Back in the old days, music was an inherently local artform. Composers and players learned their crafts by themselves. To hear the music, audiences had to go to a venue and listen to players in person.
But today, music is a broadcast art. As radio and records made music available to more people, the desire to listen and create only grew.
The internet has expanded that trend, allowing people to hear, record, and disseminate music, all without leaving their house.
For that reason, any respectable music school must embrace the reality of the internet. It has become, and always will be, an essential part of playing and hearing music.
Fortunately, many of the best schools in the nation now have an online component. These schools not only connect learners from across the globe with their accomplished faculty of professional musicians but also train them in the technologies they’ll need to make music.
This list looks at some of the best online music schools in the United States. Each of the programs discussed below has everything you’d expect from a great music program, including experienced faculty, accomplished alumni, and a focus on musicianship.
But instead of forcing students to come to a campus, these schools take advantage of the power of the internet. They empower students to begin making, teaching, and researching music now, no matter where they are.
Washington State University (Pullman, WA)
Washington State University understands that working professionals and educators need to continue their education. For that reason, the fully online Masters of Arts degree allows them to study their instrument, receive advanced teaching credentials, or transition into the music industry while working around their work schedule.
Students in the program have three areas on which they can focus.
The Music Education track is tailored for currently working music teachers. This track involves not only continued mastery of the instrument but also pedagogy theory.
For those who want to write music for film and television, video games, or concerts, WSU has a composition track. On this track, students learn critical thinking in music and symbolic reasoning.
On the Jazz track, students learn every aspect of their chosen musical genre. From composition and arranging to pedagogy and history, the jazz track prepares students for any career related to the musical style.
With all these options at their disposal, students can direct their own education without disrupting their busy schedules.
Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ)
We all know that teachers already have enough on their plates. Taking college classes to increase their education only increases that full workload.
Fortunately, the online Masters of Education degree at Rutgers University lets teachers further their education without overtaxing their schedules.
The 30-hour program operates completely online, with asynchronous classes and first-rate educational technologies. Students learn from teachers such as Dr. David Martin, whose masterclass courses regularly include performers from the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
These courses all have the same level of rigor and expertise that you would get in a face-to-face class. Within the program, students learn pedagogy best practices and improve their musicianship.
Courses include everything from music in film and the American popular song to music theory and inclusive learning in music.
Thanks to these courses, K-12 teachers can become better musicians and better teachers, increasing students’ love of music, all from the comfort of their own homes.
Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH)
Bowling Green State University has long been a leader in distance education, thanks to its fully appointed eCampus program. The program not only allows students to complete their studies off-campus, but it provides all of the support and help required by learners.
With these structures in place, BGSU can offer unique online courses, such as their Teaching Artistry Specialization. This fifteen-month program provides advanced training to current K-12 teachers who want to secure an advanced degree.
The program emphasizes the student’s abilities and interests. Instead of relying upon a pre-designed curriculum, the Teaching Artististry Specialization pairs students with mentors, with whom they collaborate to design a unique learning plan.
Students in this program still take traditional foundation courses. Classes such as “Advanced Pedagogy and Technology for Music Majors” provide students with the necessary understanding of their field.
However, the mentoring aspect allows students to not only receive individualized instruction in their instruments but to choose the courses that best fit their educational needs.
Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO)
Like many of the schools on this list, Colorado State University offers an online music education degree. Designed to fit the schedule of working K-12 teachers, this degree emphasizes flexibility as it teaches the fundamentals of musicianship and pedagogy.
However, CSU has unique specialized tracks in its online music education program.
For those interested in leading bands and orchestras, there’s the conducting specialization. This track provides a tailored curriculum to cover topics such as score preparation, baton technique, rehearsal strategies, and more.
The Kodály music education track lets students earn their master’s degree and their Kodály certification at the same time. Working alongside the Colorado Kodály Institute, this program combines the online teaching of theory with hands-on practice in designated locations.
In addition to music education courses, students can also earn a master’s degree in music therapy through CSU’s online offerings. Taking a neurological approach to the subject, the music therapy degree uses evidenced-based techniques to teach students how to use music as a means of connecting with others.
No matter which field you’re interested in, CSU has an online option for you.
Full Sail University (Winter Park, FL)
Full Sail University has established a reputation as a premier trade school for the performing arts. Although its Florida campus is the heart of the school, its courses and teachers are available to anyone around the world.
Designed to be completed in 29 months, the online BA in music production takes students from the basics of music to the complex technical work of mixing and recording.
Students learn via Full Sail’s Project LaunchBox, a suite of technical hardware and software available to all online students. Provided to students at a vastly reduced price, the LaunchBox gives future record producers all the state-of-the-art equipment they’ll need to master their field.
Hardware in the LaunchBox includes an Apple Macbook Pro and Sennheiser microphone and headphone set. The software in the package includes programs such as Auralia and Chop Shop FX.
With these materials, students interact with students via recorded lectures and virtual seminars, letting them develop their recording skills according to their schedules.
University of Maine at Augusta (Augusta, ME)
While most music programs take a didactic approach, grounding students in well-worn genres such as classical and jazz, the University of Maine at Augusta prioritizes student inquiry.
That’s particularly true of their Contemporary & Popular Music program, which looks toward the future.
Unsurprisingly, the Contemporary and Popular Music program is particularly well-suited for online classes. Students gain a foundation in musicianship and performance before specializing in a modern genre of their choosing.
With the online option, students can work with instructors virtually. Audition performances and other activities are recorded and uploaded to YouTube, where they can be evaluated by teachers.
As students learn basic composition and music theory skills, they use modern technologies, especially the internet. The online learning environment lets them understand professionalism and musicianship through the medium used by most of today’s artists.
Learning from teachers like Scott Hughes – who has performed with Lyle Workman, Guthrie Govan, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and more – students gain an understanding of the modern music process with the most cutting-edge technologies.
Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
For those who want an excellent online music education from a Christian perspective, it’s hard to beat Liberty University. One of the nation’s most famous religious schools, Liberty University offers a wide variety of online music degrees, giving students several options for planning their career routes.
The online MA in Worship and Music teaches students the skills of live performance and interactive singing. With this degree, students are prepared to lead music in some of the biggest churches around the world.
Liberty sees music as a way to connect and study other cultures, as demonstrated by its online MA in Ethnomusicology. Students who want to become missionaries or folklorists will take classes in cross-cultural science and languages, all with a music core. They’ll learn how to interact with and adapt new music, building sonic bridges with all they meet.
In addition, Liberty offers online degrees in Music Education, a doctorate in worship studies, and more – classes that you can only find at this unique school.
Berklee College of Music Online (Boston, MA)
The Berklee College of Music has been long recognized as one of the nation’s best music schools. So it should come as no surprise that Berklee also has an excellent set of online degree programs.
Since 2002, the Berklee College of Music Online has sought to make its legendary resources and faculty available to the widest number of students, no matter what their location or schedule may be.
Students at Berklee Online have their pick from a wide range of degree courses and certifications.
Certifications include everything from blues guitar to arranging, letting people learn from the school’s great teachers without pursuing a full degree. But for those who want the full experience, Berklee Online offers degrees in numerous fields.
In addition to the expected music degrees, in subjects such as piano or composition, the school is constantly expanding by adding new degrees. Recent programs in music therapy and music production the school’s commitment to keeping up with the latest trends.