Some music schools are so prestigious, they are practically household names. Schools like Juilliard, Berklee, Curtis, and Manhattan School of Music are synonymous with excellence, successful alumni, and even fame in the landscape of collegiate institutions.

But these aforementioned schools are not for everyone. Some students will thrive better in unusual, unique institutional settings than others.

One reason to attend a less well-known school is if you have created, or feel you can develop, a special relationship with a faculty member at a school. Sometimes, a great teacher who truly cares about a student can completely change that student’s life. Remember, in music school, students are strongly connected to the faculty in their major.

You can attend a school like Juilliard yet fail to connect with any instructors at the school. Should this ever happen, you will have a less than optimal experience at the school.

In 2015, I published an article about 10 music schools in the US I felt deserved more consideration. This list is my 2017 version with a different set of 10 schools.

And why not make a biennial list of great college institutions that deserve far more credit? There are many, many music schools in the U.S. to choose from, so open up your field, consider options you may never have heard of before, and use our Top 10 “Hidden Gems” for 2017 to get you started and pointed in the right direction.

 10. Baylor University School of Music (Waco, TX)


Baylor University President’s Day Concert in 2009. Photo by Brentsalter via Wikimedia Commons

With approximately 400 students studying with over 60 full-time faculty members, Baylor offers an excellent music program small enough to devote personal attention to each student. It is worth pointing out Baylor is a Christian University and the music school stays true to the wider university foundation of faith-based commitment.

One noted department at Baylor is in classical Trumpet Performance. Baylor consistently turns out great classical trumpet players, year after year. In fact, Wiff Rudd, the esteemed trumpet professor at Baylor University, consistently has students placing in the finals of major national competitions on a yearly basis.

Historically, the school of music has been among the finest in the southern US. A former faculty member who truly highly accomplished students was Dr. John Van Cura, who was known not only as a first-class singing teacher, but also an expert in assisting singers overcome singing problems.

Although Dr. Van Cura is now Emeritus at the school, many of his students went on to become well-known musicians, including Michele Crider, a renowned opera performer, as well as Marjorie Owens, member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

For prospective students interested in discovering more about Baylor first-hand, I would recommend attending one of the school’s summer music camps.

9. Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music of Chapman University (Orange, CA)

For those looking for a music school in California, it can actually be challenging to find one of quality.

Certainly, everyone knows USC, San Francisco Conservatory, and UCLA. Those three are likely the “triumvirate” that comprise the finest three California music programs.

But for the students seeking other options in California, especially at an intimate liberal arts university, Hall-Musco may be the place to look.

One of the most fascinating parts of this school’s undergraduate offerings is that it actually offers an undergraduate degree in conducting(!). There aren’t many schools in the US offering this – in fact, the only other one I know about is the Mannes College of Music in New York City.

Perhaps the most noted facility at this conservatory is the undeniably impressive Musco Center for the Arts, an 88,000 square foot facility dedicated to music and other performing arts. This brand new facility, which opened in 2016, seats over 1,000 students in its theater.

Many of the faculty members at this school are distinguished performers in their field. One noted example is Peter Atherton, a Juilliard trained bass-baritone who has performed professionally with the Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, and the San Francisco Opera, among many other noted companies. Another noted faculty member, Robert Becker, was the Principal Violist for nearly 35 years with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra.

Due to Chapman’s close proximity with one of America’s great music cities, Chapman often invites guest artists from Los Angeles, which is only 30 miles or so away from the school. In one instance in late 2016, the director of the Los Angeles Opera production of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, came to Chapman to talk with the school’s theatre students.

Chapman University itself is on the smaller side of universities, with approximately 7,500 – 8,000 total students in attendance in all academic programs, music and otherwise.