Although we all might be home because of a pandemic, getting back on the search for the best colleges has certainly not ended.
Today, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite topics – amazing music schools & programs that, for some reason or another, may get overlooked in national rankings lists.
These are schools with amazing faculty, incredible resources, and alumni who have accomplished a tremendous amount in music.
These are schools that may fit some particular students better than perhaps a “brand name” music school.
Why these schools? Many of them have unique, niche programs only available in a handful of schools, such as contemporary music, or perhaps they are in environments that are more conducive to some students, like liberal arts colleges.
Most importantly, these are schools that simply offer some of the best opportunities at the collegiate level for a musician.
So what are these hidden gem music schools? Here is our pick for 2020’s top 10 hidden gem music schools in the US.
William Paterson University (Wayne, NJ)
Our list starts off with a hidden gem university just 30 minutes outside of New York City in William Paterson University.
As the students fondly call it, “Willy P” has some extraordinary programs in music.
In particular, William Paterson may very well be the best hidden gem jazz program in the country. Faculty include Bill Charlap, an internationally distinguished jazz pianist and head of their program.
Because of William Paterson’s proximity to NYC, jazz students – and even other music students – get regular access to big city musical opportunities.
Another interesting program at William Paterson is Sound Engineering Arts. Designed for the aspiring professional music producer, this major helps prepare students for a career in audio engineering. William Paterson, like a few other schools on this list, is also among the few schools in the country with a Popular Music Performance program.
Illinois Wesleyan School of Music (Bloomington, IL)
Illinois Wesleyan is one of two schools on today’s list that is distinct for a specific reason; it is a liberal arts college housing a dedicated school of music.
The advantages of a liberal arts education can be many for the right student. A liberal arts college is smaller than a major university, meaning students will have less of a chance of feeling like they are “lost in a crowd.”
Additionally, most liberal arts colleges – including Illinois Wesleyan – are exclusively undergraduate. This ensures all student resources are pooled towards freshmen through seniors, which is often in contrast to major research universities who pool the majority of resources towards graduate and doctoral students.
Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Music is among the oldest in the nation at 150 years of age! Many of their students go on to study at “brand name” graduate programs, including Eastman, Michigan, Northwestern, Rice, USC Thornton, and many more.
For the aspiring professional classical musician, Illinois Wesleyan is a good choice for the undergraduate student who wants a solid foundation in music at a liberal arts college intending to ultimately pursue a graduate degree.
Michigan State University College of Music (East Lansing, MI)
A true hidden gem, MSU’s College of Music is a distinguished program & one of the midwest’s best music schools.
Perhaps their most well-known faculty member is double bassist Rodney Whitaker. A legendary jazz musician, he has collaborated with some of history’s most important musicians, including Jimmy Heath, Diana Krall, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Chick Corea, and countless others.
MSU represents a unique opportunity for a student to get the best of a conservatory education with a Big 10 college experience; MSU is complete with sports, Greek life, and everything else that makes a large university the experience it is.
One unique initiative the school has championed is the Young Women Scholars Program. Created by music faculty member Sandra Snow, this initiative promotes equality for women interested in choral music through a 5-day intensive summer program.
The school is also making big changes to their facilities. The new Billman Music Pavilion – pictured above – at MSU adds 40% more space for students, including major new rehearsal halls.