The Top 10 Musical Theatre Colleges In the Country

Find any Broadway musical playing today and I’ll show you a cast that, almost entirely, attended a reputed musical theatre program for their undergraduate degree.

In today’s hyper-competitive world of musical theatre, a degree in musical theatre is practically essential for employment in the top musicals worldwide.

The best schools offer training in three major areas – singing, dancing, and acting.

While we have compiled a ranking today of the top 10 musical theatre schools, the most important part is finding the “right-fit” school for you.

One way to start this journey is by looking at the credits involved in the program you will be taking. Some schools focus more on acting, others music, others dance. Generally, a Bachelor’s of Music will have a greater focus through total credit hours on music than a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts.

We made this list by “averaging out” several other rankings list found online of the top musical theatre schools. We sourced other published lists online and scored schools in each list based on their positions. The lists we used to make this list are available at the end of the article.

All of these schools are well-represented not only on Broadway by their alumni, but also in award-winning television shows, plays, off-Broadway productions, and more.

Here are the top 10 schools for musical theatre in the country.

10. Pace University School of Performing Arts (New York, NY)

Pace’s Theatre – Public domain photo by JRodz15 via Wikimedia Commons

Pace is among the top schools in the country for both acting and for musical theatre.

What makes Pace unique is its faculty are not just “academicians,” but also working professionals; they have performed on Broadway, on television, and have taught a generation of students who have risen to the top of their craft.

Due to Pace’s location in New York City, the school is an obvious choice for the aspiring musical theatre student.

According to Playbill, nearly two-dozen alumni of Pace are active in Broadway musicals this year.

At the end of a student’s four years at Pace, seniors stage a showcase attracting directors, agents, and other industry professionals from NYC and LA.

9. Pennsylvania State University School of Theatre (State College, PA)

Penn State
George Chriss, Penn state old main summer, CC BY-SA 3.0

Alumni of Penn State University can be seen everywhere. They are starring in The National Tours of Wicked, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Book of Mormon, 42nd Street, and dozens of other top shows.

The program at Penn State is characterized by exceptionally small class sizes. The entire undergraduate musical theatre program has just 48 students, or about 12 per class.

Eleven faculty members serve these 48 students, making the student:teacher ratio here just 4:1, perhaps the most favorable ratio of all top-tier musical theatre programs.

As the class size is so small, admissions is highly selective; many hundreds of students apply to Penn State each year, and only a fraction gain admission.

The faculty here are as experienced as one can find at any school; they comprise professional dancers, actors, musicians, and more.­

8. Elon University (Elon, NC)

Elon University
MPD01605, Alamance Building, Elon University, CC BY-SA 2.0

A decade ago, Elon was one of the great “hidden gem” musical theatre programs in America.

Now, the secret is out – Elon consistently produces some of the best talent today of any musical theatre college program.

What we especially like about the program at Elon is the well-roundedness of their faculty.

Brian Kremer, professor at Elon, is one such example. While many musical theatre programs traditionally teach only classical technique, Brian brings to Elon a fresh – and much needed at college music programs – curriculum involving rock, pop, R&B, and of course musical theatre style singing.

Elon’s primary performance center is the Center for the Arts, a 75,000 square foot facility dedicated entirely to performance.

Recent graduates have joined the Broadway casts of Mamma Mia, The Little Mermaid, Hamilton, West Side Story, After Midnight, and over a dozen more shows.

Elon has also produced alumni who have appeared in major television shows, including Girls, Glee, Law And Order, and more shows.

7. Oklahoma City University Bass School of Music (Oklahoma City, OK)

Oklahoma City University
Matthew Rutledge (rutlo), Oklahoma City University – Administration Building, CC BY 2.0

Oklahoma City’s program is unique in that it offers a BMus instead of a BFA.

Career outcomes for both types of degrees are the same, however the BMus is a great option for students in musical theatre who want a greater emphasis in music in terms of credit hours studied.

Because the music requirements are a significant part of the curriculum at OKCU, all students study both classical art song and operatic repertoire during their undergraduate years at the school, making the program a great fit for the accomplished classical singer and aspiring musical theatre artist.

Graduating seniors at OKCU stage a showcase in New York City attended by top casting directors, agents, and other notable industry professionals.

Oklahoma City University is also one of the 10 most represented schools on Broadway in the 2019 season.

6. Ithaca College School of Music (Ithaca, NY)

Ithaca College
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Job Hall, Ithaca College campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

Ithaca’s musical theatre division is defined by extreme selectivity; approximately 3.5% of all applicants gain admission. About 1,000 students auditions for 35 spots.

The reason is Ithaca is so frequently listed in the top 10 colleges throughout the country for musical theatre, as well as the fact their alumni are seen throughout Broadway and beyond.

Certainly, Ithaca is widely considered the top liberal arts college in the nation to study musical theatre, as most liberal arts college musical theatre programs are not nearly as competitive for admission.

During the senior year at Ithaca, students participate in a Field Studies week in New York City. Throughout this week, students are exposed to Ithaca College alumni working in the industry. Like many other schools listed here, Ithaca seniors stage a showcase attracting industry professionals from NYC.

