American Musical Dramatic Academy (AMDA)
If this were a list of top musical theatre programs in New York City, AMDA would be in top-5.
AMDA’s only music program, however, is indeed musical theatre, and because of this, it may be better characterized as an acting school rather than a music program. However, the strength of its musical theatre program makes it worthy of inclusion on this list.
What’s cool about AMDA? You can study in both NYC and Los Angeles, the two meccas of the modern entertainment industry today.
What’s also great about AMDA is the breadth of experience the faculty have. Teachers are not just trained actors; many have actually starred in musicals and television shows you probably know well.
Alumni include Marissa Jaret Winokur, a Tony-award winning actress, American actor Paul Sorvino, and international pop stars Jason Derulo and Janelle Monae.
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
The Steinhardt school at NYU is rather unique in the world of music in that it has something for nearly every musician.
I’m talking about music production, music business, classical and jazz performance, musical theatre, film composing, songwriting, popular music performance…
It is rare for a music program to cater to every major interest and genre.
Yet NYU does it, and does it quite well.
The faculty here are just as good as at any of the other New York City schools, like MSM and Juilliard. In fact, many of the teachers at those schools also teach at NYU!
It also benefits from its affiliation with NYU. Students at Steinhardt can dual major in music and another academic subject in either Steinhardt or the College of Arts in Science. This covers many majors and is a strong option for the student who wants to have an academic background in conjunction with high-level musical training.
NYU Tisch School of the Arts
I include NYU twice on this list for one reason – the Steinhardt School and NYU Tisch are so different in their offerings, each department deserves special recognition.
Additionally, if you apply to NYU, you can only apply to one of these schools, not both at the same time.
NYU Tisch is widely known for its musical theatre program. Possibly the most prestigious MT program nationwide, NYU is the #1 most represented institution on Broadway year after year.
While Steinhardt does have a musical theatre program, it is a BMus, while Tisch’s is a BFA.
The distinction? The BMus has more credit-hour focus on music, while the BFA has more credit-hour focus on drama. However, both programs do have courses in both subjects.
The other major program at NYU Tisch is the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Alongside Berklee, Belmont, and USC, this is probably the premiere contemporary popular music program in the country.
The focus at Clive Davis is entirely on musical entrepreneurship, a distinction it owns from other popular music schools. Within the school are subdivisions of entrepreneurship, including music production, performance, songwriting, and even music journalism.
The idea here is to provide students with real-world business skills to be successful upon graduation. The program is super selective and tailored towards a very specific kind of music student, so if you are interested, I would recommend attending their summer program first before applying.
New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music
When talking about jazz performance and schools in New York City, four schools come up – NYU, New School, Juilliard, and Manhattan School of Music.
What I like about The New School for Jazz that makes it standout is its focus on contemporary genres of music mixed with jazz. While jazz is no doubt the focus of the program, and best suited for jazz musicians, its program is not centered around “mainstream” or “big band” styles of jazz like some other schools are.
One program that exemplifies this cutting-edge approach is the school’s MM Performer-Composer degree. The idea behind this program is to “blur the line” between composition, improvisation, and performance, drawing in influences from not only jazz, but electronic music, minimalism, rock, and experimental genres.
The result of this approach is a philosophy wholly unique to The New School. I’d highly suggest this school for the jazz musician who wants an education not just in traditional jazz performance, but also a, dare I say, “newer” approach to jazz education.