People are what make any music school come to life.

Without amazing teachers and students, schools are mere vessels of potential creativity.

A campus alone is hardly a reason to choose a school.

However, the people, in particular the faculty, are one of the most important reasons behind choosing a great music school.

While there are hundreds of amazing professors teaching in music schools, today I am outlining 10 of the most legendary.

What makes a teacher reach “legendary” status?

Some of these teachers have students who are consistently positioned inside top orchestras, major ensembles, and other high-level career opportunities.

Others on this list have had legendary music careers themselves and are widely considered the best in their profession.

Some are simply just known as being among the greatest proprietors of their craft today.

Studying with a professor of this caliber is a rare honor.

You are studying with someone who knows the intricacies of your craft so intimately that they can mentor you in the ways they themselves became so successful.

The 10 professors I outline here today are not ranked in any way. These are also not the only legendary professors teaching in music schools.

That said, the following 10 people, all who are still active teachers, have already cemented their legacies as legends in their craft.
Without further ado, here are 10 legendary professors teaching today.

Menahem Pressler

Professor of Piano at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

To say Menahem Pressler has had an extraordinary career as both a performer and teacher is a radical understatement.

More accurately, he is one of the most legendary performer-pedagogues in music history.

For nearly 64 years, Menahem Pressler has been on the faculty of Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. He was appointed at the young age of 31.

Now 95 years old, he is still going strong at both teaching as well as performing.

As a performer, Menahem is best known as being a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, one of the foremost chamber music ensembles of the 20th century. Beaux Arts was active for over five decades from 1955 to 2008.

Professor Pressler himself has been nominated for an astounding six Grammy awards, as well as numerous honorary doctorate degrees from various institutions.

Menham Pressler’s influence as a teacher is felt throughout the world today – his students are among the most active performers in today’s classical music landscape.


Martin Bresnick

Professor of Composition, Yale School of Music

photo by Martin Bresnick, Carl Fischer Music via Wikimedia Commons

Martin’s influence in the world of contemporary classical music has been astounding.

Many of his previous students became legendary composers – and in their own right, legendary professors – themselves.

His students include all three members of Bang On a Can, New York’s premiere contemporary music organization. That includes Pulitzer winners David Lang and Julia Wolfe, as well as Julia Wolfe’s husband Michael Gordon.

Others students of his include Ted Hearne, a rising composer and professor at USC, as well as Sarah Kirkland Snider, a prominent New York City composer.

Martin’s compositional style, as well as the output of his most successful students, is in the lineage of post-minimalist music.

In-demand as a composer himself, two documentaries that he scored were nominated for Academy awards, Arthur and Lillie as well as The Day After Trinity.

Now in his early 70s, Martin’s pedagogical influence is felt throughout the entire world of contemporary classical music – very few prominent composers have not studied either with Martin himself or a disciple of his.

The Yale School of Music, where Martin has taught for several decades, is widely considered the top graduate school for Music Composition, and is only available to graduate student composers.