Located in the culturally diverse and college student-friendly Manhattan neighborhood of Morningside Heights/West Harlem, the Manhattan School of Music has trained some of the greatest musicians in the world since 1917, when pianist and philanthropist Janet D. Schenck first established it.
The school consistently demonstrates its commitment to developing the whole musician by providing access to an abundance of internships, career coaching opportunities, and groundbreaking programs.
The Artist Scholar program brings guest lecturers to campus for panel discussions, intimate performances, and master classes, which students may attend at no extra cost.
Such inspirational leaders include composer Anthony Davis and Oprah’s Book Club author Tayari Jones.
The Global Conservatoire is an exceptional new program that cultivates a digital collaboration among the Manhattan School of Music, the Royal College of Music in London, the Royal Danish Academy of Music, and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.
A select group of students from all four institutions meets in asynchronous classrooms to work on interdisciplinary projects.
The faculty at the Manhattan School of Music consistently raise the bar for achievement in the performing arts. Most recently, several Manhattan School of Music alumni won 2022 Grammy Awards for jazz, classical performance, and composition.
The Manhattan School of Music is an excellent school to hone one’s musical craft, develop entrepreneurial skills, and collaborate with musical luminaries.
Living in New York City as a college student certainly has its social advantages, as well.
Ahead, we’ll discuss the Manhattan School of Music’s acceptance rate and admission requirements, as well as its notable alumni, most popular academic majors, and honors and distinctions.
Manhattan School of Music Acceptance Rate
The Manhattan School of Music acceptance rate is 36%, which makes it quite competitive.
The School enrolls 402 undergraduate students and 453 graduate students, 39% of which are international.
The primary factor for gaining admission to the Manhattan School of Music is an excellent prescreening and final audition, though it is not the only factor taken into consideration by the admissions office.
Audition requirements vary based on the program of study. Classical performance applicants who receive an in-person audition will receive an Audition Repertoire form, where they describe the repertoire they have prepared.
In most cases, the applicant selects their first piece, and the admissions faculty chooses the second or additional pieces. Applicants should be ready to play any music named in the repertoire.
A rhythm section is offered at no charge for jazz applicants, who are instructed to bring three copies of music for each selection they intend to perform.
Classical and orchestral performance applicants will receive the contact information for an accompanist prior to their audition date and are responsible for arranging rehearsal time within the three weeks leading up to the audition.
Musical theatre applicants will complete virtual auditions on January 15-16 or January 29-30, while February 25 and 27 through March 4 is the window for classical, jazz, and in-person orchestral auditions.
All applicants can expect to receive their admission decisions on April 1 and have until May 1 to respond with their enrollment decision.
Manhattan School of Music GPA
The recommended minimum GPA for admission, according to the Manhattan School of Music, is 3.0. However, do not misinterpret the 3.0 as having the school be “easy” to get accepted into.
The Manhattan School of Music’s emphasis is on musicianship, the audition, and on all the parts that go into the music application.
A 3.0 is simply a GPA that is not meant to interfere with a student’s ultimate admission into the program.
All applicants have a set of required and optional materials to submit as part of their application package; additionally, four supplemental materials can enhance an applicant’s competitive edge.
Next in priority are the prescreening and audition materials, which we described in the section above. Applicants can expect to receive their prescreening results on December 21, and from there, they have until January 15 to submit the remainder of their required and optional application materials.
Regarding letters of recommendation, candidates should contact their current teacher (of their main instrument) and ask them to submit a letter on their behalf. The second letter of recommendation may come from a musical or academic reference.
Everyone applying (minus Musical Theatre applicants) should submit the Repertoire Studied list, which includes all of the musical works they have studied and/or performed in the past.
The goal of the Repertoire Studied list is to paint a picture of the candidate’s artistic journey, and should include the title of each work, the composer, the performance venue, and any musical collaborators who participated in the performance. Expect to dedicate 1-3 pages to this list for a promising application.
The Artistic Résumé serves a different purpose than the Repertoire Studied list – it should name any institutions and corresponding dates where the applicant studied, as well as any degrees they have been awarded.
Applicants should also detail their performance experience, distinctions, and festivals or programs attended. Musical Theatre applicants should bring one copy of this list with them when they audition.
All applicants will respond to two essay prompts, which ask students to highlight what makes them stand out as a musician and how they plan to contribute to the Manhattan School of Music community.
Accepted students will need to provide official copies of their transcripts from all previous high schools attended – the transcript should include the overall GPA, which is ideally a 3.0 or above.
An informal headshot is an ideal enhancement, and Musical Theatre applicants are required to bring one copy of it with them on audition day.
Standardized test scores are optional, though the Manhattan School of Music will gladly accept them if they positively impact the overall application.
Is MSM a Good Music School? MSM’s Ranking
Yes, the Manhattan School of Music is an excellent music school.
Its jazz program is considered one of the very best, and its classical performance program is certainly among the top 15 music schools in the country.
Currently, the School is ranked the #13 Best College for Music in America, the #4 Performing Arts School in New York, and #3 of the Top 20 Best Music Schools in the United States.
These rankings indicate an excellent overall program, considering its proximity to other reputable collegiate music schools.
