The Top 10 Colleges for Jazz, Rock, and Popular Music Performance

10. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music – Bloomington, IN

Notable Faculty: David Baker, Steve Zegree

A top school for jazz performance, the faculty at IU represent many of the most important jazz musicians working in America today, including Steve Zegree, who is internationally known as the authority on jazz vocal conducting, as well as the legendary jazz symphonic composer and educator David Baker, who has taught the likes of Michael Brecker and Peter Erskine. The jazz bands at IU are among the very best in the entire midwest in and out of academia – as such, it is one of the most prestigious and selective jazz programs in the nation.


9. Los Angeles College of Music – Los Angeles, CA

It has been said that, for popular music, the top three destinations in the country are Nashville, New York City, and most certainly, Los Angeles. Los Angeles is to commercial and popular music what musical theatre is to Broadway and New York City: having an education at one of the most eminent popular music colleges under the guidance of well-connected, experienced, successful faculty members makes this school of the best choices for the aspiring young popular music songwriter or instrumentalist. A number of notable names of popular and fusion music genres have presented guest classes at the Los Angeles College of Music, including Victor Wooten and the grammy-winning bassist John Patitucci. Some notable students have included Debi Nova, who has performed with the Black Eyed Peas, and Mark Salling, a cast member on the hit show Glee.


8. Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance – Philadelphia, PA

Temple University’s jazz program is an exclusively undergraduate degree program, where students can choose from a degree in jazz instrumental performance, jazz vocal performance, or jazz composition. Students of this program have gone on to positions in big bands, solo careers, and even as eminent composers of film scores. In addition to three main jazz ensembles that the school puts together, students are allowed the opportunity to form smaller “jazz combo” ensembles amongst themselves and perform throughout the school and even in various opportunities throughout the city. Faculty include many of the most important names in jazz today, including Dick Oatts, a renowned jazz saxophonist and educator, as well as trumpeter Terrell Stafford, who legendary pianist McCoy Tyner has declared as “one of the great players of our time.”


7. Western Michigan University School of Music – Kalamazoo, MI

western michigan university photo
Photo by aislinn2000

Since the 80s, Western Michigan University has been one of the premiere colleges for jazz. With an astonishing 100+ nationally recognized awards garnered since 1984, WMU has been consistently cited by DownBeat Magazine, the premiere jazz publication, as one of the most innovative colleges for jazz in the entire US. With a state-of-the-art recording studio on campus, as well as a partnership with a major downtown jazz club in the city of Kalamazoo (called “The Union”), students are never missing opportunities to perform at the highest level in a variety of settings. Recent guest artists that have worked with the students include Fred Hersch, Kenny Garrett, Wynton Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, and dozens of others.

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