6. Ann Arbor, MI
What can I say about the nation’s greatest college town, according to Forbes magazine as recently as December 2015?
Ann Arbor is renowned for its open embracing of artistic culture; many of the world’s most sought-after rock acts started in Ann Arbor, including Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, MC5.
The legendary venues that have hosted countless acts from the world’s most famous musicians include The Ark, a folk & acoustic venue, the Blind Pig, a haven for blues and indie rock acts, and the Michigan Theatre, a “movie palace” that displays not only cinema, but also musical acts.
The city has a strong embracing for classical music as well, starting with the city’s only fully professional orchestra, the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. The Ann Arbor Symphony hosts about a dozen or so events each year at the aforementioned Michigan Theatre.
Additionally, one of the most intimate chamber venues I have ever attended a concert at, the Kerrytown Concert House, is situated in Ann Arbor. This venue specializes in acoustic classical music; many of the highly-renowned professors of music at the University of Michigan call this venue their home.
Music majors can regularly integrate themselves into the many festivals and events Ann Arbor hosts every single year.
The Top of the Park festival, a family-friendly festival taking place throughout the University of Michigan’s campus, offers entertainers of international renown as well as local musicians, some of which attend the University of Michigan itself.
In the autumn, the city hosts EdgeFest, a progressive music festival featuring avant-garde and modern jazz. Also in the autumn is a bluegrass festival.
I would be remiss to not mention that one of the country’s most prominent electronic music labels, Ghostly International, started in a student’s dorm room at the University of Michigan at the turn of the 21st century and is now one of the most prominent independent labels of any genre.
The University of Michigan itself is, indubitably, one of the nation’s premiere music schools.
Ok, I AM biased…I admit that I did attend the University of Michigan myself several years ago.
But still…the students and facilities at the school are among the finest of any college I know of in the country.
Some of the facilities for music majors to use include Hill Auditorium, a majestic theatre and auditorium that hosts the college’s symphony orchestra concerts as well as concerts presented by the University Musical Society, one of the oldest performing arts presenters that recently was awarded the 2014 National Medal of the Arts.
In fact, the University Musical Society has created a 5-year partnership program with the New York Philharmonic in which the orchestra comes every year to not only perform in Ann Arbor, but also to do outreach and performance classes with the students.
Celebrating modern chamber music culture, the school is also home to the recently established M-Prize, an international chamber music competition that awards $100,000 to a rising professional chamber ensemble. This award is one of the most lucrative not just in chamber music, but in all of the arts.
Notable Colleges for Music: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Eastern Michigan University, a school with fine music faculty, is in the next town.
5. Portland, OR
Portland’s cultural scene is the stuff of legends; the city’s music scene can cater to the artistic tastes and proclivities of nearly any music major.
Just a few years ago, The Guardian heaped praises on Portland’s music scene, citing many of Portland’s most outstanding venues, including Edgefield, the Zoo Ampitheater, and Holocene, the city’s epicenter for electronic music.
For music majors who study and perform classical music, there are many musical groups the students can interact, and occasionally, perform with. The Oregon Symphony, the oldest professional orchestra on the west coast, as well as the Portland Opera, which has performed the West Coast or US premieres of works by composers as established as Pulitzer-prize winner William Bolcom and famed Alfred Hitchcock film scorer Bernard Herrmann.
For music majors who wish to participate in the city’s theatrical culture, Portland is home to several established theatre groups. These include the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, and the Tears of Joy Theatre, an organization of touring puppet shows.
Portland is home to a true hidden gem of music departments, the Portland State University College of the Arts. The school is among the finer institutions for study in the pacific northwest. It’s most famous alumna? None other than Grammy-award winning jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding.
Notable Music Schools In Portland: Portland State University College of the Arts: School of Music