The 10 Best Music Schools in California

6. Chapman University Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music (Orange, CA)

Chapman University
Bobak Ha’Eri, Chapman Attallah, CC BY 3.0

Chapman University’s Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music is unique among music schools in that it is only one of two or three schools offering an undergraduate degree in conducting. The only other schools offering an undergraduate in conducting are Mannes and Curtis, to our knowledge.

Students at Chapman enjoy performing in one of the nation’s finest performing arts facilities in any college, the aptly named Musco Center for the Arts. This center comprises 88,000 square feet and is home to a concert stage, classrooms, and more. 

Faculty at Chapman are among Southern California’s most accomplished artists. They include Dr. Robert Frelly, an accomplished conductor who founded the Southern California Youth Philharmonic, a program with multiple ensembles and over 200 young music students. Frelly has additionally served as a conductor for the 2012 Olympic Games.

With its proximity to Los Angeles, guest artists at Chapman University are some of Los Angeles’ best professionals. Graduates of Chapman are professors, performers, and music directors in Southern California and beyond.

5. California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA)

California Institute of the Arts
Bobak Ha’Eri, CalArts, CC BY 3.0

California Institute of the Arts may very well be the most “unique” music school in the world, where students can major not only in traditional disciplines of classical and jazz performance, but also in unusual majors like “Experimental Pop,” “African Music and Dance,” and “Balinese Music.” 

While it may be tempting to think of CalArts as a school offering only out-of-the-box majors, it indeed is home to many vital “mainstay” programs in jazz, composition, music technology, and more.

CalArts was founded in 1950 by a team of creatives, including Walt Disney, one of the school’s first faculty members. Although music is one of the school’s most notable programs, CalArts also specializes in acting, dance, and film. With so many creatives of varied interests existing under one roof, interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged at CalArts, with music students scoring films, accompanying dancers, and performing in multiple genres.

CalArts is perhaps the most unique school not only in California, but throughout the country. Eschewing a traditional “classical-only” conservatory model in favor of an inclusive, all-encompassing aesthetic, CalArts is the right choice for the curious student seeking an expansive education.

4. San Francisco Conservatory of Music (San Francisco, CA)

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Carlin Ma, San Francisco Conservatory of Music Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Long regarded as one of the foremost classical music conservatories in the country, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music opened its doors to jazz performance four years ago with its Roots, Jazz, and American Music major. Faculty members of this prestigious program are some of jazz’s most prominent names, including saxophonist Joshua Redman, a jazz musician who has recorded for Warner Bros. Music, and Clairdee, a prominent Bay Area soloist.

SFCM’s classical music studies start with its longtime collaboration with many Bay Area artistic institutions. These include both the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera, both of which have musicians who are on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Having access to professional-caliber faculty in two of the nation’s most significant arts institutions is a primary benefit to these students’ studies.

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