The 30 Best Music Schools & Conservatories in the US

New England Conservatory (Boston, MA)

New England Conservatory of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Based in Boston, the New England Conservatory is among a handful of the elite independent conservatories in the US.

Home to one of the best concert halls in the country, Jordan Hall hosts hundreds of performances every year. Prominent touring classical musicians perform at Jordan Hall; many of them interact with NEC students through masterclasses.

NEC works with the 21st-century musician in mind, with their Entrepreneurial Musician division helping students looking for unique ways to boost their careers. 

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (Cincinnati, OH)

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, the College-Conservatory of Music renovated five of their performance halls to the tune of 15 million dollars! This renovation resulted in an abundance of upgraded seating and technology for students and concertgoers alike.

This renovation represents an essential facet of the Cincinnati experience: a dedication to serving their students & community.

And, what a large part of the Cincinnati community CCM is! Few music schools are so deeply integrated with their city and arts organizations as CCM is. Several alumni of the University of Cincinnati became professional musicians in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

It’s worth noting that, although CCM has an excellent reputation in classical music, its musical theatre program may just be the very best in the country, consistently ranking in the top 3 of most represented schools on Broadway.

San Francisco Conservatory of Music (San Francisco, CA)

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Fostering personal and professional connections are at the heart of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music experience. SFCM is connected with several Bay Area organizations, including the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera, and SFJazz. 

While many of the most prestigious music schools are on the east coast and midwest, the San Francisco Conservatory is among the few highly selective west coast classical music institutions.

Faculty at SFCM include composer Mason Bates, guitarist Julian Lage, and legendary classical pianist Garrick Ohlsson, who we recently mentioned in a separate article about prestigious faculty members.

Boston University School of Music (Boston, MA)

Boston University School of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

BU has everything students want in a university music degree, a prestigious name with a quality music education. 

BU’s academic life is so seamlessly integrated into their music school that many students choose to double major in music and an outside subject. Some students at BU’s School of Music have successfully triple majored in music and two academic subjects.

The facilities at Boston University’s School of Music are state of the art. Several of their practice rooms are outfitted with recording equipment and technology, allowing students to record themselves while rehearsing.

Like the other primary music schools in Boston, BU has a strong relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Hartt School of Music (Hartford, CT)

Hartt School of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Hartt is a seasoned music institution, having existed for nearly 100 years. In that time frame, Hartt has made a tremendous impact on musical life throughout the US and beyond; their alumni have gone into significant ensembles, teaching positions, and even onto Broadway productions.

One of the Hartt School of Music’s signature programs is in Music Education. Their track record for graduating successful K-12 teachers is high, with a nearly 100% employment rate for their students.

The Hartt School of Music allows students to interact with professional local arts organizations. These include the Stamford Symphony, Goodspeed Opera House, and Hartford Stage.

Northwestern University Bienen School of Music (Evanston, IL)

Northwestern University Bienen School of Music
photo via Wikimedia Commons

Situated just outside Chicago in Evanston’s suburb, Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music is home to less than 450 total music students!

One primary reason to choose Northwestern is their faculty; students get the opportunity to learn with musicians in the Chicago Symphony and the Chicago Lyric Opera.

Another is an opportunity to meet with major international artists. To draw the most prominent names to their school, Northwestern biannually awards two major classical music prizes. The Nemmers Prize is a $100k award for a significant living American composer that includes a performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. These composers come to Northwestern and work with students for several weeks.

Additionally, the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize brings prominent international concert pianists to the school, including Richard Goode, Murray Perahia, and Garrick Ohlsson.

Shenandoah Conservatory (Winchester, VA)

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t let Shenandoah’s status as a “hidden gem” fool you; this liberal arts college deserves its spot among the top 30 music schools in the nation.

Shenandoah is home to several faculty members who have had extraordinary careers in classical music. Perhaps the most distinguished would be Irish pianist John O’Conor, formally the Royal Academy of Music’s director.

In 2019, alumni Daniel Shores won a Grammy award for engineering Songs of Orpheus, an album by Apollo’s Fire. Other alumni include Carl Tanner, an American operatic tenor, and young composer Richard Zarou.

In addition to a full suite of music performance and composition faculty, Shenandoah is among the few schools with a robust Arts Management program. This one-of-a-kind program teaches marketing, fundraising, and arts entrepreneurship.


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