Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the New England Conservatory is one of the most storied music schools in the entire world. A five-minute walk away from Symphony Hall, home to one of the world’s greatest orchestras in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, students at this school are provided a unique opportunity to immerse themselves within the musical culture of a historic city.
The New England Conservatory is among the nation’s oldest active music schools – it’s founder, a music school entrepreneur named Robert Tourjee, tried to open it in 1853 to no avail. He persisted, however, after opening up several music schools in Rhode Island, and tried again to open NEC in 1866. The second time, he was successful.
NEC, as it is commonly abbreviated, is home to one of the most distinguished concert halls in all of America, Jordan Hall. Jordan Hall is a 1,000+ seat concert hall, and is widely considered to be among the most technically perfect concert halls worldwide in terms of acoustic engineering. Jordan Hall is home to 650+ student performances per year (so in a given two-semester school year, that’s nearly three performances a day). An NPR staple From the Top, a radio show featuring the talents of young prodigy musicians, takes place in Jordan Hall.
Many famous, diverse musicians have once called New England Conservatory their home; perhaps you are familiar with percussionist Vic Firth, whose line of drumsticks have become the standard among percussionists. Or maybe jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, a domineering pioneer of the free jazz movement. More alumni are mentioned later in this article.
I too have a personal connection with NEC, as it is where I went to pre-college to study music composition. I currently live within a 10 minute drive of the school as well.
The acceptance rate at the New England Conservatory in 2013 was 28%. To give you an idea of how selective that is, approximately 2 out of every 7 students who apply will get into the New England Conservatory.
On the selectivity scale of music schools in the US, 28% is definitely among the most selective. However, some music schools have lower acceptance rates, including Curtis, Juilliard, Colburn, Northwestern Bienen School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, among others.
Keep in mind that the acceptance rate at the New England Conservatory is not the same every single year – however, I haven’t seen a figure over 30% for any given school year.
The tuition at the New England Conservatory for the 2014-2015 school year for a full-time Bachelor’s in Music is $40,950. A full-time graduate diploma costs $37,450. You can see all of the tuition figures on the New England Conservatory website.
In order to ease the burden of college tuition, NEC does offer students the ability to go part-time at the school. Part-time tuition is significantly less expensive than full-time tuition.
Requirements & Audition Tips
At the New England Conservatory, almost every applicant will have to provide an in-person audition or audition + interview of some kind.
Video auditions are accepted in some programs at the New England Conservatory, and while taking the video audition is a good idea for musicians who cannot make travel plans to Boston, I cannot recommend this for most musicians.
When you show up in person, you are showing a true commitment to your audition and performance. You are telling the school that you are serious about coming, and that you are willing to take the time to come to the school to meet with the faculty, to get a feeling for the school. You are also demonstrating more thorough commitment than those who audition by video.
This advice goes for any school. Unless the school specifically asks for an audition of your repertoire via video, it is best to do whatever you can to go to the school itself.
The New England Conservatory is among a class of music colleges that has consistently produced outstanding alumni in the fields of classical and jazz performance & composition.
I previously mentioned Vic Firth and Cecil Taylor in this article, two outstanding alumni. Other outstanding alumni include Roberto Diaz, violist and faculty member of one of the most outstanding viola programs in the world, Denyce Graves, famed american opera singer, Fred Hersch, lauded jazz pianist, Dave Holland, jazz bassist, and composer Michael Gandolfi.
For a good introduction to the most successful alumni of the New England Conservatory, check out this Wikipedia article here.
Faculty at the New England Conservatory are among the most outstanding performing professionals in the entire world. Most faculty members at the school either perform regularly with the nearby Boston Symphony Orchestra or have embarked on important careers as chamber musicians and soloists.
One of the most important aspects of going to a music school is finding excellent teachers to study with. You could certainly find many at this school.
Is NEC right for me?
That depends on what you want to accomplish in your music career.
As far as jazz programs go, the one at New England Conservatory is truly second-to-none. The players at NEC are consistently among the best in their country. Even incoming freshmen can wow a trained jazz musician ear – students who graduate from the program frequently make their mark in the jazz landscape of America.
So many remarkable jazz figures, including Cecil Taylor, Don Byron, Marty Ehrlich, John Medeski, Dave Holland, Fred Hersch, John Clark, and Marilyn Crispell studied at NEC.
The school is also among the best for those wish to pursue studies in classical performance on any instrument.
If you want to double-major in something outside of music, NEC is probably not the right school for you, unless you enroll in the 5-year double-degree program with Tufts or Harvard University.
These five-year programs are among the most competitive of any program in any field to get accepted into in the country – if you are both musically and academically accomplished enough to get into both NEC and Tufts/Harvard, and would like to pursue a major outside of music, then this degree path could be ideal for you.
Be sure to visit the school to see if it is a good fit for you.
Featured Image by Crypic C62 Via Wikimedia Commons