The Best Music Schools in the U. S.

July 19, 2022 0 By Teacher

Indiana University

Best Music Schools in the U.S.

It’s time to turn your talent into your profession. The competition in musical fine arts careers can be fiercely competitive. When looking to your future in music, a school’s or conservatory’s reputation is one of the aspects employers will look at for screening concert seats and teaching positions.

This ranking was created to give you further insight into each schools’ affordability and value. We encourage you to take into account your own personal goals when choosing a school or conservatory. This ranking will be a guide to help you navigate education in music.

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Each school considered for this ranking was given a score and a ranking based on the average net price, retention rate, and graduation rate. Scores were then combined to create an overall ranking and score with 100 being the highest score and a ranking of #1 as the highest possible ranking in each category and overall ranking.

All data was gathered from and is accurate at the time of this writing (August 2019). All other information was gathered from school websites and other ranking sites such as, US News & World Report and

Best Music Schools in the Nation

According to the U.S. News & World Report, Northwestern University is ranked 10th in the nation. It’s also considered to be the most selective in the nation with an acceptance rate of 8.4 percent. Most students that are admitted to the university have ACT scores that average anywhere from 32 to 35 on a 36 scale. SAT scores for accepted students average around 1420 to 1560 on a 1600 scale.

As a private research university, the school offers several undergraduate studies in law, music, medicine, engineering, journalism, business and applied sciences. It’s known for its prestigious Bienen School of Music.

The school has produced several Academy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award-Winning musicians, actors and directors. This makes it one of the most sought out music schools in the country.

With an A+ score on, be sure to have those high ACT and SAT scores to increase your chances of getting accepted into this highly selective and prestigious university outside of Chicago, Illinois.

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1. Juilliard School

Located in New York City’s Lincoln Center and known for its high-expectations, Juilliard has produced many musicians who have become household names: from Miles Davis to Yo Yo Ma to Renée Fleming.

Admission is highly competitive and requires a live audition. Each year, only about five percent of vocalists and 16 percent of instrumental musicians are accepted. About 600 of Juilliard’s 650 students are music students (there is also a dramatic arts program). Because the school is so small, it has no problem attracting top talent. Juilliard musicians tend to be competitive students who are happiest as soloists or as members of top-ranked music groups.

First-year students are required to live in student housing, almost all of which is ideally located around the Lincoln Center area. Although Juilliard has received some criticism for its limited availability of practice space, the school is currently in the process of adding additional practice rooms on campus and in residence halls.

2. Curtis Institute of Music

Founded in 1924, the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute of Music has produced many notable alumni—especially composers, including Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti, Ned Rorem, and Nino Rota. Other famous alumni include conductors Jaime Laredo and Alan Gilbert, violinist Jascha Brodsky, organist Alan Morrison, and pianist Lang Lang.

Curtis is likely the most selective conservatory in the country. Live auditions are required, and only four to 11 percent of applicants are accepted each year. The entire undergraduate student body consistently hovers around 150 students, 100 percent of whom receive a full-tuition scholarship (though housing costs are not included).

The rigorous music education students receive at Curtis is seemingly successful at propelling students into musical careers. Students can participate in any of the four campus ensembles, all of which are led by an elite faculty.

Vocal graduates have gone on to sing with the Met, La Scala, and other internationally famous opera companies, while Curtis musicians currently occupy principal chairs in every major American symphony.

3. Manhattan School of Music

Founded in 1917, the conservatory is especially respected for its jazz department, which has produced a long roster of notable alumni, including Harry Connick, Jr., Herbie Hancock, Hugh Masakela, and Herbie Mann.

But the conservatory isn’t just about jazz. In fact, the Manhattan School of Music boasts strong programs all around, all of which are headed by a first-class faculty that includes members of the New York City Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

All students take classes in Music Theory, Music History, and a variety of performance arts. Popular degrees offered include Doctorate of Music Arts and Master of Music in Classical Studies, Jazz Arts, and Orchestra Performance, among others.

The school itself is moderately selective. Forty percent of applicants are admitted to join the undergraduate student body of about 400. First-year students are required to live in student housing, and approximately 55 percent of all students receive some sort of financial aid.

4. Berklee College of Music

With 4,131 students, Berklee is one of the biggest schools on this list. It offers students the choice of certificates, Bachelor’s, and Master’s in several different programs, the most popular of which include songwriting, general music performance, music management, music teacher education, and music therapy.

The College’s long list of successful alumni include composer/producer extraordinaire Quincy Jones, jazz-pianist legend Keith Jarrett, film composer Howard Shore, and countless Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winners.

5. Mannes College-The New School for Music

Founded in 1916, Mannes College joined The New School for Music consortium in 1989. Since then, it has solidified itself as one of the top choices for serious young music students.

6. New England Conservatory of Music

Located in Boston, the New England Conservatory of Music is one of the largest conservatories to be located in an urban setting. In fact, the college community that is Boston remains a huge draw to prospective Conservatory students.

Nearly half of the members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra have ties to the school, while Boston itself is a vibrant music community with several regional orchestras and performance ensembles.

Admissions into the New England Conservatory is moderately competitive, with approximately 30 percent of applicants offered admission each year. The most popular programs include composition, jazz, and strings.

The Conservatory has recently received positive press for its newest program, Entrepreneurial Musicianship, which is designed to assist students in establishing successful careers in the music industry.

Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt University

With its location in Nashville, students at Blair gain close contact with the music industry itself. Indeed, many of the nation’s top music companies and venues find themselves headquartered in the aptly named Music Row, a historic district of Nashville complete with record labels and music publishing houses.

One incredibly unique program of Vanderbilt is the BMI Composer-In-Residence program. Sponsored by Broadcast Music Incorporated, successful composers are brought to Vanderbilt every year to work with students. Past composers-in-residence include Pulitzer winners William Bolcom, John Harbison, and Joseph Schwantner.

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