Here Are The 20 Best Colleges & Conservatories for Music In the US

Thornton School of Music (University of Southern California) (Los Angeles, CA)

Photo by Padsquad19 via Wikimedia Commons

USC Thornton is in a class of its own, a music school that seemingly has “it all” – classical music, popular & contemporary styles, and jazz meld into one of the most strikingly impressive & selective programs of any kind in the world.

What makes USC so great is two major things – the people and the artistic diversity.

Let’s start with the people. The faculty in the school are among the most impressive musicians of any kind in the world. In jazz, we see the likes of legendary saxophonist Bob Mintzer, hugely influential jazz Peter Erskine, and pianist Alan Pasqua as just some of the names in their jazz program.

With great faculty comes great students, and the students in the USC jazz program are absolutely phenomenal. Of course, it is one of the most selective of its kind.

The popular music program is unique, as it is one of the few popular music programs in any major music school in the US. Because of the amazing faculty at the school – and its prime location in Los Angeles, one of the centers of popular music in the US – USC is the most selective popular music program in the world with an acceptance rate of less than 7%.

The classical performance and composition programs at the school are also notable – many members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic teach at USC, providing aspiring orchestral performers a bridge between the academic and professional.

Many of the faculty at USC are simply among the best in the country – Ralph Kirshbaum on cello, Rod Gilfry in voice, and Andrew Norman in composition are just some of the people that are well known in the world of classical music as both teachers and musicians.

It perhaps does not need to be spoken, but USC is the ideal school for the student who wishes to have an education inside a major city campus, as the school is based in one of the arts capitals of the world, Los Angeles.

For many, USC is an ideal school, with students surrounded by musicians of all persuasions.

Of course, being that it is so desired, it is among the most difficult to get accepted into as well.

University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (Ann Arbor, MI)

photo by Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan consistently finds itself ranked among the top music schools in the country, and for good reason.

Michigan is well-known for its classical performance and jazz programs, which are among the very best in the world.

However, two programs especially stand out here at this school – the composition and musical theatre programs.

In musical theatre, the school is considered second-to-none, and has the third-highest placement rate into Broadway of all schools in the world.

Alumni of the program are starring in some of the most critically acclaimed shows on Broadway, such as Anastasia, A Bronx Tale, Mean Girls, Wicked, and Waitress, not to mention many others.

Of course, with such prestige comes unbelievable selectivity – the University of Michigan’s musical theatre program accepts less than 7% of all applicants who apply.

The music composition program at Michigan is consistently regarded as among the most outstanding. Faculty member Michael Daugherty is a Grammy-winning composer who came to fame a few decades ago for his Superman-inspired opus Metropolis Symphony.

Bright Sheng, another composition faculty member, was awarded the MacArther Foundation Fellowship in 2001 and is a Pulitzer finalist.

This program too is among the most selective of its kind, as it is regularly ranked among the very best composition programs in the country.

Of course, the classical and jazz performance programs are top notch. Students in all the programs are regularly selected to perform in top orchestras and ensembles throughout the world.

Previous students of the school are now in the LA Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and many other top professional ensembles worldwide.
Notably, the UMich is home to one of the top programs in the world for the integration of technology and music. Known as Performing Arts Technology, the program is a music production degree on artistic steroids.

The city of Ann Arbor itself is a marvel – one of the most beloved college towns, the opportunities for the arts in Ann Arbor are endless. Legendary venues such as the Blind Pig and The Ark serve as cornerstones to the city’s endless array of diverse cultural offerings.

University of North Texas College of Music (Denton, TX)

Photo by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture via Wikimedia Commons

Home to the country’s first jazz program, the University of North Texas consistently ranks among the very best colleges for music in the country.

It is one of the few schools with its own big band ensemble as lauded as that of any professional jazz band.

Indeed, the One O’Clock Lab Band has long been considered one of the foremost pre-professional groups in the country, having been nominated for an astonishing 7 Grammy awards!

Don’t let the excellence of the jazz program overshadow the school’s other fine departments. UNT has a fine classical performance program. Although all of the programs are excellent, the brass and woodwinds program in particular are considered the finest in Texas and among the best throughout the country.

A diversity of genre exists here – 1,000 performances are staged each year at the University of North Texas, including operas, chamber music, chorales, experimental music, and even music of other cultures.

Almost 1 million recordings are available in the school’s music library, as well as 300,000 volumes of books, scores, and other musical documents. The resources the school offers to its students is unparalleled.

For a college town, Denton has a surprising array of live music available. In fact, back in 2008, Denton was named as having one of the best music scenes by Paste Magazine. Their music scene has significantly improved since then, with many new venues opening up their doors for students and professionals alike. Here are some of the venues students perform in at the University of North Texas.


By our estimation, these are the 20 best schools for music in the US.

However, just like any other list, this one is based on expert opinion.

The best school is the school fitting YOU best.

Featured Image by Robert Mintzes via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Tracey Blueman February 1, 2019
  2. A R February 6, 2019

Leave a Reply