Alumni are seen in the upper echelons of the musical theatre industry; they have obtained roles in Aladdin, Cats, Evita, and more.

5. Boston Conservatory at Berklee (Boston, MA)

Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Even before Boston Conservatory merged with Berklee College of Music, it was widely considered one of the top musical theatre programs in the United States.

Boston Conservatory represents a unique opportunity for the aspiring musical theatre artist to study at a conservatory-only program. Whereas all of the other schools on this list are based in major universities, Boston Conservatory’s program focus is solely performance, helping students get accepted to the top places in their industry.

Boston Conservatory is a relatively large program for musical theatre – 280 undergraduates, or about 70 students a class, enroll into the program. With 75 faculty, the student:teacher ratio is a very favorable 4:1.

Despite having more students, the program is quite competitive, receiving many hundreds of applications a year.

Students of the program enjoy a vast network of connections to draw upon in the greater Boston area, once of the fine arts epicenters of the country comprised of theatres, symphonies, museums, and more.

Alumni include Hayley Podschun, who has performed on Broadway in Hairspray, Josh Grisetti, a season Broadway and television actor, and even Katherine McPhee, a former American Idol contestant and chart-topping pop star.

4. University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (Cincinnati, OH)

University of Cincinnati
Andrew Higley/University of Cincinnati, UofCincy, CC BY-SA 4.0

Cincinnati is home to the oldest musical theatre program in the country. Its reputation is outstanding, accepting only about 20 students each year with over 1,000 applicants. 

Astonishingly, the school stages five fully produced musicals per season across three different stages.

In these musicals, students learn not only how to act and sing, but also to dance, choreograph, produce, light, and market their shows.

It is because of these skills that Cincinnati alumni are frequently placed into Broadway. In 2019, Cincinnati is the sixth most-represented school on Broadway.

In 2017, an alum of Cincinnati’s musical theatre program was rated the Star Of The Year by This student is Christy Altomare, who is perhaps most famous for playing Anastasia in the musical of the same name.

Other alumni are currently acting, at the time of this writing, in Hamilton, Cats, Waitress, and dozens of other top shows.

3. New York University (New York, NY)

NYC Aerial View
JaxsonD, A view of New York City with the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center from the Rockefeller Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

NYU is home to two musical theatre programs – one in their Tisch school, and one in their Steinhardt school.

Both are top-tier, but there are a few differences between the two.

Steinhardt awards a BMus, while Tisch offers a BFA. This means that Steinhardt’s curriculum has more music credits than acting, where Tisch offers more acting credits than Steinhardt.

Technically, the Steinhardt program is a Vocal Performance degree with an emphasis in musical theatre.

Both are prestigious and very competitive for admission.

Faculty in both programs are among New York’s most accomplished professionals. They have performed in Broadway, major opera halls, and throughout the entire world.

NYU is the #1 most represented school on Broadway in terms of actively performing alumni. This is due not only to the excellent training, but also the relatively larger number of graduates of the program.

2. Carnegie-Mellon University School of Drama (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon School of Drama
Dllu, Carnegie Mellon School of Drama Interior, CC BY-SA 4.0

Perhaps the most selective musical theatre program in the country, few schools are as prestigious as CMU in musical theatre.

Students admitted to the program are not only skilled musicians; more often than not, they are among the most skilled high school actors in the country.

One unique opportunity CMU affords its senior-year students is the option to study internationally for a semester. Past students have attended London’s Drama Centre, NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) in Sydney, the Moscow Art Theatre, and more.

Students at the school also take advantage of Pittsburgh’s incredible arts scene, a city home to well over 100 performing arts venues and organizations. One of these venues, the Pittsburgh CLO, has a special collaboration with CMU.

The most famous alum of CMU Drama is Stephen Schwartz, Broadway composer who wrote the hit musicals Godspell, Wicked, and Pippin.

Alumni include numerous Tony-award winning actors, television actors, and theatre professionals seen throughout the world.

1. University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (Ann Arbor, MI)

Michael Barera, University of Michigan August 2013 056 (Earl V. Moore Building), CC BY-SA 4.0

An unparalleled experience in musical theatre training, University of Michigan tops this list for the best musical theatre programs in the country.

Many alumni of the school are among the most decorated stars on Broadway today. One such name is Gavin Creel, 1998 graduate of University of Michigan and Tony award winner in the musical HELLO DOLLY! In the same show were four other Michigan musical theatre graduates.

A 2019 Tony-award winner is also an alum of Michigan, Celia Keenan-Bolger.

Based in Ann Arbor, widely regarded as the best college town in America, the University of Michigan provides an intensive undergraduate study opportunity in musical theatre inside one of the nation’s most prestigious public universities.

The majority of classes for musical theatre students occurs in Michigan’s North Campus. In North Campus, students take classes in the School of Music, Stamps Auditorium, the Walgreen Drama Center, the Arthur Miller Theatre, and more.

Michigan is the second most represented school on Broadway in 2019.

For this list, we created an “aggregate” ranking based on where these schools positioned in other major lists online.

You can read more about our methodology here.

Here are the sources we aggregated to create this one:

On Stage Blog


Times Square Chronicles

Music School Central

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