Choosing to attend a music school in a major city like New York is a challenging decision to make.

No question, New York City has some of the best music schools not just on the east coast, and not just in the country, but throughout the entire world.

If you are submersed in the professional musical world, you are regularly encountering personalities who graduated from from some of the world’s most noted music schools, including Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, and the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music, among others in NYC.

new york city photo

New York, NY – Photo by aurélien.

Some of these musicians may be the best in their fields, or at least very well respected. No question, their prestigious degrees helped.

But is going to music school in New York City the right option for you?

I am asked all of the time by my college consulting client families whether they should consider attending music school in New York.

The answer is individualized and tailored to the musician in question. That much is certain.

But what isn’t always certain to many musicians are the pros and cons of choosing to attend music school in New York City.


Music Schools In New York City

Before we get into the pros and cons of attending music school in New York City, let’s examine the options available to students interested in pursuing a degree in music in NYC.

Generating just a list of excellent music programs in New York City can be a challenging task.

But I am up for it so this is what it looks like in a partial list:

  • Juilliard School – probably the most famous music institution in the world, Juilliard is home to many of the top classical music performance programs in the country.
  • Manhattan School of Music – A fine music school in upper Manhattan, it is similar to Juilliard in its curricular offerings, although the school has just recently started a musical theatre program as well, which is something that makes it distinct from Juilliard.
  • New York University – NYU specializes in a number of musical areas. Many things are notable about NYU’s music school: it has one of the only undergraduate film scoring programs in the country. Its Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is perhaps the most selective Music Business program in the country. It also has excellent facilities for Music Technology/Production. Perhaps the most well-rounded school in NYC, NYU also has majors in Songwriting, Jazz, and Musical Theatre.
  • The New School – The New School has two music schools. One is a jazz program, the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Another is a classical music program, the Mannes College of Music.
  • Aaron Copland School of Music – A fine music program based out of Queens College.
  • Pace University – Most noted for its musical theatre program as well as being a good academic university.
  • Brooklyn College – Brooklyn College, an institution based in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, has over 17,000 students enrolled throughout its student body. It also has an attached music school, known as the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music.
  • Stevens Institute of Technology – Not technically in Manhattan, but right across the river to the west in New Jersey, the school has great facilities in Music Production.
  • AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) – Like NYU and Pace, AMDA is a leading school for musical theatre.
  • City College of New York – This is a school that has one of the few Popular Music Studies majors in the US.

Keeping these schools in mind, let’s now examine the top 5 con’s and the top 6 pro’s of attending music school in NYC.


Music School in NYC – Top 5 Con’s

If you know musicians who go to school in NYC, some leave immediately after concluding their studies, others stay for life. So why does such a disparity exist?

Although it can come down to normal everyday factors, like employment, many other considerations are involved. That said, here are 10 con’s of NYC that every young musician, especially a teenage musician, must truly consider prior to arriving for their studies.

5. Competition

I lived in NYC; I can tell you it is tough.

If you don’t have full confidence and faith in who you could be, it can be easy to feel no longer special and as if you are simply one of the very many.

Just walking into a single restaurant in NYC, you may find out that the three main servers, busboy, bartender, and manager are all artists.

The number of artists who wish to “make it” is simply unprecedented in Brooklyn and Manhattan.


4. Not Yet Ready

I am personally not a believer in that if you mess up a single opportunity, your entire professional career is blown. The idea that you only succeed when you finally have “a shot” to “make it” is patently absurd – we are the makers of our own fates. If you are young and reading this, don’t ever forget that.

That said, some teenagers are simply not yet ready for New York City. The emotional challenges that come with studying in a major city as well as training at an intensive conservatory can be a significant burden to anyone.

Often times, but not always, students are recommended to attend college in a smaller city, like Ann Arbor, Ithaca, Bloomington, so as to focus on their studies first and foremost.