The 10 Best Performing Arts Schools in New York

For many students looking into a career in the performing arts sector, be it in dance, music, or acting, New York is both a logical and desirable destination. Not only is New York home to one of the most significant cultural epicenters of the world in New York City, the state’s rural schools are also home to many prestigious performing arts schools.

Today, we are looking into 10 incredible schools where students get premier training in dance, music, and theatre. These are schools suitable for instrumentalists, singers, musical theatre artists, aspiring choreographers, and others who wish to make a career in the arts.

How did we decide on this specific set of performing arts colleges?

For this list, the best performing arts schools in New York were selected based on the caliber of their faculty, the accomplishments and contributions of alumni, and the breadth and quality of professional opportunities for students. All schools are selective and many, if not all, require auditions or interviews as part of the application process. Promising artists in music, dance, and drama will find that New York state abounds in opportunities that will help to jumpstart their careers.

Here is a list of the best performing arts schools that the Empire State has to offer.

10. Pace University (New York, NY)

Pace University
photo by Benjamin KRAFT via Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

The performing arts program at Pace University is robust in its offerings. The BFA in Production and Design program has been briefly profiled as one of the top 30 Theater Design and Tech programs in the country in 2019-2020.

The school offers a unique BFA in Commercial Dance for those wishing to work in the entertainment industry. The Acting Program is taught by industry professionals who are versed in the most innovative techniques in the field. The performing arts wing of PU offers another unique program: A BFA in Acting for Film, Television, Voice-overs, and Commercials (FTVC). 

This selection of excellent programs is rounded out by the BFA in Directing, which offers students many opportunities for collaborating with professionals in both commercial and non-profit theater.

As part of the application process, prospective students must prepare for auditions and interviews. 

9. Fordham University (New York, NY)

Fordham University
Indefatigable2, Collins Hall Rose Hill, Fordham, CC BY-SA 4.0

Fordham University students venture out into the world with a world-renowned education under their belts. Aspiring performing artists are doubly impressive, having combined rich, liberal arts education with artistic skill. 

At this one and only religiously-affiliated school on the list, Music students are taught the fundamentals of theory and performance. Additionally, they are encouraged to expand their repertoires with unique course offerings ranging from Electronic Music to Afro-Latin Music Ensemble.

Fordham offers an innovative BFA in Dance in collaboration with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Many of its graduates join esteemed dance companies and even go on to perform on Broadway. 

Fordham’s Theater program has several, high-profile alumni, including Denzel Washington and Patricia Clarkson. Broadway veterans have joined its faculty ranks. In recent years, talented Theater majors have earned high-acclaim and grants for their creative work, having been featured in online sites such as Broadway World.

Fordham is a selective school, with an acceptance rate of under 50%. The Theater program has a performance track, which requires auditions and pre-screening materials as part of the application process. In contrast, the Music program does not require an audition.

8. Bard College (Annandale-On-Hudson, NY)

Bard Conservatory of Music
​Daniel Case, Bard College Fisher Center front view, CC BY-SA 3.0

Faculty of the Music Conservatory at Bard College are world-class musicians who also have faculty appointments with several other high-caliber performing arts colleges, including Juilliard and Curtis.

Bard’s resident orchestra, the Bard Philharmonic Orchestra, is made up of some of the most talented and diverse young collegiate musicians in the world. It has performed at many prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

Dance and theater students perform at the landmark Fisher Center of the Performing Arts, a venue housing a 200-seat theater and two studios. It also serves as the center of research and education for the Bard community and beyond. The Dance program has partnered with local companies, such as American Dance Festival and, most recently, Gibney, a dance and social justice organization. As part of its active, performing arts portfolio, Bard College presents the Live Arts Bard Biennial.

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