Florida is one of the best states in America for entrepreneurs and warm weather lovers, but did you know that the Sunshine State is home to great music schools, too?
Florida may not have the biggest names — like Curtis, Berklee, or Juilliard — but it’s renowned all the same for quality music programs in large university settings. In fact, Florida is the fifth most popular state for students majoring in music.
Students who choose the musician’s life should expect regular auditions, starting with the audition required for admission to any of these undergraduate music programs. They should check with their particular program for the repertoire they are expected to prepare.
The best music schools in Florida are particularly notable for providing a rigorous, interdisciplinary education. Students get a competitive and innovative music education without stressing about low admissions rates or the pressures of going to an elite brand name.
In our book, that’s a win. This article will discuss the highlights of the top 10 best music schools in Florida. We’ll break down major offerings, ensemble opportunities, star faculty, and any special facilities or programs that students can take advantage of at these schools.
10. Florida International University School of Music (Miami, FL)
FIU is one of the state’s foremost research institutions, with a total enrollment of 55,000 students. It’s also Miami’s only public university.
The School of Music is an intimate, conservatory-like part of the school that consists of only a few hundred students, mostly undergraduates.
These students have the benefit of studying a highly focused curriculum in an interdisciplinary environment. Bachelor of Music (BM) degree programs are offered in composition, jazz performance, music business, music education, music technology, organ performance, and other instrumental performance.
Students pursuing a Master of Music (MM) degree can study these subjects as well as choral, orchestral, and wind/instrumental conducting. Alternatively, students can pursue a Master of Science in Music Education. Students can complete this program onsite or online, allowing flexibility for current music educators.
School of Music faculty are world-renowned musicians in their field. Artists-in-Residence include the Amernet String Quartet, violinist Robert Davidovici, and pianist Kemal Gekic.
9. Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL)
The music programs at Florida Atlantic University are notable for their mixed focus on modern and classical performance practice.
The commercial music BM, for instance, can be combined with concentrations in commercial music composition, music technology, or music business. All of these tracks are meant to prepare graduates for a successful career in professional music, particularly mainstream music.
Students can gain practical experience through internships and work experience with Hoot/Wisdom Recordings LLC, FAU’s record label.
FAU also offers the more traditional BM and BA tracks in wind, vocal, piano, and string performance, as well as a bachelor of music education (BME) in choral or instrumental instruction. BME graduates earn a professional K-12 certification that allows them to teach in Florida’s public schools.
8. University of North Florida School of Music (Union, NJ)
At UNF School of Music, students will receive a performance-based music education with an emphasis on a wide range of music.
BM performance concentrations include piano, strings, voice, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and music technology and production. BM music education tracks include jazz studies and piano pedagogy.
The award-winning, nationally recognized school became the first in the nation to be fitted with 24 of Yamaha’s newest line of digital keyboards, the Clavinovas. These keyboards feature graded hammer action that simulates an acoustic piano, hundreds of orchestral effects, and rhythm tracks to practice ensemble performance and composition. The new editions make UNF’s piano lab one of the best in the U.S.
Students also have the chance to tour the country and the world. Recent tours have traveled to China, Portugal, Italy, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. Students have performed in some iconic locations — Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Vatican, and the Mozart Estates Theatre, to name a few.
7. Stetson University School of Music (DeLand, FL)
Stetson has built a reputation as one of the nation’s premier undergraduate-only music schools. The population consists of over 300 students and 52 artist-scholar faculty members. Students can study any of Stetson’s 12 programs spread across music education, performance, composition, and academics.
One of the most notable interdisciplinary programs is the major in music with an outside field. This program combines the rigor of a performance major — lessons, ensembles, theory, and history — with 20 credits in another field. Students can choose any other subject, such as political science or marine biology.
The bachelor of music combined with business (BMOB) is another example of Stetson’s pioneering approach to music education. The BMOB has two tracks: a traditional four-year degree combining music and business courses, or a dual degree program where you earn your bachelor’s in fourth year and MBA in fifth year.
6. Florida Gulf Coast University Bower School of Music & the Arts (Fort Myers, FL)
The Bower School is a hub for art, design, music, and theater students and attracts 150 local and visiting arts events every year.
In addition to performance and education tracks, music students have the option to study music therapy. This program is based on evidence-based practice, applying the most up-to-date advances in technology to accompany therapeutic methods. Graduates are eligible to take the CBMT-administered national examination in music therapy and earn their MT-BC credential.
