Manhattan School of Music: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, Tuition, and More

The Manhattan School of Music (MSM), located in New York City, is deeply committed to classical and contemporary music and boasts top programs in strings, woodwinds, piano, percussion, and composition.

The school takes full advantage of New York City’s abundant learning and performance opportunities to prepare and propel its students to successful music careers.

Further, MSM is home to a one-of-a-kind contemporary music performance department that trains students in the new modern tradition of the Kronos Quartet and Bang On a Can rather than Beethoven or Brahms.

Recently, the Manhattan School of Music also deepened the breadth of its programs and now offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Musical Theater.

Manhattan School of Music – photo by DannyDaWriter via Wikimedia Commons

All students accepted to the Manhattan School of Music are automatically reviewed for MSM Scholarships and approximately 50% of full-time enrolled students receive funding through the school. Scholarship amounts vary from $5,000 to full tuition.

You can find a detailed and helpful list of all types of aid available to you at MSM here.

The Manhattan School of Music was founded in 1917 by Janet D. Schenck under the motto from Virgil’s Aeneid: “Macte Virtute, sic itur ad Astra”, meaning “Those who excel, thus reach the stars.”

The school was originally called the Neighborhood Music School and brought high-quality music training to immigrant communities in New York City.

Under the current direction of Dr. James Gandre, the school continues Janet Schenck’s mission and is now home to approximately 900 students from 40 countries; all training to become tomorrow’s leaders in the arts.

Although there are many reasons to put the Manhattan School at the top of your list, here are a few more: the school is entirely devoted to music; the faculty come from New York’s leading performing institutions such as the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera; and the school offers 700 performance opportunities per year including fully-staged operas, orchestral concerts, student and faculty recitals, master classes, jazz concerts on-site and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Talk about some convincing details!

Acceptance Rate

The acceptance rate at the Manhattan School of Music is approximately 45%, which certainly makes the school easier to get into compared to most of the schools on our top 15 list.

As with all applications to music school, 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 tuition cost of attending the Manhattan School of Music is $44,100 for the 2016-17 academic year. All freshman and sophomores are, in most cases, required to live on campus. Room and board is $12,500, which is extremely reasonable given it would be nearly impossible to live and eat in NYC for less.

The cost of room and board is based on the bronze meal plan and a double room; more expensive meal plan options are available (note: the MSM meal plans are deduction based, meaning if you spend more than you have in your account, $2,575 for the bronze plan, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket).

There is also a mandatory health insurance fee of $2,573. You can apply to have the school’s health insurance plan waived if you meet the minimum essential coverage established by the U.S. Affordable Care Act (which may, or may not be in effect when you enroll).

Other approximate costs listed by the school are books ($1,000), transportation ($1,600), and personal expenses ($3,000) for a total of $5,600. You can find a helpful breakdown of the cost of attending the Manhattan School of Music here.

If you need financial help to pay for MSM, we recommend you apply for support through FAFSA to maximize your chances for funding your education.

Requirements and Admissions Tips

The Manhattan School of Music offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in the following departments: Accompanying, Brass, Chamber Music, Composition, Conducting, Contemporary Performance, Guitar, Humanities, Jazz Arts, Keyboard Skills, Music Education & Performance Dual Degree, Music Entrepreneurship, Music History, Musical Theatre, Opera Studies, Orchestral Performance Program, Organ, Percussion, Piano, Pinchas Zukerman Performance Program, Strings & Harp, Theory & Skills, Voice, and Woodwinds.

You can learn more about each department by clicking on their respective links above.

The deadline for the Manhattan School of Music application is December 1st. Required materials include the online application, prescreen videos (you can find prescreening requirements for your instruments by clicking here), transcripts, GPA, recommendation letters (due January 15th), your resume or CV, an essay question, and an optional ZeeMee Profile (which you fill out and link in your application).

You can find a complete checklist of undergraduate and graduate application materials for the Manhattan School of Music here.

If you are accepted to audition at the Manhattan School, I would recommend you schedule a lesson with a faculty member in the department you are interested in enrolling into at the Manhattan School of Music 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

Notable Alumni

Alumni of the Manhattan School of Music are active in every corner of contemporary musical life from classical artists to music entrepreneurs.

A very partial list of alumni include: composer and pianist Michael Kevin Daugherty, one of the most widely performed American concert music composers; American composer of film scores Elliot Goldenthal, who received an Academy Award in 2002 for Best Original Score for his work on the film Frida; and entrepreneur, producer, musician, and recording engineer Larry Rosen (May 25, 1940 – October 9, 2015), who formed GRP Records, recognized as Billboard magazine’s #1 Contemporary Jazz label for five consecutive years with artists nominated for more than 80 Grammy Awards. 

You can find a list of notable MSM alumni here.


With faculty coming from New York’s leading performing institutions, the Manhattan School of Music has world-class musicians and teachers including: internationally acclaimed clarinetist David Krakauer, one of the world’s leading exponents of Eastern European Jewish klezmer music; the Pinchas Zukerman Performance Program lead by internationally acclaimed violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman (he accepts a limited number of exceptionally gifted violinists and violists as private students each year); and American operatic soprano Catherine Malfitano, best known for her title role in Tosca, which won her an Emmy Award in 1992.

You can find a full list of active faculty at the Manhattan School and their bios to help you find the right teacher for you here.

Similar Schools & Ranking

Schools similar to the Manhattan School of Music would be dedicated to musical studies and include an active faculty at leading performance institutions. My picks for school similar to the Manhattan School include Juilliard, New England Conservatory

At Music School Central, we ranked the Manhattan School of Music at number 13 on our list back in our 2014 list of the top music schools. Always keep in mind our rankings are subjective and the right school for you should also be based on your connection to a faculty member. At Music School Central, we can certainly help navigate the process of music school applications to maximize your success.

One Response

  1. Kayla Hedrick December 18, 2019

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