Top 10 Colleges for Music

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Music sheet, headset, a guitar and a pen on a table

Top 10 Colleges for Music

Choosing the right college for music shapes your future in the industry. The ideal institution should offer top-notch education and provide a gateway to numerous opportunities in your chosen field. Whether your heart lies in classical, jazz, opera, or contemporary music, finding a school that aligns with your goals is crucial. This blog aims to simplify your decision by listing the top colleges for music, providing you with the necessary information to make a well-informed choice.

When selecting the right music school, look beyond the classroom. Consider the faculty’s expertise, the variety of programs, facility quality, and the community’s energy. These elements are fundamental to nurturing your talent and preparing you for a successful career. Through this guide, you’ll gain insights into what each top music college offers, helping you find a place where you can flourish both as a musician and as an individual, setting the stage for your future endeavors in the music world.

Top 10 Colleges for Music

1. Berklee College of Music

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: $48,830
  • Acceptance Rate: 54%

Boston Conservatory at Berklee stands out for its innovative approach to music education, blending traditional training with modern insights. The institution emphasizes diversity and contemporary classicism, ensuring students receive a holistic understanding of music’s past, present, and future. With programs that cover a wide range of musical genres and disciplines, students are encouraged to explore and integrate diverse musical styles into their repertoire.

a pile of music sheets

The faculty at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, composed of internationally acclaimed artists and educators, provide not just instruction but mentorship. They prepare students to make significant impacts on the musical landscape, fostering a culture of innovation and creativity. The emphasis on versatility and entrepreneurship equips students with the skills needed to navigate and succeed in the dynamic music industry.

By fostering an environment where leadership and artistic innovation thrive, Boston Conservatory at Berklee prepares students to become not just musicians, but trailblazers in the music world. Graduates leave ready to shape the future of music, armed with a profound understanding of their craft and the industry.

2. Juilliard School

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $53,300
  • Acceptance Rate: 10%

Juilliard is well recognized as one of the leaders in music education. It boasts very high standards that have produced a who’s who of alumni. Located at the cultural heart of the city within Lincoln Center, Juilliard is known for very rigorous programs engineered specifically to cultivate excellent musical talent. These programs challenge students to advance their skills and achieve professional-grade musicianship.

The college prides itself on small class sizes that offer individual attention and mentoring from its renowned faculty. This way, students will help perfect their technical skills and, at the same time, realize a much deeper sense of their artistic identity. The small community at Juilliard encourages working together and sharing to foster the best educational environment.

What is more, Juilliard’s setting offers peerless chances for cultural immersion and artistic exposure, which further compounds the student’s growth and learning. This rich, supportive environment is designed to help develop not only skilled musicians but well-rounded individuals prepared to make a valuable contribution to the music world.

3. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Estimated Tuition: $10,125 (residents), $38,075 (non-residents)
  • Acceptance Rate: 25%

The Jacobs School of Music, known for being the largest accredited music school in the United States, stands out for its exceptional faculty and extensive range of performance ensembles. With a strong emphasis on live performance, students gain practical experience from the outset, enriching their learning and preparing them for professional careers in music. Participation in these performances is not just encouraged but mandated, ensuring students apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings.

This institution seamlessly marries tradition with innovation, providing students with a comprehensive education that respects classical methodologies while embracing contemporary advancements in music. The dynamic educational experience at Jacobs is designed to cultivate not only musical skills but also critical thinking and creativity. Students are exposed to a diverse curriculum that challenges them to explore various musical genres and styles, preparing them for a wide range of career paths in the music industry. This approach ensures graduates from the Jacobs School of Music are well-rounded, versatile musicians with a deep understanding of the musical arts.

4. Curtis Institute of Music

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Estimated Tuition: Full-tuition scholarship (Student fees up to $30,000)
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%

Curtis Institute of Music, among the top colleges for music, stands out for its rigorous selection process and unwavering dedication to musical excellence. This institution ensures that financial constraints do not hinder the most talented minds by offering every student a full-tuition scholarship. Such a commitment emphasizes that entry is based solely on musical ability and potential.

A professor giving instructions to a student.


The learning environment at Curtis is uniquely intimate and immersive, allowing for personalized attention and mentorship from its world-class faculty. This approach not only fosters technical proficiency but also encourages artistic development and individual expression. Curtis’s focus on small student cohorts ensures that each musician receives the support and guidance needed to explore and refine their craft.

By providing such a nurturing and focused setting, Curtis Institute of Music prepares its students comprehensively for the challenges and opportunities of professional musical careers. Graduates leave the institute not just as skilled performers but as well-rounded artists ready to contribute significantly to the global music scene, reinforcing Curtis’s position among the top colleges for music.

5. University of Rochester- Eastman School of Music

  • Location: Rochester, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $63,150
  • Acceptance Rate: 43%

The Eastman School of Music, a prestigious component of the University of Rochester, is celebrated for intertwining stringent academic rigor with an extensive performance schedule. This blend ensures that students not only excel in their musical knowledge and skills but also gain ample stage experience. Known for its challenging programs, Eastman sets a high bar for student achievement and professionalism in music.