All bachelor’s students will graduate ready for postgraduate education in music, but music therapy students, in particular, may also apply for graduate school in health sciences if they so choose.
For students who want to pair music with other subjects, the BA in music is designed just for them. The BA gives them an intensive study of performance, theory, history, and musicianship while also being flexible enough to allow them to explore different academic interests.
5. University of South Florida School of Music (Tampa, FL)
Located in vibrant Tampa, USF School of Music is home to a world-class faculty and intensive undergraduate and graduate degrees in music education and performance.
Several of UNF’s students have won major awards. Composer Igor Santos ‘10 won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2021, one of only 11 other composers to win the prestigious honor. Producer Zach Bornheimer (‘15 and ‘17) won a Grammy Award for his associate production of the album Data Lords by the Maria Schneider Orchestra.
Students Kathiana Dargenson, Caitlyn Coleman, and Amanda Coleman performed backing vocals with Rod Wave on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon earlier this year.
USF students can also take advantage of unique study abroad opportunities. For example, members of the USF Jazz Ensemble can participate in a tour of the UK, performing in Birmingham, Cheshire, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, and Northampton.
4. Lynn University Conservatory of Music (Boca Raton, FL)
The Conservatory of Music is one of six colleges at Lynn University, a small, private institution with a total enrollment of just over 2,000 students.
Lynn students will get a well-rounded education in the form of a core curriculum. These 12 courses are centered on self and society, justice and civic life, and belief and reason. These classes, along with students’ major course of study, prepare them to apply their skills in a socially conscious way.
Lynn has also been an Apple Distinguished School since 2014 for its technological integration of iPad-powered learning. This means that students benefit from more interactive lessons and mobile tools to connect with classmates and teachers. At the same time, students save up to 90% of the cost of traditional textbooks by replacing them with ebooks.
For music students, this means streamlined composition and convenient storage for music scores. They can download, notate, play from, and create scores all in one place.
3. University of Florida School of Music (Gainesville, FL)
UF School of Music offers some of the most comprehensive and highly acclaimed music programs in the country.
In addition to the traditional offerings in performance, undergraduates can major in composition, theory, and technology; musicology and ethnomusicology; music education; music in combination with an outside field; music and MSM business management; and music for pre-health professions.
These pioneering, interdisciplinary fields give students the chance to explore fields within and outside of music early on in their college career. They don’t have to wait until graduate school to specialize in musicology or the music business.
The School of Music is part of the larger College of the Arts, which is also home to innovative centers like the Center for Arts in Medicine, Center for World Arts, Digital Worlds Institute, and University Galleries.
With such diverse academic and artistic opportunities to surround them, students are sure to learn in an environment that will prepare them for the intersectionality of the real world.
2. Florida State University College of Music (Tallahassee, FL)
As one of the country’s largest and most prestigious music schools, FSU gives its music students access to a plethora of interdisciplinary academic opportunities.
For example, the BA in Music is designed for double majors who would like to pursue music and another field at the same time. They can also choose an emphasis in commercial music, jazz, or sacred music.
FSU’s location in Tallahassee also offers chances to get involved with one or more community partners, such as the Capital Children’s Choir, Opening Nights Performing Arts, Tallahassee Bach Parley, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, and the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation.
FSU has produced an impressive roster of accomplished musicians. Lily Afshar was the first woman ever to be awarded a DMA in guitar performance. Brenda Boozer performed around the world, including 11 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
The College of Music is currently home to award-winning faculty, including Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and two Grammy Award winners.
1. University of Miami Frost School of Music (Coral Gables, FL)
The Frost School of Music is distinguished for its patented Frost Method®, a unique curriculum that trains students in a broad range of skills that the modern professional musician needs to succeed. These skills include marketing, business, digital recording, sound engineering, producing electronic press kits, writing, pedagogy, and more.
The Frost Method pervades all four years of undergraduate study. Whether students major in performance, composition, music therapy, or music industry, they will graduate prepared for a wide range of professions. With over 700 students, the Frost School is a dynamic place to study music.
The Frost School has also partnered with Grammy-winning alumnus Bruce Hornsby to initiate the Creative American Music Program, which educates aspiring songwriters in the foundations of contemporary popular music. The program is open to all music majors by audition.