University of North Texas College of Music (Denton, TX)
Long considered one of the foremost jazz institutions, the University of North Texas is usually credited as having the oldest jazz performance program at any US college.
Perhaps its most well-known ensemble is the One O’Clock Lab Band, the resident big band of the institution that has been in existence since 1948. With 7 Grammy nominations to date, this ensemble is long considered perhaps the pre-eminent college-level jazz ensemble in the USA.
But jazz is not the only area of excellence at this school. Indeed, the school’s classical performance program has risen as one of the top performance programs throughout Texas and beyond.
The opportunities for performance at UNT are astounding; each year, nearly 1,000 performances are housed at this school, making it perhaps the most active institution in any performing arts category.
Also, its music library is quite noted; with 1.2m volumes (scores, recordings, books, etc.) it is one of the largest of its kind.
Finally, Denton is something of a hidden gem city. Paste Magazine in 2008 called it the best music scene in the US. If not the very best, I would say it certainly is among the most active college towns for music in the US.
BOTTOM LINE: Always has been – and always will be – a major jazz player, UNT and Denton share an incredibly robust, increasingly diverse music scene.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
Perhaps the midwest’s most impressive music school, the University of Michigan spares no attention to detail in any of its leading programs.
Let’s start with the performance program. Michigan is widely considered one of the top schools for traditional performance. Indeed, recent alumni have been appointed to positions in the symphonies of Los Angeles, San Diego, Berlin, and Boston, among many other top orchestras.
Its jazz performance program is also diverse, having yielded creatives who have gone into both mainstream jazz as well as alternative rock. One well-known band of Michigan graduates is Vulfpeck, a funk group that sponsored an admission-free tour in 2014 funded mostly by royalties they collected on Spotify.
The composition program is also among the leading of its kind in the country. Faculty members include Bright Sheng and Paul Schoenfeld, two Pulitzer-prize finalists, as well as Michael Daugherty, a Grammy-winning musician who is among the most performed orchestral composers of his generation.
The school is also home to the Duderstadt Center, one of the most impressive facilities for audio production in any music school. The Duderstadt Center is home to a state-of-the-art recording studio as well as a multimedia theatre where student productions are showcased nearly every week.
Ann Arbor is an incredible college town; the music scene in and out of the university is special for any music lover.
No wonder it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain admission into this school; the combination of funding, reputation, and artistic excellence have made this school among the most competitive and desirable for admission.
BOTTOM LINE: Competitive, Diverse, this school is among the very top in nearly any major field of musical study.