups and the Association of Undergraduate Composers. The Glee Club is the oldest student organization on campus, and the School offers choral, instrumental, jazz, chamber music and improvisation ensembles in addition to the Cornell orchestras, CU winds, Steel Band and Cornell Percussion Group.
As for graduate success, three have won the Pulitzer Prize in Music. Plus, the College of Arts & Sciences runs its own Career Services Center, which runs one-on-one practice interviews, career events, internships, summer programs, job searches, help with resume and cover letter writing and individual career counseling. Student performers get to utilize facilities like the beautiful 900-seat Sage Chapel with two organs, the 280-seat auditorium in Barnes Hall with its eighteenth-century style German chamber organ on stage, the newly-renovated Bailey Hall with 1,300 seats, the Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center’s (CEMC) four studios and a specially-designed gamelan room.
27. Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, NY
Points Awarded: 19
Net Cost: $25,053
Founded in 1860, Bard College is a private liberal arts college on a historic 1,000-acre campus. Bard and its global affiliates enroll about 5,000 total students and offers undergraduate music degrees through the college’s liberal arts program, as well as the five-year double-degree program through the Bard College Conservatory of Music. With a location just two hours from New York City, students are occasionally sent into the city for their weekly lessons and other performance opportunities.
All of the approximately 250 Conservatory students pursue a five-year double degree, graduating with a bachelor of music and a BA in a field outside of music. The actual study of music at the Conservatory is limited to orchestral instruments, composition and piano, but the Bard Music Program offers additional music education in a more liberal arts context. This programs offers a four-year BA curriculum with majors in classical performance and composition, musicology, theory, jazz performance and composition, voice, electronic music, ethnomusicology and world music. Conservatory students have studied music abroad in Israel, Germany, Korea, Russia, Italy and more with the Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program.
The Avery Arts Center Complex houses the Edith C. Blum Institute, which includes Blum Hall, practice rooms, offices, classrooms, a listening library and studios for recording, editing, computer music, composition and jazz percussion. The AAC’s music wing is connected to the László Z. Bitó ’60 Conservatory Building with its 145-seat Conservatory Performance Space.
26. University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, CO
Points Awarded: 19
Net Cost: $22,727
Founded in 1876, the University of Colorado Boulder is a public research university with a picturesque mountain campus, 31,000+ undergraduate students, and a 91 percent placement rate for graduates in jobs, graduate school and military service within six months of graduation. Founded in 1920, the College of Music is the only member of the prestigious Association of American Universities in Colorado, and it’s the academic home for 300 undergrads and 250 graduate students. With a student-teach ratio of 8:1 and the resources of a leading research university, students are set up for success in any of the seven degrees in 23 fields of musical study.
Undergraduate students can work toward a BA in music, and bachelor of music education or a BM in performance (brass, percussion, jazz, keyboard, strings, voice and woodwinds), composition, music education or musicology. After applying and auditioning, admitted students are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships ranging from $1,000 to full tuition. Cleveland Orchestra members are currently in-residency, and the College presents more than 400 public events each year, partially put on by student performance bands, choral music, chamber music, the Boulder Laptop Orchestra, early music, orchestras, world music ensembles and the percussion ensemble.
Boulder offers the following unique opportunities to its students: Eklund Opera Program, Ritter Family Classical Guitar Program, Roser Piano and Keyboard Program, Thompson Jazz Studies Program, certificate programs in subjects like music entrepreneurship, the Entrepreneurship Center for Music, the American Music Research Center and the Musicians’ Wellness Program. The Howard B. Waltz Music Library is home to one of the largest music research collections in the country, composed of more than 150,000 volumes, scores, recordings and periodicals.
25. Manhattan School of Music in New York, NY
Points Awarded: 20
Net Cost: $34,871
Founded as a community music school by Janet Daniels Schenck in 1918, the Manhattan School of Music is a conservatory on the Upper West Side of NYC that enrolls more than 900 diverse undergraduate and graduate students, and has a faculty made up of members from institutions like the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and more.
When applying, some programs require a pre-screening before the live audition, but StartClass reports a not-so-bad acceptance rate of 45 percent. In the application, prospectives can list up to five teachers who they’d prefer to work with as their major teacher, which is a choice that can define one’s academic career as a musician. About 50 percent of the school’s full-time students earn an MSM Scholarship based on faculty recommendations during auditions, academic performance and student need. These can be used toward a BM in voice, instrumental performance, musical theatre, jazz or composition, as well as graduate and doctoral programs. The musical theater program started just last year, joining the Boston Conservatory as one of the few conservatories offering it. It’s the only stand-alone conservatory program in the city.
MSM expands its reach through community engagement, distance learning and programs like the Barnard/MSM Cross-Registration Program, which allows MSM undergrads to enroll in academic classes at Barnard during their upperclassman years. Students also benefit from the Center for Musician Entrepreneurship, performance opportunities at venues like Jazz at Lincoln Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, more than 600 concerts on campus each year and facilities like the 846-seat Neidorff-Karpati Hall, the intimate Gordon K. & Harriet Greenfield Hall and a 19-story building of performance, academic and residential spaces.
24. University of Hartford in West Hartford, CT
Points Awarded: 20
Net Cost: $30,233
Founded in 1877, the University of Hartford is a small private, nonsectarian university with a 350-acre main campus, 5,000 undergraduate students and a diverse student body. The Hartt School is the comprehensive performing arts conservatory of this university, and it serves 621 undergraduate students with an incredible student-faculty ratio of 5:1, nearly 100 clubs and organizations and performing arts scholarships (which can cover full tuition) for 90 percent of incoming freshmen.