Eastman stands out by offering considerable scholarships, addressing the financial aspect of higher education, and making quality music education accessible to talented musicians regardless of their economic background. This commitment to support helps attract dedicated and serious music students globally, enhancing the school’s diverse and dynamic environment.

Furthermore, Eastman’s affiliation with the University of Rochester allows students to benefit from a comprehensive educational experience, combining the depth of music-specific training with the breadth of a liberal arts education. This holistic approach prepares students for a wide range of careers in the music industry, solidifying Eastman’s status among top colleges for music.

6. Manhattan School of Music

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $53,500
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%

The Manhattan School of Music, nestled in the heart of New York City, stands out for its specialized focus on classical and jazz genres, providing students with a well-rounded and comprehensive musical education. The school’s faculty, comprised of some of the most renowned figures in the music industry, plays a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of musical talent. This prestigious institution serves as a crucible for artistic development, where students are encouraged to refine their skills and define their artistic voices.

The vibrant New York City backdrop offers an unmatched setting for music education, presenting students with countless opportunities to perform and engage with the professional music scene. This environment not only enhances their learning experience but also facilitates networking, a critical component for building a successful career in music. At the Manhattan School of Music, students find themselves in a dynamic and inspiring atmosphere, where the city’s cultural richness complements their academic journey, making it a distinguished choice among top colleges for music.

7. Yale School of Music

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Estimated Tuition: No tuition costs
  • Acceptance Rate: 6.7%

The Yale School of Music, a standout among top colleges for music, offers an exceptional educational experience within the prestigious Ivy League. Known for its selective admission process, it admits around 100 students annually from globally recognized conservatories and universities. These students receive a comprehensive package that includes full tuition awards and living stipends, removing financial barriers and focusing solely on artistic and academic merit.

front view of Yale School of Music

Located in New Haven, the School immerses students in a rich musical environment, from historic concert halls to vibrant local arts scenes. Yale’s state-of-the-art facilities and resources foster creativity and allow students to explore diverse musical disciplines. The program, mainly for graduate students, includes areas like composition, percussion, and string performance under the guidance of renowned faculty.

This exclusive educational setup not only prepares students for professional success but also connects them with a wide network, notably in the nearby New York music scene. Graduates often secure prominent positions, showcasing the school’s role in shaping future music industry leaders. For those eyeing a transformative music education, Yale’s School of Music ranks as a top choice.

8. Bard College-Conservatory of Music

  • Location: Annandale-On-Hudson, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: $62,790
  • Acceptance Rate: 15%

Bard College-Conservatory of Music stands out with its distinctive five-year dual-degree program, allowing students to graduate with both a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Arts in a separate field. This innovative approach caters to the growing need for musicians to be versatile and well-rounded, combining rigorous music training with a broad liberal arts education. Such a curriculum equips students with a diverse skill set, preparing them for a range of careers in and beyond the music industry.

The conservatory is celebrated for its performance-centric education, offering numerous opportunities for students to showcase their talents in various settings, from traditional concert halls to contemporary music venues. This hands-on experience is vital for artistic development and professional growth. Bard’s faculty, comprising seasoned professionals and esteemed educators from top institutions, ensures that students receive guidance from the best in the field. This unique educational model at Bard not only fosters musical excellence but also encourages intellectual curiosity and creativity, setting it apart as a leader among music schools.

9. New England Conservatory

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: $56,780
  • Acceptance Rate: 43%

Located in Boston, a city known for its rich music scene, the New England Conservatory (NEC) stands out for its strong connections with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its focus on real-world musical performance and business skills. This approach ensures students not only perfect their art but also learn how to thrive in the music industry.

At NEC, students are encouraged to find their unique musical voice while gaining the practical skills needed for success beyond the conservatory. The curriculum promotes hands-on learning and creative thinking, preparing students for a range of music careers. The supportive environment, combined with access to a vibrant local music community, provides ample opportunities for students to perform, collaborate, and grow as musicians.

NEC’s commitment to blending artistic excellence with entrepreneurial skills makes it a top choice for those looking to make a significant impact in the music world.

10. Oberlin Conservatory of Music

  • Location: Oberlin, OH
  • Estimated Tuition: $63,700
  • Acceptance Rate: 35%

As the oldest conservatory in the United States, Oberlin Conservatory of Music distinguishes itself with groundbreaking educational programs and a strong commitment to social involvement. This institution is renowned for fostering an environment where students receive individualized attention due to the low student-to-faculty ratio, which ensures that each student can develop their skills under the close guidance of experienced professionals.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

Oberlin’s innovative curriculum is designed to prepare students comprehensively for the challenges of the modern music landscape. The conservatory offers a variety of specialized programs, including contemporary and baroque music and the unique TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts) program, reflecting its commitment to staying at the forefront of musical education and technology.

