Berklee & Boston Conservatory (Boston, MA)
Some traditional, classical musical purists have scoffed at Berklee being named in any list or ranking of top music schools in its past.
But! Since Berklee’s merger with the Boston Conservatory in 2016, the school now has a much different tone and atmosphere, as it is now a powerhouse institution in not just contemporary music, but classical and musical theatre styles as well.
Berklee itself has long been a bastion of contemporary music – Berklee students and alumni alike often refer to the school as a “microcosm of the music industry.”
Indeed, one can find all facets of contemporary musical life at Berklee – music production, film scoring, business, and jazz performance are just a handful of the majors at the school.
Although I don’t believe a school’s worth should be placed on quality of facilities, it worth mentioning that the Berklee College of Music houses an astounding 27 recording studios.
To be honest, I can’t think of any recording facility throughout the entire world – let alone a music school – that has this many recording studios! If nothing else, the sheer number of studios demonstrates the school’s intent focus on producing commercially viable musical product.
Berklee has always been an anomaly in the musical world. While Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, and many other exception institutions have always taught a more traditional path, Berklee’s path has long been jazz and pop-friendly.
Boston Conservatory itself has very much been opposite to Berklee, ironic in many ways as the institutions are literal neighbors in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Long considered one of the pre-eminent schools for musical theatre, the merger between these two schools ensures their place among the top of the “music school” hierarchy for decades to come.
BOTTOM LINE: Thoroughly contemporary, Berklee’s merger with Boston Conservatory will yield something in future years we haven’t seen before.
Florida State University School of Music (Tallahassee, FL)
FSU is a true hidden-gem in the world of music schools.
What is most attractive about FSU is its breadth of programs – it is one of the few schools with programs strong in musical theatre, jazz, classical, and even commercial music.
The faculty is among the most impressive of any university-based program: two Grammy winners – one of which is noted jazz trumpet player Scotty Barnhart, a Pulitzer-prize winning composer in Ellen Zwilich, and other top-notch teachers.
For a music school, FSU is considered big at nearly 1,100 students. A school that is comparably sized – and has similar offerings in theatre, jazz, and classical performance – is the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Most students I know who have attended FSU have not complained about its large size; in fact, it seems to be of benefit to the students as the university has put major resources in their music school.
When I first started Music School Central in 2014, very few music colleges had entrepreneurship-type programs for their students. Since then, many schools have jumped to entrepreneurship as a means to teach their students about the future of making a living in the 21st century, including FSU, whose unique program teaches musicians finance, management, and innovation & creativity.
BOTTOM LINE: Large, diverse, and in an often-overlooked location for musical study, FSU’s formidable faculty and student accomplishments make the school worthy of a look for students in nearly any music major.