Prospective music majors aren’t required to apply to Hartford in addition to Hartt’s programs, which include a BA degree programs in music or performing arts management, a three-year undergraduate diploma and a BM in composition, instrumental performance, vocal performance, guitar performance, piano performance, jazz studies, music history (with concentrations in performance practice and scholarship & research), music management, music production and technology, and music theory. Driven students looking to expand their programs can choose from 10 different five-year double majors like Classical Guitar Performance and Music Production & Technology or Instrumental Performance and Music Management. Plus, Hartt offers 18-credit minors in music, arts management, composition, dance, music history and music theory.
Students in these top music degree programs get to perform with the likes of Hartford Stage, Stamford Symphony, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and more through the school’s Partnership in Training agreements with local organizations. On campus, they can learn, practice and perform in unique facilities like the 56,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center, which opened in Fall 2008 and houses the 300-seat Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation Theater and the 100-seat Kent McCray Theater. The university has its own Hartt Recording Studio (HRS), a student-run professional quality audio facility that records more than 400 annual performances.
23. DePauw University in Greencastle, IN
Points Awarded: 20
Net Cost: $29,549
Founded in 1837, DePauw University is a small private liberal arts college with 2,300 students, an average music class size of 12 students and a 695-acre campus. This School of Music was one of the first and continues to host more than 200 performances every year. Maintaining a student-faculty ratio of 5:1, DePauw Music requires private lessons and ensemble participation of all majors, and they can choose to perform with groups like the DePauw Jazz Ensemble, University Band, DePauw University Orchestra, Chamber Singers, University Chorus. The touring ensembles have performed in Japan, Italy, Spain, France, Austria, The Czech Republic, Great Britain and Canada, as well as the Carnegie Recital Hall, the Terrace Theatre at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the White House.
This Music School is reserved for just undergraduate students. The School states, “We believe an environment devoid of graduate students allows for rich opportunities for study, performance, and networking.” Degree programs offered include a bachelor of music, bachelor of music education with a P-12 teaching certification (vocal or instrumental concentrations), a bachelor of musical arts, which requires a secondary non-music emphasis and a BA in music from the College of Liberal Arts. This top music school also offers minors in music and jazz studies, as well as a five-year BM/BA Double Degree Program and a “21CM” curriculum designed to better prepare music students for a career in the 21st Century. Courses include Understanding Music, State of the Art and Entrepreneurship.
DePauw has unique programs for its music students, like the free Music for Life podcast, the School’s new recording label, DePauw University Recordings, and facilities like the 1,400-seat Kresge Auditorium with its organ, the Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts, the Music Library and Music Instructional Technology Center (MITC), which is equipped with technologically “smart” classrooms, ensemble rehearsal spaces, a technology center, a recording studio, a comprehensive music library and three performance halls.
22. University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, OK
Points Awarded: 20
Net Cost: $11,922
University of Central Oklahoma is a larger public regional university, enrolls 16,500 students and sits on 210 acres in Oklahoma City’s metropolitan area. Located in the center of Bricktown, Oklahoma City’s entertainment district, the students in UCO’s Academy of Contemporary Music and College of Fine Arts and Design get to enjoy the city for its newly renovated beauty and growing cultural district. According to the school’s website, “graduates have won Grammy awards, toured internationally, started their own businesses, and are already becoming an integral network of professionals in the regional and national music industry.”
CFAD’s school of music offers a BM in vocal performance, a BM in instrumental performance, a BM in musical theater, a bachelor of music education (vocal track) and a BME instrumental. The College awards more than 90 scholarships for music majors totaling to $100,000 annually. It also established a Student Success in the Arts and Design Fund for students with unexpected financial emergencies. The number of UCO’s assorted performing ensembles, choirs, bands and more, display their talents in facilities like the UCO Jazz Lab, an educational hub for those in the jazz studies program, as well as a community-focused live music venue and a state-of-the-art recording studio, fully redesigned and upgraded in 2011.
Less than a decade old, the Academy of Contemporary Music at UCO was created in response to popular demand. This contemporary music degree program’s curriculum focuses on current production and technologies, performance and the industry, as well as transformative learning experiences, internships and industry certifications. ACM@UCO is the country’s only Academy of Contemporary Music, and it is in partnership with the original ACM in Guildford, UK. At ACM@UCO, students can earn a bachelor of applied technology (BAT), a BA in arts entrepreneurship or a AAS with three tracks in business, production and performance. This cutting-edge school’s music curriculum focuses on transformative learning experiences, internships, industry certifications and performances.
21. Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN
Points Awarded: 20
Net Cost: $11,000
A Carnegie Research Doctoral University, Middle Tennessee State University offers its students the largest, most comprehensive music program in the state, a 500-acre main campus and a convenient 35-minute drive from Nashville, continually operating as the No. 1 producer of graduates for the Greater Nashville economy. Between the College of Media and Entertainment and the College of Liberal Arts, MTSU includes a School of Music, with 3,000+ students enrolling in classes and ensemble annually, as well as the unique Department of Recording Industry. Alumni of these schools include country music artists Chris Young and Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum), Dot Records founder Randy Wood and Hollywood movie composer George S. Clinton.
The general undergraduate music degrees include BS and BM programs in music composition, music, instrumental music education, instrumental performance (22 areas of study), vocal/general music education, voice performance and music industry. The School of Music, the first to become an “all Steinway” school in the state, performs more than 180 concerts annually through three orchestras, five bands, seven choral, opera and musical theater ensembles and 20 individual program ensembles. Students have played roles at the Grammys, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Americana Music Festival and other national events.
