St Olaf College (Northfield, MN)
St. Olaf is one of the few top-notch liberal arts music programs in the U.S. For those looking for a program offering rigorous education in music without having to commit to an independent, music-only conservatory, St. Olaf could be a fantastic option for you.
What I find most fascinating about St. Olaf College’s music program is how much the students absolutely love the program. People who sit in on concerts and rehearsals at the school consistently note excited chemistry existing between students and faculty. For students desiring a supportive & nurturing environment in a small, intimate school, St. Olaf is a fabulous choice.
One of St. Olaf’s most well regarded ensembles is the St. Olaf Choir, a 75-voice group that has toured a myriad of countries outside of North America, including France, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. When a school is allowed this much resource to educate their choral musicians, you know that something is going right at the school.
I once talked about this in another article mentioning St. Olaf, but it is worth mentioning here again: the choir was invited in the mid-2000’s to perform at the White House for the Bush family. Since the choir’s inception, the ensemble has produced 27 CDs of choral music.
Speaking of historic ensembles, the St. Olaf band, an ensemble founded in 1891, was the first collegiate music band in the US to ever tour internationally, performing in Norway in 1906. In 2010, the band toured Japan.
For those looking to pursue a career as a public-school music teacher, St. Olaf’s Bachelor of Arts Degree is unique; unlike other programs found in music schools throughout the US, this music education offers two degrees, an academic Bachelor of Arts and a professional Bachelor of Music degree. The combination of these two degrees leads to licensure to teach in the state of Minnesota.
St. Olaf is debatably included as a hidden gem in this list; while it is not compared to, nor does it even consider itself to be in, the category of music schools such as Indiana, USC, and perhaps even the liberal arts-oriented Oberlin, its ensembles and performing opportunities are quite well-known throughout academia and beyond.
SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music (Purchase, NY)
Often overshadowed by the dominant musical institutions in NYC including NYU, Juilliard, and Mannes, the State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase Conservatory of Music is a fabulous hidden gem institution boasting very strong programs in jazz and classical music.
A quick analysis of their faculty demonstrates the unbelievable credentials this school has. One such musician in the jazz program faculty is John Abercrombie, one of the most widely respected jazz guitarists playing today. Another noted jazz musician on the faculty is Ralph Lalama, one of New York City’s most beloved jazz saxophonists.
Many students come to me looking to find a school that has the benefits of a major city minus the negatives, mainly noise & distraction. Should you want to attend a school close to NYC without actually attending music school in the city, the Purchase Conservatory is a great choice, as it is only about 20 miles north of Manhattan. Perhaps it goes without saying, but you’ll have access to some of the most respected names in music while living and attending school in a more rural, relaxed setting.
Something I find remarkable about this place is its opera program – the school stages opera performances each year that are comprised mostly of undergraduates. For the advanced singer, this is a huge benefit in your education, as obtaining performance roles at other collegiate music institutions can be challenging for undergraduates.
If you wish to attend a fine music school consistently attracting high-level names, then check out SUNY Purchase.