What are the Best Colleges for Musical Theater?

November 4, 2022
By AdmissionSight

What are the Best Colleges for Musical Theater?

It is common practice for aspiring actors to begin their training in college. However, if you want to be featured in a Broadway musical one day, it is essential that you enroll in a program that is specifically designed to prepare you for such a role. Because of this, we have compiled a list of the best colleges for musical theater in the United States.

What is a musical theater program?

A musical theater program is a course that explains the fundamentals of combining dance, music, and theater into a single performance and demonstrates how to do it effectively. Instruction is provided in a variety of performing arts such as acting, dancing, and singing as well as technical theater, piano, and the history of musical theater.

View of an audience watching the stage.

Students who choose to concentrate their studies on musical theater can earn a degree all the way up to a Bachelor of Arts. Degrees are awarded to an average of 64% women and 36% men across all college campuses. New York is the state that has the highest concentration of colleges and universities that offer degrees in musical theater. Earning a bachelor’s degree in musical theater typically results in a salary of $37,200 per year on average.

Below are the best colleges for musical theater that you can choose from:

Baldwin-Wallace University

The musical theater program at Baldwin-Wallace University provides students with training in classical acting techniques such as Stanislavsky, Meisner, and Alexander.

In addition, the program places an emphasis on diction and dialects, heightened verse, acting for the camera, and contemporary scene study.

Meanwhile, students in dance classes are instructed in a variety of dance styles, including hip-hop, modern dance, jazz dance, and tap dance.

And in the area of voice, they learn classical styles, styles from the Golden Age of musical theater, pop/rock styles, and audition techniques. Students also have the opportunity to develop one-on-one specialized courses with faculty members.

Opportunities for performance include the fact that Baldwin-Wallace University produces three musicals each year and that students from any class may audition for musicals, plays, and operas on campus.

View of a microphone placed on the stage.

Because every senior performs in or serves as an understudy in the fall musical, each and every student is able to graduate with either their AEA card or their EMC membership. In addition, the school has a training partnership with Great Lakes Theater.

Students are prepared for life after college by having every audition and rehearsal run according to AEA rules. These rules are the industry standard.

The school also provides a master class series, which begins in the student’s sophomore year and allows them to be seen by ten different industry professionals (agents, managers, or casting directors) who offer feedback and advice on their performance.

The culmination of each student’s four years of undergraduate study occurs in the form of two days of showcases held at New World Stages during their senior year.

Jill Paice, Kate Rockwell, and Caitlin Houlahan are among the notable alumni.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Students at Boston Conservatory receive training in acting, dance, and voice from faculty members who are veterans of Broadway and professionals in the theater industry. In addition, students receive training from guest artists as well.

The first two years are dedicated to laying the groundwork for future study and include foundational subjects such as musical theater repertoire and ear training. During students’ junior and senior years, they focus on honing their audition techniques, developing their leadership skills, and refining the skills they’ve already acquired.

View of a woman in the limelight of the stage.

Each year, Boston Conservatory stages five main stage productions, six faculty-directed studio productions, 12 studio productions for MFA graduates, 12–14 studio shows directed by seniors, a freshman revue, a fully staged and costumed drag show, two experimental performance lab productions, a summer touring production, cabaret outreach shows, and dozens of musical theater repertoire and voice studio recitals.


There are also dozens of musical theater repertoires and voice studio recitals each year. There is also a mini-season of plays by Earthstone, a student-created resident theater company, and many opportunities to work with local Boston repertory and mid-sized theater companies. In addition, there is a resident theater company called Earthstone.

The school places a strong emphasis on the importance of building a professional network from the very beginning. In addition, the school hosts a “webcast,” which is an online version of the traditional in-person showcase, in order to maximize its students’ exposure to casting agents and other industry professionals.

Shoba Narayan, Victoria Livengood, and Nick Adams are among the notable alumni.

Carnegie Mellon University

The development of skills at Carnegie Mellon University: Students in Carnegie Mellon’s musical theater program receive training in acting, voice, speech, and movement, in addition to advanced singing, a variety of dance techniques, and musical theater styles and skills. The program is designed in the style of a conservatory.

In addition, students in their senior year have the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program at an international conservatory, such as Moscow Art Theater or NIDA in Sydney.

Students at Carnegie Mellon have the chance to perform in front of an audience during their junior and senior years. Additionally, the university collaborates with organizations such as the American Society of Composers and Publishers and the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera to provide students with the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals in the music industry to compose and perform original musical works.

Students who are about to graduate from college are given the opportunity to participate in a program called the showcase, which gives them the chance to perform monologues and songs in front of casting directors, agents, and managers. The showcases take place in New York City, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.