Founded in 1973, the Department of Recording Industry is one of the largest programs of its type in the world. It is a member of the Society of Professional Audio Recording Services (SPARS) and the Music & Entertainment Industry Educator’s Association (MEIEA). Students can earn the new BS in audio production major or a BS with concentration options in commercial songwriting or music business while utilizing one of the various array of high-tech recording studios and labs, as well as the Match Records real-world practicum, where they get a chance to be the record label. Music industry, jazz studies and music education majors all have a high employment rate post MTSU. Other one-of-a-kind facilities at this school include the Center for Popular Music, the Center for Chinese Music and Culture and “Music at Monohan,” a co-educational residential learning community.
20. Belmont University in Nashville, TN
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $32,672
Founded in 1889, Belmont University is a private liberal arts institution located on a quiet neighborhood campus in the heart of Music City, offering its 7,700 students more than 90 areas of undergraduate study, including 11 different music degree programs. The School of Music, within the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is an All-Steinway School and is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) to award degrees like the BM in church music, commercial music, composition, music education, music with an outside minor, musical theatre, music therapy, performance, piano pedagogy and theory.
Belmont’s music school also offers prospective undergraduates a BFA in musical theatre, a BA with a major in music and a music minor. For those interested in the non-performance side of the music world, degree programs like the BBA in music business, the BA or BS in audio engineering technology, the BA or BS in entertainment industry studies and the BA or BS in songwriting are available. Not only is this the only freestanding college of its kind accredited for both business (AACSB) and technology (ABET), but Belmont’s music business program started back in 1971. Plus, the Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business accepts students who are non-musicians without requiring an audition.
Up to 30 percent of incoming students receive music scholarships awards ranging from $4,000 to $6,000, and this music school offers seven different music-related study abroad opportunities, like taking courses at the Russian Academy of Music (Gnesins School) in Moscow. Back on campus, students can take advantage of valuable resources and facilities like the school’s home, the Sam A. Wilson Building, which contains practice rooms, a piano lab, two music technology labs and an organ studio with a small Wicks pipe organ. The Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business is in a brand-new $87 million R. Milton and Denice Johnson Center, a 250-seat theater/mixing stage with a Dolby Atmos immersive audio system.
19. The Juilliard School in New York, NY
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $29,657
Founded in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art, The Juilliard School is a performing arts conservatory and the No. 1 music school, according to Hollywood Reporter. Located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Juilliard students are exposed to almost countless real-world experience and employment opportunities with the likes of the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Library for the Performing Arts and more. The Music Division is the largest of the school’s three divisions, and undergraduates are eligible for the Bachelor of Music degree or the Diploma. Graduate, post-graduate and doctoral-level degree programs are also available.
The 490 undergraduates enrolled in the college division are able to utilize facilities like the Lila Acheson Wallace Library, which contains more than 79,000 scores, 25,000 books and 26,000 sound recordings, as well as multiple performance spaces like the 907-seat Peter Jay Sharp Theater. According to the school’s website, Juilliard alumni “have collectively won more than 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 26 Bessie Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, and 12 National Medals for the Arts.”
Only 7.2 percent of applicants are accepted at Juilliard after a required live audition, and scholarship decisions are made by the Juilliard Scholarship Committee upon the student’s admission to Juilliard and based on a combination of financial need and artistic merit. Admitted music students have incredible performance opportunities at Juilliard, which sponsors nearly 700 music performances annually. As a music major, each student receives 15 private one-hour lessons per semester with faculty members who are internationally renowned soloists, chamber and orchestral musicians, preeminent jazz artists, Pulitzer Prize recipients, Academy and Grammy Awards and more. Other famous musicians visit Juilliard as part of an ongoing series of residencies, master classes and informal lectures throughout each year.
18. McNally Smith College of Music in Saint Paul, MN
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $24,599
Founded by Jack McNally and Doug Smith in 1985, McNally Smith College of Music is a residential music college accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and registered with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Not only does the Twin Cities have one of the nation’s highest employment rates, but this area has also produced the likes of Bob Dylan, Prince, Hüsker Dü and Atmosphere. This small, private college has an annual enrollment of about 600 students and an incredibly intimate 5:1 student-teacher ratio.
Those planning to enter the BM in music performance are required to audition, while those in the recording technology or music production majors are expected to complete a technology evaluation. Other available undergraduate diploma and degree programs include areas of: music business; hip hop studies; performance in guitar, bass, drums, voice, keyboard, brass & woodwinds, and strings (violin, cello, viola and double bass); live sound, production, and recording engineering; composition and songwriting. One of the only accredited degree programs in hip hop performance, McNally Smith’s hip hop studies includes courses and workshops like Emcee Techniques and the Language of Rap and Spoken Word.
This isn’t one of our cheapest music schools, but 95 percent of McNally Smith students receive financial assistance, and the school awards around $2 million in scholarships and grants each year. About 20 faculty members run more than 30 musical student groups, including four premier ensembles, six jazz ensembles, three blues ensembles, five rock groups, nine contemporary ensembles, four vocal ensembles, four percussion groups, three world music ensembles and four strings/guitar groups. Some of those groups have traveled as far as Peru and Guatemala. To prepare for the real world, the school’s Career Services offers workshops on branding, web development, study skills, headshots, résumé development, interview skills and cover letters.
