4. Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music – Berea, OH

The Baldwin Wallace Conservatory is a bit of a hidden gem school in the midwest to some musicians. Make no mistake, this school is home to a number of the top programs for music at any college in the US.

For starters, the school has one of the most fantastic Musical Theatre programs in the country. The director of the Musical Theatre department, Victoria Bussert, is one of the most sought-after directors working in academia today. According to this article written a few years ago on Cleveland.com, the program at the school is exceptionally intense (there’s a 7am class called “Ballet Boot Camp”) but rewarding to those who make it through.

As written in Playbill magazine, Baldwin Wallace is one of the 15 colleges whose alumni are most represented on Broadway, the mecca stage for aspiring musical theatre artists. That’s not too surprising to me, considering that every senior from the past seven years in the Musical Theatre program garners professional representation from talent agencies after the program’s annual senior showcase in New York City; it is an incredible statistic.

Outside of the Musical Theatre program, the performance program is excellent at the school.  Several members of the nearby Cleveland Orchestra, one of the top professional orchestras in the country, studied at Baldwin Wallace, including two of the trumpet players in the orchestra.

Since 1932, the school has paid homage to perhaps the greatest composer of all time, JS Bach, with an annual collegiate festival dedicated to his music. Not only do the conservatory’s students perform on this festival, but musicians from all over the college join in as well. Coincidingly, the school also has a dedicated JS Bach facility; known as the Riemenschneider Bach Institute, it is a library housing artifacts, manuscripts, and the like related to JS Bach.

The school has a good relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra; many of the orchestra’s members teach at the school. Although not located in Cleveland itself, Baldwin-Wallace is only 20 minutes away, making the school ideal for any student wishing to leave close to a culturally diverse metropolis.


3. Ithaca College School of Music – New York, NY

Ithaca College

Photo by Barbara Friedman Via Flickr Creative Commons

Housed in what is perhaps the best college town in the entire US, the Ithaca College School of Music is widely considered to be one of the foremost institutions training Music Education majors in the country. The program at the school consistently boasts a 96% professional placement rate for its Music Education graduates finding work, an astonishingly high number held even through the tough economic climates we faced in the past 10 years.

Outside of Music Education, the School of Music has much to offer. The school hosts an impressive facility known as the James J. Whalen Center for Music. This center houses four recording studios, two rehearsal halls, an Apple computer lab, and much more.

The Musical Theatre program at Ithaca is particularly notable. Playbill magazine, a website devoted to musical theatre, listed it among the top 15 colleges for musical theatre in the country, placing it alongside the ranks of New York University & the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Its performance program is certainly exceptional as well. With 15 voice faculty members, the school is noted for the strength of instruction in its Vocal Performance program. Its programs in strings, winds, brass, percussion, and piano are also lauded.

In terms of location, you really can’t find a better college town than Ithaca for musicians. The Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble of classical musicians named after the city’s Cayuga Lake, is a favorite among residents and students alike. The Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, a folk themed festival, is held every 3rd week of July.

Combining a great, lively, and culturally- informed city with a stellar program, musicians should consider themselves lucky to gain acceptance to a school as fine as this one.