Among notable alumni are Renée Elise Goldsberry, Josh Groban, and Leslie Odom, Jr.

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM)

The musical theater program at CCM is the longest-running one of its kind in the United States. According to Aubrey Berg, professor, and musical theater department chair, the school places a strong emphasis on the training of triple threats because they are preparing students for an extraordinarily difficult and heart-breaking profession.

Private technique lessons and vocal coaching for musical theater are both components of a complete vocal training program. Students who graduate have a strong understanding of the teaching styles of Michael Chekov and Sanford Meisner. Their dance training encompasses a variety of styles, including ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and Pilates.

View of students performing on a stage.

Opportunities to perform can be found at this institution in the form of four musicals each season, one workshop production directed by Broadway producer Kevin McCollum, and concerts performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Students from any year may try out for a role in any season’s production, which may include works from the golden age, as well as contemporary productions and rock musicals.

The CCM freshman showcase gives incoming first-year students the opportunity to demonstrate their talents, and the CCM senior showcase gives graduating students the chance to perform in front of agents and casting directors in New York City. Both of these events are designed to prepare students for life after college.

In addition, Broadway professionals regularly teach master classes on campus, and cast members of national touring companies frequently visit the school to give talks about their careers and answer students’ questions about the performing arts.

Faith Prince, Kirsten Wyatt, and Kevin McCollum are among the notable alumni.

Elon University

Students are required to take classes in all of the different areas of study, such as contemporary vocal techniques, music theory, musical theater literature, scene study, acting for the camera, ballet, jazz, modern, tap, commedia dell’arte, and Fosse.

They are given the freedom to pursue their interests to varying degrees in the various fields of study, and they have access to master classes that are given on campus by visiting artists. Each of the four years of the program consists of the student participating in private voice lessons.

Performance opportunities include two annual musical revues, three plays, and one black box production in addition to the two mainstage musical theater productions that make up each season.

Students also have the opportunity to audition for student-run productions, visiting performer workshops, musical revues, dance performances, and an annual senior thesis production outside of the official university season.

Students in their final year of college are required to take a two-semester senior seminar class that focuses on the business of show. This is followed by a series ranging from three to six weeks long in which students are seen on campus by casting directors and agents.

Notable alumni are Daniel J. Watts, Grant Gustin, and Kiira Schmidt.

Ithaca College

Students majoring in musical theater at Ithaca College are immediately immersed in over 20 hours of weekly training in dance, acting, and music. This training includes private voice lessons as well as classes in scene study, voice and movement for the stage, audition techniques, jazz, ballet, and modern dance.

The college takes great pride in its ability to educate the “whole performer,” and regular faculty evaluations point out both their strengths and areas in which they can improve. Ithaca College provides its students with the opportunity to spend one semester in London studying British drama at its London Center.

Opportunities to perform can be found through the institution’s mainstage season, which features two musicals, two plays, an opera, and a dance concert all in addition to a dance concert. In addition, there are between four and six studio shows held each year, as well as opportunities to audition for student-run productions and professional theater venues located in the Ithaca area.

Seniors also have the opportunity to participate in a one-week field studies trip to New York City to network with working alumni, as well as take part in workshops and master classes covering topics such as audition techniques, which are designed to ease the transition from college to the working world of the entertainment industry. Students have the opportunity to participate in master classes and audition workshops at this institution as well.

Jeremy Jordan, Aaron Tveit, and Q. Smith are among the notable alumni.

University of Michigan

According to Vincent Cardinal, who is the department head of dramatic arts, students are expected to be competitive at the highest level of professionalism in two out of the three disciplines that are involved in musical theater (dancing, singing, and acting).

In addition, they receive in-depth instruction in music theory as well as the history of musical theater, and each student also has the opportunity to take private voice lessons with instructors.

Opportunities to perform can be found at the university, which hosts four main-stage productions each year. In addition, student-run theater organizations at the university, such as the Rude Mechanicals, MOSAIC, Basement Arts, and MUSKET, also put on performances. There are also opportunities with community organizations such as Encore Musical Theater and Ann Arbor in Concert.

Additionally, various summer stock companies hold on-campus auditions for students between the months of January and March for their summer shows.

The curriculum is taught by working professionals and guest artists, and casting directors, agents, directors, and professional alumni offer guidance to students preparing for the annual senior showcase. This provides students with preparation for life after college.

Notable alumni are Gavin Creel, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Darren Criss.

Pace University

The training in musical theater that is provided by Pace University includes master classes, faculty members who are currently working in the industry, and an artist-in-residence (previous years’ artists-in-residence have included the likes of Jeanine Tesori).

