Attending college is one of the most important decisions for any young musician. The amount of talent, dedication, time, and yes, even connections it takes to get into a top career is actually mind-blowing.
Music students, especially classical music performance majors and Music Theatre performance majors, typically have one major goal in mind: to secure a performance position within a major ensemble or company. We have examined the top schools for music performance and composition in the country that have consistently led their students to the top awards, symphonic orchestras, Broadway gigs, professorial positions, and other highly coveted jobs in the nation. Additionally, we have looked at the general reputation of the music schools, the performance opportunities available at each school, and what the schools can offer from a financial standpoint. Believe it or not, three top music colleges are completely free of tuition to all students!
Without further ado, here are the top 15 colleges for music in the US.
15. Oberlin Conservatory of Music – Oberlin, OH
One of the midwest’s top colleges for music, Oberlin’s music conservatory is a strictly undergraduate program. While the chance to work with graduate students may be something students will miss out on, the biggest benefit for not having graduate students at this program is that less competition exists for winning lead roles in the school’s opera productions as well as more personalized attention towards students in the classical performance and composition majors. Certainly, the sense of individualism is strong at Oberlin, as the entire college’s enrollment is approximately just 600 students, making it nearly three times smaller than other major music schools including Indiana and North Texas, and almost 8 times smaller than Berklee.
Students of Oberlin frequently ascend to many of the top professional orchestras and ensembles throughout America and beyond. A great benefit of Oberlin is that it is neither a stand-alone conservatory nor attached to a major university; rather, Oberlin is attached to a progressive and leading liberal arts college. The free-thinking liberal climate of the liberal arts college can be of tremendous benefit to the growing artist at the conservatory. The only other top music schools I am aware of that are attached to excellent liberal arts colleges are the Ithaca College School of Music and the Bard College-Conservatory of Music.
The intellectual atmosphere of Oberlin’s academic community can be of great benefit to the aspiring musician, especially for the undergraduate looking to double major. Oberlin offers a 5 year double-degree program between the Conservatory and main academic campus for those interested in pursuing more than just an excellent and unparalleled music degree.
14. University of North Texas College of Music – Denton, TX
The University of North Texas is the largest college of music accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, making it one of the largest music conservatories in the world. Noted for outstanding programs all around, the school was the very first in the entire world to offer a degree in jazz performance. In fact, it’s jazz program is so highly lauded, the school’s premiere jazz ensemble, the One O’Clock Band, has been actually nominated for six Grammy awards! While most top music colleges in the US host between 400-600 performances per academic year, the University of North Texas presents over 1, 000. Truly, even considering the incredibly large enrollment of the music college, there is never a shortage of opportunity for music students to find an ensemble or concert to participate in. Students of North Texas can be found in many of the major professional ensembles throughout the world, as well as in coveted teaching positions throughout the globe.