The emphasis at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) is: “classical training for the modern musician.” The mission at CIM remains firmly grounded in its commitment to creating the complete musician with a firm mastery of classics while also providing the freedom to experience and perform new and recent repertoire.

Further, the school believes a well-rounded musician is a well-educated musician and its students are required to take liberal arts courses to ensure they have a broad, humanistic perspective.

The school began in 1920 when a small group of founders each contributed $1,000 to create a “school of music where every type of student could find opportunity for the best musical education.”

Photo by Theseus.u via Wikimedia Commons

The school’s first musical director was Ernest Bloch, the legendary Swiss-born American composer known for composing music that reflected Jewish culture, liturgical themes, and European Post-Romantic traditions.

After the Second World War, CIM underwent a period of major growth and currently holds 120 pianos, mostly Steinways, including two 9-foot concert grands.

In addition to its core values, the school believes musician have a responsibility to give back to their communities, which is reflected in the school’s performance opportunities including: Community Service Performances, which providing student with the ability to perform as soloist and in ensembles for a wide variety of local organizations; Chamber Music Outreach, which allows students to perform in chamber outreach concerts at senior and palliative care centers; the Cleveland Municipal School District Initiative, which gets students involved as teachers at local area public schools; and Student Teaching opportunities to give back to under-privileged areas in Cleveland’s inner city with dwindling music programs due to budget cuts.

Aspiring musicians looking for a school dedicated to classical training with a modern emphasis, a well-rounded liberal arts education, and ample opportunities to give back to the community, should look no further than the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Acceptance Rate

For the Cleveland Institute of Music, the acceptance rate is approximately 12.5%, which makes it slightly more in reach than other highly selective schools such as Juilliard and Colburn. The average student body at CIM is between 400-450 students. Each year, approximately 1,000-1,200 students apply for 150 open spots.

Keep in mind sometimes the numbers just don’t work to your advantage. For example, teachers can only take on a certain number of students for a given instrument each year. In these cases, musicians who apply for maxed-out studios are usually refunded their application fee and told no one who plays their instrument will be accepted that particular year.

Tuition & Fees

 The cost of attending CIM is on the high side at $47,200 per year for undergraduates, although the tuition cost is a bit lower than other music schools that can range between $50 – $60 thousand. For those living on campus, the cost of room & board is $14,870. Other estimated expenses include: health insurance fee ($2,090), books & supplies ($600), and personal expenses ($900).

 You can find a helpful breakdowns of the cost of attending CIM here.

If you do need financial help to pay for additional costs at CIM, we recommend you apply for support through FAFSA, which can also be used to cover expenses above and beyond tuition costs.

Requirements and Admissions Tips

At CIM, undergraduates receive a Bachelor of Music. Those wishing to continue their education beyond their Bachelor’s degree can pursue a Master of Music, Professional Studies, Artist Diploma, or Doctor of Musical Arts.

For students wishing to purse a dual degree, CIM offers a 5-year program in connection with the Case Western Reserve University, which allows students to receive a Bachelor of Music and another degree in the humanities or sciences.

 The Cleveland Institute of Music offers the following academic programs: Audio Recording, Bassoon, Cello, Clarinet, Collaborative Piano, Composition, Double Bass, Eurhythmics, Flute, Guitar (Classical), Harp, Harpsichord, Horn, Music Theory, Oboe, Orchestral Conducting, Organ, Percussion, Piano, Suzuki Pedagogy Program, Trombone and Bass Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba, Viola, Violin, and Voice (Opera)

If you are interested in applying to CIM, here’s a link to the undergraduate and graduate application requirements.

For freshman applicants, SAT/ACT scores are recommended (not required), along with high school transcripts, two letters of recommendations, and your pre-screen audition. You can find pre-screening requirements for each major here.

After considering your application, CIM may invite you to perform a live audition. You can find detailed instruction on the live audition repertoire for each academic program here.

If you are accepted to audition at CIM, I would recommend you schedule a lesson with a faculty member in the department you are interested in enrolling into at CIM prior to your audition. Knowing how a specific teacher works with you is critical for determining if a school is a good fit. Also, if they like you and your playing in your lesson together, your chance for getting in might be higher. Keep in mind this is only a recommendation and not a fact in every instance.

If you work with Music School Central in our college consulting program, we can help facilitate a meeting with you and a member of the faculty at CIM, or nearly any other program in the world.

Notable Alumni

A few notable CIM alumni include: Martin Leung, a musicians known as the “Video Game Pianist” (he is also a renowned classical pianist with appearances at Carnegie Hall); John McLaughlin Williams, an award winning conductor and violinist who won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist; and Mildred Miller, American classical mezzo-soprano, who made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1951 as Cherubino in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro with Cesare Siepi in the title role.

Talk about some impressive company!

You can find past and present news about CIM Alumni here.


Here are just a few of the many notable faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music: Yolanda Kondonassis, American classical harpist widely regarded as today’s most recorded classical harpist who debuted with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 18; Jaime Laredo, violinist and conductor, who has played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra (in 2012 he was appointed, along with his wife Sharon Robinson, to CIM’s string faculty); and Robert Vernon, classical violist, who is the longest standing Principal Violist of the Cleveland Orchestra, a position he’s held since 1976.

You can find a complete list of CIM faculty here.


Cleveland is perhaps the most important independent conservatory in the midwest United States.

The level of student ability at the Cleveland Institute of Music is incredibly high. An unusually high percentage of their students are recruited from Interlochen Arts Academy, one of the most important training institutions for high school musicians in the country.

I wrote an article on Cleveland Institute of Music in late 2017, in an interview with the President of their school, Paul Hogle. You can read that interview here.

I would rank it in the top 10 independent conservatories in the US – arguably, it is a top 10-15 college for music.