One of the School’s best assets is its faculty. Students can expect a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio and will find themselves under the tutelage of some of New York City’s most talented musicians.
For example, professors Donald McCaslin and Miguel Zenon are among the most important living jazz saxophone players, and voice professor Cynthia Hoffman is one of the best voice teachers in her field. Many members of the New York Philharmonic also teach at the Manhattan School of Music.
Many attractive programs will entice students to apply to the Manhattan School of Music, including its study abroad program.
Many students opt to spend a semester or two at one of nine partner conservatories across Asia and Europe, such as the Sydney Conservatorium in Australia, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China, and the Conservatoire de Paris in France.
Much emphasis is placed on entrepreneurship and preparing students to market themselves in the music industry.
The Center for Music Entrepreneurship (CME) offers career-focused courses, career advising, and access to the Online Opportunities board. This online database gives students access to exciting professional development opportunities, competitions, grants, internships, and hire-a-musician services.
It is one thing to be a talented musician and performing artist, but to research and take advantage of career-enhancing opportunities is just as, if not more important, to sustain a lifelong career in music.
The Manhattan School of Music’s commitment to educating the whole student sets it apart from its competitors, which may focus singularly on honing one’s musical prowess.
Notable Alumni of Manhattan School of Music
Alumni of the Manhattan School of Music have historically dominated their respective fields. Fred Bronstein, for example, is a highly accomplished pianist and music teacher who has served as Dean of the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University since 2014.
Alumnus Paul-André Bempéchat is a current Artist-in-Residence at Harvard University’s Leverett House, the largest Residential House at Harvard College.
Harry Connick, Jr. is perhaps one of the most recognizable alumni. As a singer, actor, composer, and pianist, Connick, Jr. has sold more than 28 million records, been nominated for ten Grammy Awards, and won three Grammy Awards for Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Herbie Hancock is best known for his jazz-fusion, funk, and electronic music experimentation. At one point, he was a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, and since then, he has been nominated for and won more than 20 Grammy Awards. His most recent Grammy recognition was in 2016 for the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Elliot Goldenthal is another illustrious alumnus who has composed multiple Academy Award-winning film scores, and composer John Corigliano has won several significant accolades, including five Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
What Are the Available Music Majors at MSM?
The four-year Bachelor of Music (BM) curriculum emphasizes conventional topics of study – such as music theory and music history – as well as humanities courses in literature and writing.
Classical Performance (which includes voice) is by far the most popular major at the Manhattan School of Music, with 700 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in that program of studies.
Within the expansive department, students pursuing a concentration in Vocal Arts will develop skills in European and American techniques.
String majors benefit from frequent performance opportunities with the American String Quartet and its star violinists like Peter Winograd, Laurie Carney, and Wolfram Koessel.
Musical Theatre is the second most popular major, enrolling 110 graduate and undergraduate students. MSM’s Musical Theatre Program is New York City’s sole stand-alone conservatory program, attracting esteemed performers from Broadway hits like Les Miserables and Chicago.
In addition to performance time, students in the program can expect to gain experience in directing, choreography, and set design. Students are highly encouraged to develop independent projects.
Approximately 120 jazz students pursue a degree at the Manhattan School of Music, which was one of the original music schools to acknowledge the importance of jazz as a form of art.
Students in this track build their skills in performance, musical arrangement, composition, and teaching – many students go on to become jazz educators, and some even return to teach at MSM!
Composition and conducting are two additional highly regarded programs. Composition students frequently showcase their talents in master classes led by illustrious guest composers and artists. While the Manhattan School of Music does not offer a BM in Conducting, they do have a Professional Studies Certificate program which is highly selective.
Should You Apply to Manhattan School of Music?
Students who desire to pursue a career in musical performance, conducting, composition, and musical theatre should absolutely apply to the Manhattan School of Music.
While the annual tuition and fees exceed $50,000, students have many opportunities for financial aid and academic awards.
The School offers financial aid packages in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and student employment. Nearly 75% of full-time students receive a Manhattan School of Music Scholarship, which is based upon audition performance and demonstrated need.
The President’s Award is given to the most deserving students (without financial need) and covers approximately a quarter of annual tuition costs.
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) is reserved for Pell Grant-eligible undergraduates with significant financial need, and Manhattan School of Music packages typically range from $500 to $2000.
Students can also receive bi-monthly payments for work completed as part of a Federal Work-Study Program. At MSM, these awards generally amount to $1,200.
One of the School’s greatest assets is its MSM Precollege, which is a weekend program for young artists ages 5-18. The students receive musical coaching from acclaimed professors and are also eligible for a reduced application fee when it comes time to apply to colleges.
Exceptional experiential opportunities are a dime a dozen at MSM.
Global violin phenomenon Pinchas Zukerman teaches private lessons to a small number of highly gifted violinists on an annual basis, and interested students can register for a dual MSM-Barnard College of Columbia program that allows them to enroll in humanities courses taught at Barnard.
Interested applicants should take the time to reflect upon their musical journeys and decide which pieces to include as part of their repertoire, as the prescreening materials and live audition are the most crucial components of an application.
If accepted, the work will undoubtedly prove worth the investment, as MSM graduates go on to perform in some of the best musical ensembles worldwide.