17. University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $20,141
Part of the University System of Ohio, the University of Cincinnati opened in 1891 and is a public research university with more than 44,000 students. UC’s College-Conservatory of Music offers a 7:1 student-faculty ratio and more than 100 programs to its undergraduate, graduate and post-grad students, including the following degrees: a BM in performance studies, commercial music production, composition, keyboard studies, jazz studies, music education, music history and voice; a BFA in electronic media, musical theatre, theatre design and production (with a focus on sound design); and a BA in music (with concentrations in composition, musicology and theory).
The Ohio Board of Regents recognized UC’s CCM as the state’s first Center of Excellence in Music and Theatre Arts in 2011. Cincinnati’s river town setting has attracted a vibrant jazz scene, prompting Louis Armstrong’s first recordings. CCM students can utilize the Career Services Office to thrive as budding professionals and eventually launch their own careers. It doesn’t hurt that this top Conservatory is the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the state of Ohio, putting on nearly 1,000 performance events every year, sending its students on international tours and prompting recording for major labels.
The CCM is located in its own “village” with All-Steinway School facilities like the Ralph J. Corbett Audio Production Center, the Dieterle Vocal Arts Center (DVAC), the Center for Computer Music, a stocked Music Library and the village centerpiece, the Corbett Center. Corbett features a fully equipped, 380-seat proscenium Patricia Corbett Theater with a large Casavant Tracker organ and a new theater production wing, including a digital recording and editing studio, a MIDI lab, the Jazz Record Library and the elegant 730-seat Corbett Auditorium.
16. Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $15,358
Established in 1903, Western Michigan University is a public research university with 23,000 students and a 92 percent graduate success rate in a classic college town. WMU’s School of Music has been present on campus since 1905 and is now an All-Steinway School accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and certified by the American Music Therapy Association.
This selective music school only has 125 openings for the approximately 400 prospective students who apply each year, and all applicants must audition on an instrument or voice, except for those majoring in composition, the BA in music, the minor or the BS in multimedia arts technology. Once admitted, music majors take applied lessons with a studio professor, not a graduate student. About 40 named scholarships are awarded based on student performance and faculty nomination for students looking to major in any of the School’s undergraduate degree programs: the BM with concentrations in performance, jazz studies, music therapy, music education and music composition; the BMA; the BA in music and the BS in multimedia arts technology. A program unique to this school is the accelerated MA in music, which allows students to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in just five years.
This top music school has a number of both local and national/international affiliations with organizations like the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, the Jazz Education Network and the College Music Society. Students, faculty and guests performed over 800 concerts and events on campus in the 157,000-square-foot Dorothy U. Dalton Center, throughout the U.S. and in Australia, Austria, China, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Honduras, Mozambique and Russia in 2016-17.
15. University of North Carolina in Greensboro, NC
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $9,875
Established in 1891, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a public liberal arts research university and the largest and most diverse university in the Piedmont Triad, serving more than 19,000 students and repeatedly placing on The Princeton Review’s “Best 381 Colleges” rankings. UNCG has an overall acceptance rate of 59 percent and sits on a 250-acre campus in artistically thriving Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point metropolitan region. Music majors perform in concerts by the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, the Greensboro Opera Company, the Winston-Salem Symphony and the Eastern Music Festival, to name a few.
The School of Music, within the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is the largest of its kind in the state with five departments in music performance, music education, music studies (ethnomusicology, musicology and theory), theatre and dance. The School has been fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music since 1938, and it regularly offers short-term summer study abroad experiences like when the UNCG Wind Ensemble staged a performance tour of continental Europe. Music undergrads can work toward a BA in music, a BM in performance or a BM in music education. The BA puts an emphasis on writing, speaking and critical thinking skills in its curriculum, making it the preferred program for a double major. The BM prepares students for careers as performers, composers and/or teachers, and they can choose a concentration in instrumental, vocal, jazz studies and composition.
Undergraduate students at UNCG’s School of Music don’t have to submit additional applications to be considered for any of the 51 available scholarships for music majors. On campus, they utilize facilities like an acoustics research laboratory, a music education laboratory, a psychoacoustics laboratory, faculty and student lounges, a central recording facility and more. In addition to the impressive UNCG Auditorium, ensembles like the Women’s and Men’s Glee Clubs and the variety of small chamber groups often perform in the 350-seat Recital Hall.
14. California State University, Northridge in Northridge, CA
Points Awarded: 21
Net Cost: $7,075
Fairly close to Hollywood, California State University Northridge is a public university with 38,310 students, a 61 percent acceptance rate and a 356-acre campus in the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles. Fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, CSUN’s Department of Music offers BA degree programs in music education, music industry studies, music therapy and breadth studies in music, as well as bachelor of music programs in orchestral strings performance, classical guitar, winds & brass, percussion, keyboard (piano and organ), vocal arts, composition, commercial and media writing and jazz studies. The breadth studies program is unique in that is allows students to combine music studies with a second academic area. According to Department Chair Dr. Ric Alviso, every music education major this year was “employed within weeks of receiving their teaching credentials.”
Even though CSUN is the lowest-cost school on this list (with the exception of tuition-free schools), two jazz scholarship programs and an annual composition prize are available for students of merit. Thanks to the four choral ensembles, two concert bands, six jazz ensembles and 11 smaller ensembles, like the Goldberg Honors String Quartet of the African Music Ensemble, performance opportunities are ample. The Valley Performing Arts Center offers an award-winning 1,700-seat theatre for on-campus cultural events. Doubling as a teaching clinic for the Music Therapy Department’s students, the Music Therapy Wellness Clinic gives students the chance to work alongside faculty to offer individually designed music activities for those with disabilities and special challenges at any age.
