7. James Madison University School of Music (Harrisonburg, VA)

The JMU School of Music is an intriguing school that has some very distinct offerings. One of them is a Bachelor’s in Music Industry, a degree that should be offered at more colleges of music.

The JMU Music Industry degree is essentially a music business & entrepreneurship degree that can prepare students for a number of music business positions, including those in artist management, booking, agency, labels, studios, television, and publishing. Who knew so many positions could be available for someone with a savvy for the music business?

Additionally, the school is home to an astounding $82 million dollar performing arts center known as the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts.

The Forbes Center at JMU is a cultural epicenter of Virginia; dance companies, jazz festivals, the university’s wind & orchestra ensembles, art shows, and so much more are housed in this very special performing arts mecca at JMU.

The school, interestingly enough, also has one of the most distinguished brass bands in the country, known as the JMU Brass Band. The group has a very active calendar of performances on and off campus every single year. Additionally, the band has received several high nods and honors in the North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) competitions.

Overall, the JMU School of Music is very competitive, a true hidden gem located in Virginia’s historic Shenandoah Valley.


6. Western Michigan University School of Music (Kalamazoo, MI)

photo by Joe Ross Via Flickr Creative Commons

Western Michigan University’s School of Music is a certain hidden gem tucked away in suburban Michigan. The state’s flagship college campus, the University of Michigan, has an active and well-known school of music that may sometimes overshadow the accomplishments of this fine institution.

First of all, let’s set the record straight – the jazz program at Western Michigan University is among the finest in the country. Since 1984, the program has won over 100 Downbeat Magazine awards, making it among the finest in the country. Additionally, the jazz department makes a concerted effort to bring in guest artists of the highest level for residencies, classes, and clinics.

In recent years, these people have included jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, trumpeter and bandleader Wynton Marsalis, jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin, pianist Kenny Werner, among many others.

The school additionally has an impressive recording facility known as Western Sound Studios, taken after the name of its parent institution. Recordings produced in these studios have won awards from the Audio Engineering Society, a prestigious organization advancing the professions of acousticians, audiologists, and recording arts teachers.

The performance program outside of the recording facility and in jazz performance is also excellent. According to the school on their profile @ MajoringInMusic.com, the acceptance rate at the school is only 25%, making it one of the most competitive music state music schools in the entire country.

I have personally worked with WMU students while I was studying at the nearby University of Michigan a few years back – I can say the talent level at WMU is remarkably high.


5. Boston University School of Music (Boston, MA)

photo by Henry Zbyszynski via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s difficult for me to call Boston University a “hidden gem,” as it is one of the most well-known and distinguished private universities in the entire world.

That said, I only call its School of Music a “hidden gem” because the school is sometimes overshadowed by many other excellent music conservatories located in the same city, including New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, and Longy School of Music of Bard College.

BU’s School of Music has some of the most extraordinary faculty out of any music school in the entire country. Many of the performance faculty hold concurrent positions as members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the world’s foremost symphonic orchestras. Many of the faculty who teach at other major music schools in the city, like NEC, also teach at Boston University.

Of course, the location of BU is difficult to beat. If you are a classical musician, the offerings the city of Boston can provide for your education as a musician are innumerable.

Many students and alumni of the BU School of Music participate in area ensembles, including the prestigious Handel & Haydn Society, the Boston Lyric Opera, the Boston Chamber Music Society, and the widely loved Boston Pops orchestra.

If you are considering attending college for music at any of the major Boston area music schools, certainly consider the fine School of Music at BU.