New England Conservatory of Music (Boston, MA)

Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory – photo by Augmented4ths via Wikimedia Commons

Most people know NEC because of the world-class orchestral training it provides.

Indeed, this school is one of the best in the world for placement into top orchestras. Alumni of New England Conservatory preside in just about every major orchestra in the country.

Of course, the school’s deep connection to orchestral training begins with its close association with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the most important orchestras throughout the entire world. Many members of the BSO also preside on the faculty here.

But what many do not know is that NEC has perhaps the most impressive jazz performance program in the world.

Legendary saxophonist Michael Brecker was famously asked “how does it feel to be the greatest living jazz saxophonist?”

His response? “Ask Jerry Bergonzi,” one of NEC’s most lauded faculty artists.

Other jazz faculty include Jason Moran, Ethan Iverson (formerly of the Bad Plus), and Miguel Zenon, all legends in contemporary jazz.

Pictured above, Jordan Hall is housed inside New England Conservatory. One of America’s greatest concert venues, it is the only conservatory building in the nation to be labeled as a National Historic Landmark.


New School College of Performing Arts (New York, NY)

The New School – photo by Beyond My Ken via Wikimedia Commons

Housing two of the most important music institutions in the country, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, as well as the Mannes School of Music, the New School’s unique offerings and recent faculty hirings have ascended its stature towards the top.

Richard Kessler is the Executive Dean of the Performing Arts school, encompassing both the New School for Jazz as well as Mannes.

Originally hired to advance the direction of Mannes, we interviewed Richard in late 2014 as he was embarking on making The New School one of the best training centers for professional musicians in the country.

Now in early 2019, Richard has delivered on the promises he would bring to the New School, bringing Mannes downtown to integrate the school with the greater cultural scene of New York.

Additionally, his additions to the school’s faculty mark an important turning point for Mannes’ future. Some of these faculty are members of the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York City Opera, and Metropolitan Opera. Others are some of the most important composers in the country, including recent hires Missy Mazzoli and David T. Little.

The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, the other school besides Mannes in the College of Performing Arts, houses one of the best jazz programs in the country.

Faculty are among New York’s top jazz musicians. These include Andrew Cyrille, legendary avant-garde jazz drummer, and Vic Juris, a seminal jazz guitarist.


Oberlin College-Conservatory of Music (Oberlin, OH)

photo by Decumanus via Wikimedia Commons

The ultimate liberal arts college experience for the full-time music major, what distinguishes Oberlin from other top music schools worldwide is the unusually strong emphasis on the undergraduate experience.

With a small exception, the entire music program is undergraduate at Oberlin.

Why is this advantageous?

This allows for more resources and opportunities for the undergraduate student body, with zero competition stemming from any graduate students for top seats in orchestras, opera productions, and other major performance opportunities.

For the student aspiring to pursue music and a second academic major, few schools are better than Oberlin, which outside of the conservatory is considered a top liberal arts school nationwide.

The campus itself is conducive to the double major; you only have to walk one short block from the conservatory to get to the non-music classes.

Now, let’s talk about the conservatory itself.

One of the most important schools in the country, the school boasts not just an amazing classical music performance program, it also is home to an impeccable jazz performance program.

Only 40 minutes from Cleveland, students are able to get the major city experience while studying in the idyllic setting of Oberlin, OH.

Recently, the composition program at Oberlin has made tremendous strides forward, becoming one of the most desirable places to study at the undergraduate level. After 26 years at USC Thornton, Stephen Hartke became the head of the composition program at Oberlin in 2015. His students are widely considered among the best young composers in the world.