All students are required to pass an entrance audition, as well as complete a musicianship and keyboard placement exam; plus, the BA options and all composition and media composition programs require an interview. The music industries studies (MIS) program deserves recognition for its originality and practicality for those students working to pursue executive and administrative jobs in the music industry and for the performing artists who enter the program to learn about the inner workings of the field and facilitate their careers.
13. Rider University in Lawrenceville and Princeton, NJ
Points Awarded: 22
Net Cost: $29,583
Founded in 1865 Rider University is a smaller private nonsectarian university that merged with Westminster Choir College in 1992, which is now a division of Rider’s Westminster College of the Arts. Other divisions that offer undergraduate music programs are the School of Fine & Performing Arts, the Westminster Office of Continuing Education and the non-degree-granting Westminster Conservatory. Rider’s two campuses are conveniently located between New York City and Philadelphia, doubling attainable performance and employment opportunities for music majors.
Music degree programs at the SFPA are the BFA with a concentration in music, BFA in musical theatre: voice primary, BM in musical theatre: musical direction, BA in popular music studies and the BA in Fine Arts/Music. Although organ, piano and voice are the only performance-based programs, other interesting music degrees include a BM in music education, a BM in sacred music and a BA in visual arts. Facilities include a library with extensive resources, 21 pipe organs, 165 pianos, three piano labs, 61 practice rooms, four performance venues a music computing center and a voice lab. Westminster Conservatory of Music is a nationally recognized community music school, and maintains active membership in the National Guild for Community Arts Education.
Performance ensembles and opportunities for Rider students include Westminster’s eight choirs, like the upperclassman/graduate Westminster Symphonic Choir. It has recorded and performed with major orchestras under “virtually every internationally acclaimed conductor of the past 82 years.” All of the school’s choirs have been featured on over 180 commercial recordings. Rider’s College of the Arts presents three music theater productions each academic year for musical theatre students. Study abroad opportunities related to music are available as well, such as Arts Abroad in Dublin & Rome, a 2-week critical study of music. About 92 percent of Rider graduates are employed, pursuing graduate studies or volunteering within one year of graduating.
12. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI
Points Awarded: 22
Net Cost: $15,757
Founded in 1817, University of Michigan is a public research university with 19 schools and colleges, as well as 44,718 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. The UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance opened in 1880, remains one of the smallest schools or colleges in the university. It is highly selective and houses 14 different music-related departments. All admitted students are automatically eligible for one of the SMTD undergraduate scholarships; more than $3 million in merit-based scholarships are awarded annually.
UMich instrumentalists often perform with the symphony orchestras of Ann Arbor, Lansing, Toledo, Flint, Adrian, Plymouth and the Michigan Opera Theatre orchestra. With over 450 annual performances, students can also participate with any of the various ensembles, which specialize in early music, electronic music, contemporary classical music, jazz and improvisation, and more eclectic styles of music like Klezmer, mariachi and Javanese gamelan. Looking for the right academic challenge? Check out the School’s interdisciplinary degree and dual degree programs.
Otherwise, undergrads can earn a BM in composition, music and technology, music education, music theory, musicology, performance and performance with a teacher certification. A BFA in jazz and contemplative studies, jazz and contemporary improvisation, jazz studies, jazz studies with a teacher certification, musical theatre and performing arts technology (with either a music or media arts concentration), as well as a BS in sound engineering. Madonna and Iggy Pop are alumni. Other graduates of these programs are under management or have recording contracts with major labels, are faculty members of the top music schools around the country and furthered their study at schools like Harvard, Juilliard and the University of London.
11. Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA
Points Awarded: 22
Net Cost: Tuition is free! College Navigator’s net cost of $13,678 is the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses
Opened in 1924, the Curtis Institute of Music accepts 175 students each year to earn a diploma, bachelor of music, master of music or a professional studies certificate, nearly free of charge. Residing in the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Curtis students have access to local amenities like the Academy of Music, America’s oldest continually operating opera house. This school runs on an all-scholarship policy, providing merit-based full-tuition scholarships to all accepted students regardless of their financial situation. In the 2016-17 school year, 132 students received additional financial assistance in the form of grants, loans and student employment to cover student fees, housing, dining, etc. This is also one of the most selective schools in the U.S. with a four percent acceptance rate, and students range in age from 12 to 28.
Students in the bachelor of music at Curtis will complete general courses in performance, musical studies, career studies and liberal arts in addition to the department-specific requirements. Major departments include bass, composition, conducting, guitar, harp, organ, piano, strings, string quartet, timpani and percussion, vocal studies and woodwinds. Students are involved in over 200 performances that reach over 23,500 people annually.
The Curtis on Tour program, established in 2008, is the Nina von Maltzahn global touring initiative, offering students real world professional touring experience alongside faculty and alumni. Curtis alumni hold positions in ensembles like the New York Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Germany, National Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and more. Finally, two facilities of note include the John de Lancie Library, which contains over 65,000 volumes of music scores and books, 100+ scholarly sets of composers’ complete works, authoritative editions of the standard repertoire and more than 33,000 audio and video recordings. Lenfest Hall is a unique living and learning building that houses the 2,850-square-foot Gould Rehearsal Hall, housing for 50 percent of the institute’s students, a fifth-floor garden terrace and a dining hall.
10. New York University in New York, NY
Points Awarded: 23
Net Cost: $35,106
Established in 1831, New York University is one of the largest private universities in the country, offering its 57,245 students an incredible spectrum of degree programs, campus locations and a main campus that sits in the heart of one of the most thriving cultural centers in the country. It’s no surprise that Playbill reported NYU as having more alumni on Broadway than any other school. NYU’s Department of Music in the College of Arts and Science offers a music major and minor, as well as subfields in composition and theory, historical musicology and ethnomusicology. The University’s second home for student musicians, the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development is its own entity, containing the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions.