Furthermore, Oberlin stands out for its emphasis on social engagement, encouraging students to use music as a tool for community building and cultural dialogue. This approach, combined with extensive performance opportunities both on and off campus, equips students with the experience and confidence needed to succeed in diverse musical environments. Oberlin’s dedication to shaping well-rounded musicians and active citizens ensures its graduates are highly sought after in the music world.

What Should You Consider When Choosing a College for Music?

When selecting a college for music, there are several factors to consider to ensure the institution aligns with your needs, goals, and career aspirations. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Program Focus: Determine if the college offers a program that matches your musical interests and goals. Whether you’re into classical performance, jazz, music education, composition, or music technology, ensure the college has a strong program in that area.
  2. Faculty: Research the faculty’s background and expertise. Having experienced and well-connected instructors can significantly impact your education and future opportunities in the music industry.
  3. Performance Opportunities: Look for colleges that offer ample performance opportunities, such as ensembles, orchestras, choirs, and recitals. Regular performance experiences are crucial for your development as a musician.
  4. Facilities and Resources: Evaluate the quality of the college’s music facilities, such as practice rooms, performance halls, recording studios, and libraries. Having access to top-notch facilities can enhance your learning experience.
  5. Curriculum and Accreditation: Check if the curriculum aligns with your educational goals and if the college is accredited by a recognized music accreditation body. This can affect the quality of education you receive and your degree’s value.
  6. Alumni Success: Investigate the college’s alumni’s success. This can give you an idea of the network and opportunities you might expect after graduation.
  7. Location: Consider the college’s location and its impact on your education and career opportunities. Cities with a vibrant music scene can offer more performance opportunities and connections in the industry.
  8. Financial Considerations: Understand the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses. Look into scholarship opportunities, financial aid, and work-study programs offered by the college to support music students.
  9. Student Support and Well-being: Find out about the support services available to students, such as academic advising, career services, and mental health resources. A supportive environment is crucial for your well-being and success.
  10. Campus Culture: If possible, visit the campus to get a feel for the college’s culture and community. Make sure it’s an environment where you can thrive both academically and personally.

Taking the time to evaluate these factors will help you choose a college for music that best suits your individual needs and helps you achieve your aspirations as a musician.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Music?

A degree in music opens up a wide range of career paths beyond just performing. Here’s what you can do with a music degree:

  1. Performance is the most direct career path for music majors. Performers can work as solo artists, session musicians, members of bands or orchestras, or accompanists. Opportunities exist in concert halls, theaters, festivals, and other venues.
  2. Music Education: With a music degree, you can become a music teacher in schools, give private lessons, or conduct workshops and masterclasses. Educators can work at all levels, from elementary schools to universities.
  3. Music Therapy: Music therapists use music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. This requires additional certification beyond a music degree.
  4. Composition and Arranging: Composers write original music that can be used for films, TV shows, video games, theater productions, or to be performed by orchestras and bands. Arrangers adapt and prepare existing compositions for performance.
  5. Conducting: Conductors lead orchestras, choirs, and other musical groups during performances and rehearsals. This role requires deep musical knowledge and leadership skills.
  6. Music Production and Sound Engineering: These professionals are involved in the technical aspects of music recording and production. They work in recording studios, helping artists produce tracks, albums, and scores.
  7. Music Business and Management: This includes roles such as artist management, A&R (Artists and Repertoire), music marketing, and event promotion. These positions involve guiding artists’ careers, organizing concerts, and managing music brands.
  8. Music Librarianship: Music librarians manage music collections, helping patrons find musical resources. This can involve working in academic settings, public libraries, or orchestras.
  9. Music Journalism and Criticism: Writing about music for magazines, blogs, newspapers, and websites, music journalists and critics review performances and releases and may cover music news.
  10. Music Licensing and Copyright: Professionals in this field manage the rights related to music, ensuring creators and rights holders are compensated for their work.
  11. Music Therapy: Utilizing music to facilitate healing and improve mental health, music therapists work in various settings, including hospitals, schools, and private practice.

A degree in music not only equips you with artistic skills but also offers a foundation for diverse careers within and outside the music industry. The key to success is combining your passion for music with practical skills and open-mindedness about the array of available opportunities.

A woman with her headset and notebook

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right music school is a crucial decision that significantly impacts your professional and personal development as an artist. This choice goes beyond academic pursuits; it should resonate with your individual artistic goals and values. Thorough research and thoughtful consideration are imperative to ensure the chosen institution aligns with your unique aspirations.

Top music colleges offer more than just an educational curriculum; they serve as gateways to lifelong engagement with the arts, fostering an environment that nurtures creativity, innovation, and personal expression. These institutions are communities that encourage collaboration, expose students to a variety of musical styles and cultures, and provide opportunities to interact with fellow musicians and industry professionals, thereby enriching your musical journey and career prospects.


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