What Are the Best Music Colleges and Conservatories in the US?

Learn more about what to expect from the top music colleges and conservatories in the country. Find out which schools are considered the best and learn what degree programs are available. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Characteristics of the Best Music Colleges and Conservatories?

The best music colleges and conservatories offer highly regarded faculty, ample performance opportunities, good research facilities and a large breadth of programs. They might be highly ranked nationally for overall academic quality.

You might want to choose a school based upon your desired area of study. If you're a prospective Ph.D. student looking to study music of the Baroque period, you might choose differently than a jazz trombonist looking for a wide range of performance opportunities. Degrees and certificate options are something to consider; some schools offer specialized performance diplomas, for example. If you're considering becoming a music teacher, you'd want to look for schools that offer a music education degree. Also, some schools offer financial awards to graduate students, which might be another factor in your decision.

Three of the Best Music Colleges and Conservatories

Indiana University in Bloomington, IN

This public university tied for 89th among U.S. News & World Report's national universities in 2019. The Jacobs School of Music hosts several centers and institutes, such as the Center for Electronic and Computer Music, the Early Music Institute and the Latin American Music Center. As a student, you'll have access to the William and Gayle Cook Music Library, one of the largest academic music libraries in the world.

You can choose among seven instrumental music and two vocal music majors, six music education degrees, or a dual degree in music and another field. Genres range from early music to jazz. Performer diploma programs for concentrated study in a specific repertoire are also offered. If you're interested in a broader focus, you could pursue a combined degree in education, library science or musicology. Master's degree programs include choral, wind and orchestral performance; traditional and computer composition; organ and sacred music and music theory. These degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Music (B.M.) in Composition
  • B.M. in Early Music (Instrumental or Vocal)
  • B.M. in Jazz Studies
  • B.M. in Performance
  • B.M. Education
  • B.S. in Music + Outside Field
  • Master of Music (M.M.)
  • Master of Music Education
  • Master of Science in Music Education
  • Master of Arts in Musicology
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Doctor of Music Education
  • Doctor of Music

Juilliard School in New York, NY

The prestigious Juilliard School faculty includes members of resident professional chamber groups like the American Brass Quintet, Juilliard String Quartet and New York Woodwind Quintet. The student Juilliard Orchestra has a regular season at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. The many performance groups include Juilliard415, a student period-instrument ensemble and the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra.

You could major in composition, jazz studies, voice or any of 18 instruments. Both undergraduate and graduate students can earn artist diplomas. Eligible graduate and undergraduate students have the opportunity to take one course per semester at Barnard College or Columbia University. If you're qualified, you could begin a master's degree program in your senior year, or produce an independent study research project. You can pursue any of four tracks for the master's degree or earn a graduate diploma. Evening division programs are also offered to the general public. The following degree programs are available:

  • B.M. (various instruments)
  • B.M. in Composition, Jazz Studies or Voice
  • B.M./M.M.
  • M.M. in Composition
  • M.M. in Historical Performance
  • M.M. in Music Performance
  • M.M. in Jazz Studies
  • M.M. in Voice
  • Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)

University of Rochester in Rochester, NY

At the Eastman School of Music, you could play in a performance group like the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra or Wind Orchestra or advanced performance ensembles like the Philharmonia and Musica Nova. Eastman also hosts the Institute for Music Leadership.

Eastman offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, certificates, diplomas and joint degree options. As an undergraduate student, you could major in applied music, jazz studies and contemporary media, composition, musical arts, music theory or music education. Master of Music and Master of Arts candidates have each of these and broader options. Eight D.M.A. and five Ph.D. programs are available. Degree options include:

  • Bachelor of Music
  • Bachelor of Arts in Music
  • Master of Arts (M.A.)
  • Master of Music
  • Doctor of Musical Arts
  • Doctor of Philosophy

Ten Top Music Colleges and Conservatories

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition*
University of Maryland4-year, PublicCollege Park, MD$15,000
Oberlin Conservatory of Music4-year, PrivateOberlin, OH$30,000
New England Conservatory of Music4-year, PrivateBoston, MA$49,000
Cleveland Institute of Music4-year, PrivateCleveland, OH$46,000
Curtis Institute of Music4-year, PrivatePhiladelphia, PA$3,000
Johns Hopkins University4-year, PrivateBaltimore, MD$56,000
University of North Texas4-year, PublicDenton, TX$7,500
University of Tennessee4-year, PublicKnoxville, TN$13,000
University of California - Berkeley4-year, PublicBerkeley, CA$14,000
Boston College4-year, PrivateBoston, MA$29,500

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

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:

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