Bienen School of Music (Northwestern University) (Evanston, IL)
Perhaps the most academically prestigious school on this list, Northwestern is one of the foremost universities for the student who excels both musically and academically.
The heart of Northwestern lies within its deep connection to the Chicago Symphony; many members of the Chicago Symphony, one of the top orchestras worldwide, are on the faculty of this school.
Historically, Northwestern has been one of the top schools for brass performance. Today, the tradition still stands – alumni of the brass program, as well as the other music departments, at Northwestern hold positions in the world’s top orchestras.
Northwestern offers two initiatives bringing world-famous musicians to campus for artist residencies. In these residencies, students interact with the musicians in class and concert settings.
One such initiative in the Nemmers Prize, a $100,000 award bestowed every other year to a major composer worldwide. Past winners include Pulitzer winning composers Steve Reich, Jennifer Higdon, John Adams, and Aaron Kernis.
Another such initiative is the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize, a $50,000 award given to major classical concert pianists. Past recipients include Murray Perahia and Emanuel Ax.
We note the extraordinary facilities of Northwestern’s music program. The Music Library, founded in 1945, contains 300,000 volumes, including extensive resources for modern music.
In Fall 2015, the school opened the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, an impressive $100,000,000+ building housing a Bienen’s major concerts.
Cleveland Institute of Music (Cleveland, OH)
An institution of tremendous depth, the magic of Cleveland Institute starts at Severance Hall, where the closely affiliated, world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra performs the repertoire’s greatest music.
Like many other independent conservatories (Juilliard, Curtis, NEC), many of the faculty in this orchestra also teach in the Cleveland Institute of
Music, making this conservatory a compelling option for students who wish to receive the highest levels of orchestral training from faculty playing in one of the world’s elite ensembles.
Notably, students who are both musically and academically inclined can fulfill their passions studying at Cleveland Institute. CIM has an arrangement with Case Western Reserve University (US News #42 ranked national university) in which students accepted to both schools can pursue simultaneous degrees.
The atmosphere at Cleveland can only be described as a big family. With less than 500 students in the entire school, the Cleveland Institute’s student body are all deeply connected with the faculty, resulting in a close, 1-on-1 partnership existing between students and mentors.
Alumni of the school have gone into the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and dozens of other professional ensembles worldwide.
In 2016, the school appointed Paul Hogle to the Presidency. He has taken his school on an incredible mission moving forward, pushing to a tuition-free future for its students.
Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA)
Sometimes referred to as the “West Coast Curtis,” Colburn is the smallest independent conservatory in the country with just 110 students in its college program.
Like Curtis, tuition is free for all attending students.
The students at Colburn are among the best in the world. The program is entirely classical, and is only offered to instrumentalists – no vocalists, composers, or jazz majors are at Colburn.
Depending on the year, admission into Colburn is between 5% – 10%, making it just as competitive as Juilliard and Curtis.
Faculty at the school are among the best in the world in their profession.
You can look to just about any instrumental department and find a faculty member who is considered one of the best teachers in the world for what they do – Yehuda Gilad in Clarinet, Andrew Bain in Horn, Lipsett and Steinhardt in the Violin programs, etc.
If a teacher is at Colburn, you better believe they are there for a reason.
You can’t beat the location or price (free) either. Based in Los Angeles, Colburn has the distinct advantage of being right in the center of a major international arts capital.
Many of Colburn’s teachers are in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, providing students a great connection to one of the world’s most important arts organizations. The venue of the Philharmonic itself, the world-famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, is just across the street from Colburn.
Who knew downtown LA has become one of the great arts scenes of the world? Consider it a top choice for yourself if accepted.