The 1,600 music majors, at baccalaureate through doctoral levels, learn from the likes of Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe and internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist John Scofield, who won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album. Steinhardt’s 13 undergraduate music degree programs include music education, scoring for film and multimedia, music technology, music theatre, jazz studies, music composition and songwriting. Music business, music therapy and performing arts administration are only offered at the master’s level, but the Tisch School of the Arts houses the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, the only program of its kind leading to a BFA in recorded music. The NYU study abroad campus in Prague offers a full music curriculum for students with the travel bug.
Graduates of NYU’s musical degree programs — like Lady Gaga, former MTV President of Programming Tony DiSanto and music technologist Enoch Light — don’t seem to have trouble finding employment in the city and around the world. Current students even have roles on Broadway in addition to the multitude of other performance experiences offered during their academic career. Another performance opportunity, the Jazz Big Band, is the only college jazz band that regularly fills the house at the legendary Greenwich Village Blue Note. The Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall and other facilities of note in NYC act as facilities for student performers as much as the campus’ 860-seat Skirball Center, Black Box Theatre and other performance spaces. Another facility to highlight is the 7,500-square-foot James L. Dolan Music Recording Studio, one of the country’s most technologically advanced audio teaching studios.
9. San Francisco Conservatory of Music in San Francisco, CA
Points Awarded: 23
Net Cost: $34,203
Originally opened in 1917, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music reopened its new campus in 2006 and is now home to 400 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty who are members of the San Francisco Symphony and Opera orchestras. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), SFCM’s campus is set in the heart of the city’s arts and tech districts, a short distance from Twitter, Sony, SFJAZZ and other well-renown organizations.
This degree-granting music conservatory has a more selective acceptance rate and requires auditions and an occasional pre-screening. However, the 6:1 student-teacher is hard to beat in a major where individual attention really counts. Plus, 98 percent of students receive scholarship assistance on the basis of musical ability, financial need and the school’s current musical needs. The BM degree program at this top music school offers emphases in roots, jazz and American music, technology and applied composition, strings, guitar, voice, percussion, composition, woodwinds, keyboard and brass. The curriculum is unique here in that each semester focuses on a central theme that blends multiple facets. The Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) program leads graduates to careers in film scoring, video game sound design and more.
About 90 percent of the 500 annual performances at this conservatory are free to the public. Students can perform in groups like Baroque, guitar, brass chamber, new music and percussion ensembles, as well as opera and musical theatre, string and piano chamber, improvisation, conservatory orchestra, woodwind chamber music and chorus performing groups. Students get to perform and practice in venues like the 450-seat Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall, the intimate 121-seat Sol Joseph Recital Hall and the Osher Salon, a 100-seat jewel box. Other interesting facilities include the Technology and Applied Composition Studios, the Carol Pucci and Dixon R. Doll Baroque Studio, a harp studio, a reed-making room, dual piano teaching studios and a keyboard laboratory.
8. The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, PA
Points Awarded: 23
Net Cost: $25,055
Founded in 1855, The Pennsylvania State University is the Commonwealth’s only land-grant institution, a member of the Big Ten Conference that enrolls just under 100,000 students at its various campus locations. This large university comes with the College of Arts and Architecture’s intimate School of Music, home to about 325 students. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, Penn State offers a 6:1 music student-teacher ratio, weekly hour long private lessons with a full-time resident faculty member, over 60 named music scholarships and an incredibly popular music education degree program.
About 60 percent of PSU’s music students major in the music education program, which is designed to prepare students for K-12 music certification with time to work on an “individualized emphasis,” and will grant Pennsylvania’s certification, meeting those of 43 other states. A second unique program at PSU is the integrated undergraduate-graduate degree for those students who can excel with a heavy workloads; they can complete both their undergraduate degree and master’s within five years. Other available degree programs include: the BA in general music studies or music technology; the BM in performance or composition; and the BMA in musical arts or performance.
Music students at PSU are conducting tons of research with faculty and present frequently. Students also get to utilize a brand-new “vineyard style” 425-seat recital hall and updated renovations to Music Building I, for which construction began in June 2017. Music Buildings I and II offer additional resources like the instrumental ensemble library, music technology facilities, practice rooms, and a piano lab consisting of 17 Yamaha Clavanovas, a suite of four recording studios and more. Need another reason to consider PSU? The job placement rate for students graduating from the BM in education degree program is over 96 percent.
7. Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ
Points Awarded: 23
Net Cost: $13,007
Founded in 1885, Arizona State University is a public research university with five campuses across the Phoenix area and four regional learning centers around the state with a total of almost 100,000 students. The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the fourth largest academic powerhouse at ASU, is home to the School of Music where 753 students are enrolled as music majors (386 undergrads). About half of those students receive special talent and named award scholarships, for which they are evaluated and automatically considered via their audition, submitted recording or interview.
ASU has one of the best music schools because of the unique ways the department takes advantage of its status as a research institution. Some of the research initiatives include the Acoustic Ecology Lab, the Music, Learning and Society Research Group and the Desert Skies Music Symposium on Research in Music Education, which is “one of the longest continuously running independent research forums of its kind in the United States,” according to the school’s site. Another example is how ASU students and faculty from the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and from the School of Music have worked with musicians from The Phoenix Symphony and care staff from Huger Mercy Living Center to implement a music-based treatment program for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD).