Acting for musical theater, acting for television and film, scene study, musical theater history and repertoire, script and score analysis, individual voice lessons, fundamentals of music, ballet, jazz, tap, and theater dance are some of the classes that are offered to students.

Opportunities to perform can be found at this institution, which produces four mainstage musicals each year, in addition to Pace New Musicals, which showcases a selection of new works over the holiday break. Showcases are held for freshmen and seniors.

Freshmen perform in the Hatched showcase, and seniors perform in a showcase right before graduation. The fact that Pace is located in New York City is another reason why students get so much out of their time there. If a student gets cast in a Broadway show or a television or commercial gig, the college will do everything it can to accommodate them.

Post-college preparation includes the college publicizing the senior showcase extensively, and students also participate in a business of acting class that is instructed by a prominent casting director from New York City.

Bradley Cooper, Paul Dano, and Jordan Scott Gilbert are among the notable alumni.

Penn State University

Students receive instruction in a variety of performing arts, including acting, voice, and dance, and one class is titled musical theater styles (on Broadway dance and choreographers from 1930 to now).

In addition, as part of a master class series, Penn State hosts visiting artists for instruction on campus, and each year, the university’s students travel to New York City.

Opportunities to perform include not only the staging of three musicals each year by the department of musical theater, but also roles in plays, operas, cabarets, shows, and dance concerts, as well as the chance to try out for those roles.

A new works initiative is also run at the school. During this program, a writing team travels to each junior class to meet and discuss issues. Following these meetings, the team writes a new musical that is inspired by the young artists. The team comes back the following fall with a draft in order to collaborate with the graduating class on the development of the show.

Assistance is provided to students with their websites, headshots, and resumes as part of the post-college preparation process. In addition, the Business of the Business course provides students with knowledge regarding casting directors, agents, and budgeting.

A New York City industry showcase, a financial endowment (for second-semester seniors only), and the opportunity to perform their material in front of three cameras for a video shoot that will be used on the website and on YouTube are some of the benefits that are offered to graduating students.

Nathan Lucrezio, Laurie Veldheer, and Matthew Hydzik are among the notable alumni.

Syracuse University

Students in the Syracuse musical theater program receive training in acting, singing, and dancing through a curriculum that is similar to that of a conservatory. The program also collaborates with the professional theater company Syracuse Stage to provide students with the opportunity to network with working performers.

Additionally, the school gives students majoring in musical theater the opportunity to participate in the Tepper Semester in New York City (named for its founder Arielle Tepper Madover, who is both an alumna and Tony Award-winning producer).

There are master classes that feature actors, agents, casting directors, and directors who share their experiences and provide advice on breaking into the industry as well.

Students majoring in drama have the opportunity to audition for and perform in an annual production that is part of the Syracuse Stage season, either as part of the ensemble or as a featured ensemble (occasionally leading roles).

Students in the Casting Department are eligible to earn points toward Equity membership candidacy as well. Moreso, the institution hosts a mainstage season that features five productions (including two musicals) and a few more intimate studio projects throughout the course of the year.

Preparation for life after college is offered through the school in the form of audition technique classes, mock auditions led by visiting artists, and opportunities to network with working theater professionals through programs such as the Tepper Semester and Syracuse Stage.

Notable alumni are Jessie Mueller, Taye Diggs, and Vanessa Williams.

Is it worth it to pursue a musical theater program?

According to the findings of our research, 94.83% of actors working in Broadway musicals have some level of postsecondary education and they have attended one of the best colleges for musical theater. This indicates that it is beneficial for the vast majority of students to pursue musical theater at the collegiate level. Only 5.17 percent of Broadway performers do not have a college degree.

Young woman holding her books while walking.

If you want to be in leading roles in movies or TV shows, pursuing a degree in one of the best colleges for musical theater is more important than ever. Ninety-seven percent of the actors who play named characters in Broadway musicals have degrees from these colleges or universities.

Pursuing a degree in one of the best colleges for musical theater is crucial to your career as an artist. The chances and opportunities are unlimited and you can maximize them to be the best artist that you can be. You just need tons of passion and dedication in your pocket in order to be able to achieve your career goal.

Though the admission process may be crucial in selective universities, aside from your innate talent, AdmissionSight can be of great help to you.

Over the past decade, AdmissionSight has become an industry leader in helping students gain admission to selective institutions around the world. 75% of our students are accepted to top schools like Stanford, MIT, UChicago, and Caltech, giving us one of the best admissions rates in the business. Book your free preliminary consultation by calling or emailing us now.


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