Which California Schools & Colleges Offer Music Programs?

Learn about music programs in California. Get information about degrees available and program requirements to make an informed decision about your education. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Do you want to study music at a university in California? Both Stanford and UCLA offer bachelor's and doctoral degree programs. San Francisco State and UC Irvine offer master's degree programs.

What You Need to Know

In California, a number of schools offer music degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs normally include courses in musical performance, theory, composition, history and education. Undergraduate and graduate programs typically feature several concentrations and can prepare students to become a professional performer, educator, composer or conductor. Graduate degree programs require students to audition. Music degree programs may give students the opportunity to perform with ensembles, and some graduate degree programs may require students to compose a piece, pass an examination or write a paper or dissertation. Below, some of the music programs offered by California schools are examined in more detail. Please continue reading to see if any of these programs will help you meet your goals.

Bachelor's Degree Programs in California

Stanford University

The Department of Music at Stanford University offers an undergraduate major in music. This program focuses on the Western classical tradition and offers courses in the general areas of music theory, history, composition and performance. In addition to foundational coursework, you may choose to specialize in several areas, including performance, conducting and history. To graduate, you will have to demonstrate basic proficiency in piano. Stanford also offers a major in music, science and technology (MST) where you can study technological media used in musical performances and recordings.

  • Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Music
  • Areas of Specialization: Music, science and technology; history and theory; performance; composition and conducting
  • Program Length: 4 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $46,320 per year (2015-2016)
  • School Type: 4-year, private; around 7,000 undergraduate and 9,900 graduate students

University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)

The Department of Music within the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music offers the bachelor's degree program in music. You can work with renowned faculty and choose from three primary areas of emphasis, which cover composition, music education and performance. You'll receive private lessons and have access to a number of special facilities, such as practice rooms and studios for electronic music. You will also have the chance to perform with ensembles associated with the department. The music education program is the only program in the UC system, and you can earn your teaching credential in your senior year.

  • Program Name: Bachelor of Arts in Music
  • Areas of Specialization: Composition, music education and performance
  • Program Length: 4 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $12,763 per year for in-state students, $37,471 per year for out-of-state students (2015-2016)
  • School Type: 4-year, public; around 29,600 undergraduate and 12,200 graduate students

Master's Degree Programs in California

San Francisco State University

The School of Music and Dance offers two different master's degree programs. The Master of Arts in Music is available with an emphasis in music education, music history and composition. The music education emphasis is subdivided into two specialized learning tracks; the first prepares you for a career in K-12 education, and the second can prepare you to enter a PhD program in music education. The Master of Music is available with an emphasis in classical performance, chamber music and conducting. The Master of Music programs are highly selective and may offer assistantship and residency programs.

  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Music or Master of Music
  • Areas of Specialization: Music education, music history, composition, classical performance, chamber music and conducting
  • Program Length: 2 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $6,738 per year for in-state students, $15,666 per year for out-of-state students (2015-2016)
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
  • Requirements: Audition required for classical and chamber performance emphases
  • School Type: 4-year, public; about 25,900 undergraduate and 3,500 graduate students

University of California - Irvine

The University of California, Irvine, features a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Music program with a number of focus areas, including conducting, performance and vocals. To earn your M.F.A., you must exhibit a strong understanding of music theory and history, as well as a familiarity with important musical works. You may be required to perform in public recitals and complete a foreign language requirement. The Department of Music also offers a unique M.F.A. focus area in integrated composition, improvisation and technology (ICIT), where non-traditional methods of composition and performance are emphasized in contradistinction to the Western classical tradition.

  • Program Name: Master of Fine Arts in Music
  • Areas of Specialization: Integrated composition, improvisation and technology; vocal arts; guitar/lute performance; instrumental performance; piano performance; collaborative piano and choral conducting
  • Program Length: 2 years, full-time
  • Tuition: $11,220 per year for in-state students, $26,322 per year for out-of-state students (2015-2016)
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree; academic essay; personal statement; letters of reference
  • Requirements: Auditions in your specific area (requirements vary by specialization)
  • School Type: 4-year, public; about 24,500 undergraduate and 5,600 graduate students

Doctoral Programs in California

Stanford University

Stanford offers three distinct doctoral programs in music, including a Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Composition. If you wish to focus on crafting musical compositions, as opposed to specializing in performance or theory, this program will provide you with necessary grounding to become a professional composer. You can also complete a Ph.D. in Musicology or Computer-Based Music Theory and Acoustics program. The doctorate programs are comprised of traditional coursework, directed study and a dissertation or final project. Additionally, you will complete a qualifying exam and 6 quarters of teaching.

  • Program Name: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Musical Arts
  • Specialization Areas: Musicology, computer-based music theory and acoustics and composition
  • Program Length: 4-6 years
  • Tuition: $45,729 per year (2015-2016)
  • Prerequisites: Transcripts; GRE and TOEFL scores; letters of recommendation; statement of purpose
  • School Type: 4-year, private; around 7,000 undergraduate and 9,900 graduate students

University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)

UCLA offers a PhD program in composition where you can learn about compositional theory and hone your skills in writing music. In this program, you will be expected to compose musical works that will be performed annually in a special concert series. To graduate, you will have to take special qualifying examinations, compose an original work of music, and write a research paper on contemporary composition. The D.M.A. program prepares you to teach students professional performance.

  • Program Name: Ph.D. or D.M.A.
  • Specialization Areas: Solo classical instruments, voice, conducting, performance and composition
  • Program Length: 4-6 years
  • Tuition: $11,220 per year for in-state students, $26,322 per year for out-of-state students (2015-2016)
  • Prerequisites: Transcripts; statement of purpose; letters of recommendation; performance resume
  • Requirements: Audition for D.M.A.; recorded performance, interview and assessment for Ph.D. program
  • School Type: 4-year, public; around 29,600 undergraduate and 12,200 graduate students

Overall, musicians can pursue undergraduate or graduate studies at some of California's top public and private universities.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • The Art Institutes

    The Art Institutes responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The Art Institutes:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • California: North Hollywood, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Ana
  • Winthrop University

    Winthrop University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Winthrop University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Full Sail University

    Full Sail University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Full Sail University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Southwestern College

    Campus Locations:

    • Arizona: Phoenix
  • Stanford University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Stanford
  • San Francisco State University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: San Francisco