The 30 Best Music Schools & Conservatories in the US

Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY)

Manhattan School of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Manhattan School of Music is an urban conservatory; based in New York City, students at MSM have access to everything the Big Apple offers musically.

Although a “small” conservatory, MSM boasts several impressive performance and rehearsal facilities. They include the Ades Performance Space, which hosts all music genres, from operas to chamber music. MSM additionally is home to over a half dozen more performance spaces.

Some of MSM’s most iconic alumni include pianist and talk show host Harry Connick Jr., jazz vibraphone soloist Stefon Harris, and classical composer John Corigliano, who we listed recently as a legendary teacher teaching today.


Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins (Baltimore, MD)

Peabody Conservatory of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Ever since Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated nearly $2 billion to Johns Hopkins University, JHU has made significant changes to its programs, including, of course, its prestigious music conservatory.

In recent years, Peabody has allotted substantial money for scholarships, attracting top talent from around the globe. 

Connected to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, many of Peabody’s faculty members hold appointments at both its conservatory of music and the orchestra itself. 

Peabody is most well-known for its classical music performance program. However, they are additionally home to excellent music recording, jazz performance, and music composition programs. 


Berklee & Boston Conservatory (Boston, MA)

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Berklee and Boston Conservatory were once separate music institutions. However, in 2016 both schools merged to form one of the country’s most comprehensive music programs.

What makes these two schools so unique is their strengths. Berklee is famous for its jazz and popular music programs. Their alumni have imprinted their legacies throughout the entertainment industry, collectively winning 306 Grammy awards, significantly more than any other higher education institution.

On the other hand, Boston Conservatory is a top program for classical performance, musical theatre, and the performing arts, including acting and dancing.

With its favorable Boston location, students are surrounded by prominent performing arts institutions such as the Boston Symphony, Boston Lyric Opera, and Boston Ballet.


University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (Ann Arbor, MI)

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One of the best public universities for studying music, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is home to approximately 1,100 students. 

Although Michigan’s “bread and butter” programs are in traditional classical and jazz performance, they also are home to one of the most elite musical theatre schools. Alumni have starred in recent Broadway productions, including Frozen, Kiss Me, Kate, Carousel, and dozens more.

Besides traditional classes in performance, theory, and history, Michigan’s curriculum includes several unique programs, including Gamelan performance. Michigan’s School of Music is home to the longest active Gamelan ensembles, who have been in residence since 1966.


University of Southern California Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles, CA)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

With its desirable Los Angeles location, USC Thornton is at the top of many student’s lists. 

They are perhaps the best “all-around” music school; in addition to classical performance, they also have majors in every prominent musical discipline, including jazz, popular music, music production, and film scoring (Masters degree only). 

Located in downtown Los Angeles, USC Thornton has a strong connection with the LA Philharmonic; many orchestra members hold faculty positions at USC.


Cleveland Institute of Music (Cleveland, OH)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

An independent conservatory based in Cleveland, OH, the Cleveland Institute of Music is home to one of the country’s finest music programs. 

One cannot mention the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) without their longtime tie to Severance Hall, the Cleveland Orchestra’s home. CIM and the Cleveland Orchestra’s partnership is profound; many musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra teach at CIM, and students gain close access to the Cleveland Orchestra resources.

Several rising stars in classical music have recently graduated from CIM. They include Daniil Trifonov, a pianist not even yet 30 years old who has had seven albums rank on the Billboard Classical Music charts.

Other alumni have taken positions in major orchestras and ensembles worldwide.


Chapman University Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music (Orange, CA)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Chapman is a rising star in the world of music schools: with its proximity to Los Angeles, Chapman’s faculty are some of the west coast’s top music professionals.

The Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music is home to an impressive facility, an 88,000 square foot center for the performing arts fittingly called the Musco Center for the Arts.

Chapman is one of the few schools on this list with a religious affiliation. Christianity is vital at Chapman, however, students of all religious affiliations and backgrounds can feel at home studying music regardless of personal faith.

Chapman is also an excellent liberal arts university, ranking number 124 in the recent US News National Universities list.


The Juilliard School (New York, NY)

Juilliard School
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Juilliard is one of the top music schools in the US and throughout the world.

Like several other conservatories on this list, Juilliard is associated with a major symphony orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. Additionally, Juilliard is tied to several other prominent ensembles, including the aptly titled Juilliard String Quartet, the in-residence quartet composed of Juilliard faculty. 

The school is also tied to several other prominent NYC organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera & Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Admission to Juilliard is notoriously difficult: the school accepts less than 8% of all applicants. It is roughly equal to Harvard and Yale in terms of admissions difficulty. 

With its international “name brand” status, Juilliard is perhaps the most desirable independent conservatory for classical and jazz performance and composition. 


Although an independent conservatory, Juilliard does offer a 5-year dual degree with the Ivy-League Columbia University.

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