Another benefit of a university as large as ASU is the physical resources and facilities available to all students, such as the Music Therapy Clinic, the Herberger Institute School of Music Jazz Complex, the Music Library, Organ Hall and the approximately 800 performance opportunities that occur on campus annually. Here, music majors can earn the following undergraduate degrees: BA in music (with optional emphases on music and culture); a BA in digital culture with a concentration in music; a BM in music education, music therapy, performance, music theatre or theory and/or composition.
6. Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY
Points Awarded: 24
Net Cost: $30,727
Founded in 1870, Syracuse University is a private research institution with a beautiful campus in the heart of the state and a total student enrollment around 20,000. The Rose, Jules R., and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music was founded just seven years after the university and became the first in the U.S. to grant a degree in music and require four years’ study in both music and theory. The Setnor School, within the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), is an accredited charter institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and home to a 3,823-pipe organ built in 1889.
At Syracuse students can study instrumental and vocal performance, conducting, music education, music industry, audio arts, sound recording technology, voice pedagogy and composition to earn a BA, a multidisciplinary Bandier Program (BS) and BM. Music students who complete an in-person audition are automatically considered for one of the school’s scholarships, ranging from $3,000/year to full tuition. This music school works to send its students abroad through CVPA-specific programs with destinations like Florence, Prague, Santiago, Beijing, and Strasbourg. If they’re eligible as sophomores, students can apply to a five-year, double-degree MBA program, and they can access the Career Development Center for workshops and guidance about establishing successful careers as musicians.
Students, faculty and guest artists perform around 200 concerts annually, through groups like the Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band and more. The university’s relationships with outside organizations also give students the opportunity to play in the region’s professional orchestras, opera companies and community choirs. A beautifully unique on-campus performance space is Crouse College, the third oldest building on campus and registered on the National Register of Historic Places. Crouse houses the 700-seat Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium and its 3,823-pipe Holtkamp Organ set below a 70-foot-high open timber roof and stained glass windows. The building also has wireless technology for MIDI sequencing, music notation, audio editing and more.
5. Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD
Points Awarded: 25
Net Cost: $28,334 (Not including additional fees from the Institute)
Founded in 1857, Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University is one of the oldest conservatories in the U.S. Also a university-preparatory school, Peabody trains musicians of all ages and a larger network of resources through its connection to Johns Hopkins University, but students are only expected to apply to Peabody, which operates its admissions based on the school’s musical needs. These students get to take advantage of the campus’ Baltimore location and facilities like The Arthur Friedheim Music Library, one of the largest and oldest music collections in the country, the 615-seat Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall, the newer 94-seat Cohen-Davison theatre, multiple recording and production studios and a mixdown room.
This top music conservatory has an incredibly-intimate 4:1 student-faculty ratio. It offers a BM in performance, jazz performance, composition, computer music, recording arts and sciences and music education. Students can pursue a double degree, combining the BM with a BA or BS from the JHU Homewood campus, and they can complete their degrees within five years. All students are evaluated and ranked during their live auditions for merit-based scholarship awards with amounts that vary, depending on the student’s ranking and financial need.
The Peabody Institute has pioneered its own Breakthrough Curriculum in Music Leadership, which infuses the school’s traditions with newer concepts to address performance, career development and citizen artistry in its core coursework. The Music Entrepreneurship & Career Center offers resources to help music graduates create successful careers like the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominick Argento and Carter Brey, the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic. This conservatory is even more unique in its partnerships, like how it worked with the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory to aid the growth of a conservatory in Singapore and offer a dual-degree program between conservatories.
4. University of Maryland in College Park, MD
Points Awarded: 25
Net Cost: $14,697
Founded in 1856, the University of Maryland, College Park is my alma mater, the state’s flagship campus and only four miles from the border of Washington, D.C., where music students and faculty work on a broad range of research topics and projects with The National Archives, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Smithsonian Institution, and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This large public research university has 38,000 students and 12 schools and colleges, including the College of Arts & Humanities (ARHU) and School of Music. ARHU promotes cultural diversity, fully equipped with a Diversity Task Force and Humanities Center Task Force for its 3,100 undergraduate students, who get to enjoy a large college with small degree program class sizes and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio.
Fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the School of Music offers BA, BM and BME undergraduate degree programs in seven academic and performance divisions: Piano, string, voice/opera, wind & percussion, jazz studies, music education, music theory & composition, musicology and ethnomusicology. The BA offers a broader curriculum and the chance to double major. The BM is designed for those coming in with previous extensive training and the bachelor of music education allows a dual degree combination with the BM in performance by adding just one semester. Other academic features include the new music and culture minor and extracurriculars like the National Association for Music Education Collegiate Chapter.
With D.C. a short Metro ride away, close proximity to Baltimore, multiple on-campus world music ensembles and school affiliates like the Artist Partner Program, which brings students into regular contact with renowned visiting artists in the form of masterclasses, career workshops, and joint performances. Music degree students have ample opportunities to get their feet wet with entities like the National Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Significant on-campus facilities include the 318,000-square-foot Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (CSPAC), which houses the performing arts library, the Music Technology Lab, a computer music studio, the Ethnomusicology & Musicology Technology Lab, the 962-seat Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Concert Hall and more.
3. University of North Texas in Denton, TX
Points Awarded: 27
Net Cost: $10,202
One of the larger public research universities on this list, the University of North Texas enrolls 37,973 students and has been featured by multiple sources as being a “best buy” and one of the best colleges for music majors. The campus’ location in the 12th-largest city in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex exposes students to various city-sponsored music festivals like the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, which attracts over 200,000 people each year. This College of Music is one of the world’s largest music schools with internationally acclaimed faculty and alumni like Grammy Award-winning vocalist Norah Jones, Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin and Yale University School of Music Dean Robert Blocker.
