7. The Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA)
Three of the schools in the top ten are completely free of tuition to all enrolled students; Colburn is one of them. Located in Los Angeles, the Colburn School is a relatively young institution that breeds the top musicians in Los Angeles, consistently sending young students to the top professional orchestras in the entire world. Formerly a preparatory school for USC back in the 50s, Colburn sought independence from its mother university in the 80s. Some of the most talented musicians in Los Angeles studied under Colburn’s legendary faculty, which include violinist Robert Lipsett, widely considered one of the most important violin teachers of all time.
Colburn does not have a music composition program, however its faculties for strings, winds, percussion, and brass are second to none. You also can’t beat free; if you are looking to attend a top school be aware of this one thing about Colburn: it is exceptionally, exceptionally competitive to get in. However, if you do get in, it should be at the top of your list.
6. Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)
Conservative, classical academics and pedagogues may be baffled at the ranking of Berklee, but don’t be fooled by the fact Berklee is not as well known for its competitive classical music program. From jazz legends Keith Jarrett and Hiromi Uehara to popular musicians John Mayer and Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Berklee represents a generation of unprecedented influence in the realms of mainstream popular music, jazz, and music production. Located in the heart of Boston, students are exposed to nearly any cultural offering of a major city they can dream of, from a classical music concert at the Boston Symphony Orchestra to electronic music concerts at the local favorite The Middle East to indie rock concerts at the Brighton Music Hall. The possibilities for performing at Berklee and outside Berklee are nearly limitless.
If you are looking to pursue a degree from a top school for popular music, jazz performance, music production, film scoring, and even music business, consider Berklee as, quite possibly, the very best option for pursuing your talents. The number of famous, rich, accomplished, and influential alumni that have come from Berklee is unrivaled by almost any other music school; check out their list of alumni here.
5. Yale School of Music (New Haven, CT)
A school blessed with an anonymous $100,000,000.00 endowment made in the last decade, students accepted to the Yale School of Music are able to go to this program free of charge. Admission to this highly competitive college is for graduate students only. If you are applying to Yale as an undergraduate, the music courses you would take at the school are completely different than those offered in the graduate music college.
Their programs are among the most lauded in the country; some of their respected faculty members include composer Martin Bresnick, who has taught an unusually large number of important composers working professionally, clarinetist David Shifrin, who is regularly heard on top commercial recordings throughout the world, and cellist Aldo Parisot, who has taught at the school since 1958.
Ten years ago, I would have said that Juilliard has the highest number of active alumni in professional music; in 2014, the leader could be Yale, who have students in practically every professional music position available to a musician around the entire globe. Not to mention, many of Yale’s students begin networking with top talent in New York City while at Yale, due to the college’s close proximity to the important cultural center.
Noted for boasting several of the top programs in the nation, including music composition, as well as percussion, strings, winds, and brass performance, the Yale School of Music is a serious contender that should be on every prospective graduate student’s list.
4. University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (Ann Arbor, MI)
The school of music widely considered to have the very best musical theatre and classical saxophone programs, this institution, famously noted for graduating the likes of Madonna, Darren Criss, and Iggy Pop, consistently sends students to lucrative positions in the top broadway stages and professional symphonies throughout the globe. Additionally, the school also hosts the most popular cello teacher in the nation, Richard Aaron, who is noted for having students almost every year advance to positions in the top-paying symphonic orchestras in the entire world.
Other notable faculty members include the Grammy-Award winning composer Michael Daugherty, who became an internationally known composer in the late 1980s with the premiere of his “Metropolis Symphony,” as well as recently appointed saxophone professor Timothy McAllister, a man who has held a dramatic influence over the state of classical saxophone in the last 10 years.
Outside of classical music performance, the school also boasts a state-of-the-art music production facility.
A selective institution with a strong background in both music and traditional academics, as well as an intelligent, liberal arts community in Ann Arbor, MI, this school is the creme de la creme of state-sponsored music schools.