Juilliard School (New York, NY)
It would be hard to make a list of music schools in the US without giving Juilliard its due nod.
Juilliard is, to put it in one word…Juilliard…
Everything associated with prestige, high-ranking, well-endowed, incredibly selective is embodied in this historic musical institution.
One could say that there is no other music institution as influential in both academia and in the professional world as Juilliard.
Some may dislike the elite attitude that Juilliard portrays. Personally, I respect it and like it, as it is a well-deserved reputation fostered by years of steadfast, committed faculty and an alumni body of only the world’s most successful artists.
You may have heard of composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, cellist Yo Yo Ma, jazz band leader Christian McBride, violinist Itzhak Perlman, conductors Alan Gilbert & Gerard Schwarz…just a fraction of what this school has given to the classical music community over the years.
But enough about the school’s reputation, let’s talk about its day to day culture.
Julliard is among the most selective conservatories in the country, only second to the Curtis Institute of Music in terms of percent accepted.
Its appeal stems – in large part – to its affiliation with many of New York’s most prestigious institutions. Many faculty members are affiliated with the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Juilliard is also known for its jazz program. As one of the smallest jazz programs in the country, the students at the school are the most elite of their kind in the country.
BOTTOM LINE: Still among the best and elite, Juilliard is synonymous with premiere excellence in classical music and jazz
Lawrence University Conservatory of Music (Appleton, WI)
A humble college located in small town Wisconsin, Lawrence prides itself by choosing to excel in areas not frequently associated with music schools – entrepreneurship, liberal arts, and an open-minded approach towards career empowerment (and employment).
In an interview I will be launching later this month with Lawrence’s Dean Brian Pertl, we dive into many things that make Lawrence a unique school far different from its east coast competitors.
For starters, the school’s culture embraces what Brian calls a “dancing between disciplines” – immersing the students in understanding many different facets of arts, business, and culture to create a student with a complete, diverse-education preparing them for the real world outside of conservatory.
Characterized by an intimate atmosphere blending both music and academics, about half of Lawrence’s students are double majors in both music and in an outside academic field.
I would describe their political persuasion as pointedly liberal. The school is the only one I know of that has a program called “micro operas,” which are works produced and written by students at the school exploring themes gun violence, inclusion, and other major social topics of today. You can see more about that in this video on Lawrence’s youtube page.
Like previously mentioned Vanderbilt, Lawrence is also undergraduate-only.
BOTTOM LINE: Small, intimate, blending academics and music into a musical environment pointedly liberal and visionary.