The world’s first jazz studies degree program was established at UNT in 1946, and today the school offers a BA in music with a music history concentration and BM programs in general, choral and instrumental music (with a teacher certificate), composition, jazz studies, music theory and music performance. Nine different music study abroad programs are available, as well as opportunities for advanced research in music and medicine through the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health. The early music program at UNT is large and significant, consisting of several performing and chamber ensembles, private instruction and access to over 250 instruments.
In case the net cost didn’t catch your eye, consider the fact that the college currently distributes over $900,000 in music scholarships to students annually, with over 200 separate College of Music-sponsored scholarship opportunities for which students are automatically considered after applying to the college. With programs like Career Development and Entrepreneurship in Music, it’s no surprise that nearly 100 percent of music education program graduates easily find jobs. Music students at UNT can have virtually unlimited performance opportunities via one of the 40+ mixed chamber ensembles, six choirs, nine big jazz bands, the electronic “Zebras Contemporary Repertory Ensemble,” period performance ensembles and one of the many Dallas and Denton-based groups. On campus, students can utilize the award-winning Murchison Performing Arts Center’s 1,025-seat Margot and Bill Winspear Performance Hall, the 300-capacity Lyric Theatre or any of the 300 practice rooms, classrooms, rehearsal rooms and computer labs. The Music Library is one of the largest in the U.S., containing over 350,000 volumes of books, hundreds of reference works, a wide variety of online materials and about one million sound recordings.
2. Columbia College in Chicago, IL
Points Awarded: 28
Net Cost: $29,181
Columbia College is a private, non-profit college that enrolls about 8,000 students in its 100+ undergraduate and graduate degree programs, all of which have a base curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts and business. CC’s School of Fine and Performing Arts, Music Department and School of Media Arts have some outstanding offerings to anyone interested in some track of music. From the school’s location in one of the major hubs of arts, entrepreneurship and job opportunities within the country, to an admissions process that does not require an audition, Columbia students are set up for success from start to finish.
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Columbia keeps its class sizes small with less than 20 students each, and the school pledges that if an applicant doesn’t already have formal training, the programs will help him/her develop the skills necessary to succeed. Private lessons are often required as part of the curriculum, and this great music school’s degree programs offerings are possibly the most comprehensive on this list. Without even touching on the associate’s or graduate degree programs, Columbia offers students the chance to earn one or more of the following degrees: BA in music with concentrations in composition; performance (instrumental, jazz studies or vocal); musical theatre; or contemporary, urban, and popular music; a BMus in composition; contemporary, urban, and popular music; or performance (instrumental, jazz studies or vocal); a BA in audio design and production; in live and installed sound; in radio; or in music business; a BS in acoustics or in music technology; a BFA in cinema art and science, sound for cinema; a BFA in musical theatre performance; a BA in game sound design; various arts managements and entrepreneurship degrees, like a BA in live and performing arts management; and minors in hip-hop studies, entrepreneurship, talent management and more. Yes, more.
Columbia’s facilities like the Digital Music Lab, Game Lab and Media Production Center are unique, full of technology and support the breadth of degree programs. Concert Hall hosts around 400 performances and workshops annually, in addition to being an educational hub for pre-performance observances and world-class artist meet-and-greets. The school partners with Lyric Opera to bring major industry leaders into the classroom, as well as two abroad organizations to send students overseas. Alumni include Paul Broucek, who credits CC for his success as a music producer for films like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. In case that net cost is above budget, CC awarded $40.4 million in scholarships during 2016-17. Plus, 90 percent of freshmen and 85 percent of transfers received financial aid that year.
1. Indiana University in Bloomington, IN
Points Awarded: 29
Net Cost: $13,289
A music conservatory established in 1921, Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music is one of the largest schools of music in the country with one of the top-rated vocalist programs, more than 1,600 students and more than 1,100 student performance opportunities each year. For prospective students who enjoy folk punk, a punk rock record label hosts the annual DIY punk music festival, Plan-it-X Fest. Bloomington is also home to a variety of other record labels, studios, publishing companies and the annual Lotus Festival of World Music. Jacobs accepts about a quarter of its applicants and automatically considers them for scholarships based on a combination of talent, academic achievement and department need.
The list of undergraduate degree program offerings at IUMusic is extensive. With multiple areas of study for each program, students can choose from a bachelor of music, bachelor of music education, bachelor of science in music and an outside field (options for composition, jazz studies and more), audio engineering and sound production degrees, string technical degrees or a general education degree program. Uncommon degree programs at Jacobs is the BS in audio engineering and sound production, the AS in audio engineering and the AS in string instrument technology. The Entrepreneurship and Career Development office works hard to ensure graduate success by providing one-on-one career advising, useful online tools, an alumni mentorship program, departmental career days, mentorship to student organizations and projects and more. Students are also able to earn a 15-credit undergraduate certificate in music entrepreneurship through the OECD in partnership with the Kelley School of Business.
All music majors receive individual attention during private study with one of the 180 faculty in residence, and students are allowed to take trial lessons. Students regularly hold positions in several regional orchestras, and some will hold auditions on campus in one of the school’s grand performance venues. Comparable to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the 1,460-seat Musical Arts Center features state-of-the-art technical capabilities and a backstage area that occupies more than half the building for technical work. Another campus auditorium of note, the grand 400-seat Auer Hall has a high-beamed, coffered ceiling and two side terraces. As if the school needed to do more as one of the best colleges for music, Jacobs offers its students extra amenities like a classically-trained fitness and wellness program.
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