3. Berklee College of Music – Boston, MA
Widely considered to be among the three best film scoring programs in the US, along with the next two on this list, the Berklee College of Music has a distinguished history of graduating composers that become exceptionally accomplished as film & television scorers, music editors, music arrangers, and more.
Led by department chair George Clinton, who has gained success scoring the music to over 100 films including Austin Powers, the faculty is second-to-none in terms of accomplishment in the commercial music industry. Other faculty members include Ben Houge, a notable video game music composer, Alison Plante, a composer who has written extensively for television commercials, and Sheldon Mirowitz, who has written scores for Miramax and HBO Films productions.
The approach to teaching film scoring students at the Berklee College of Music is one of collaboration. Assistant Chair of the Film Scoring department at Berklee relays to us this philosophy, according to her biography on the Berklee website:
“Knowing how to collaborate is so important. Music for media—whether it’s games, interactive media, film, or television—doesn’t stand alone; it works with the other elements and that means that you’re working with other people. We promote collaboration in a lot of classes in our department and in extracurricular activities, and we’re continuing to broaden the possibilities for collaboration in the curriculum.”
One of only two schools to offer an undergraduate film scoring degree in the entire United States, the Berklee College of Music is an excellent choice for any aspiring film composer.
2. New York University – New York, NY
One of the best film scoring programs in the entire world, New York University’s film scoring faculty boasts a number of distinguished people exceptionally successful in the commercial music industry, including Composer-In-Residence Ira Newborn, who scored many classic films of the 80s and 90s including Sixteen Candles as well as Ace Ventura Pet Detective.
NYU has a competitive distinction that makes it stand out above the rest of the crowd, which is the Maurice Kanbar Film Institute, a school named after an entrepreneur who donated $5 million to its creation. The Maurice Kanbar Film Institute boasts over 1,000 student filmmakers, students that are constantly collaborating with the musicians in the Scoring for Film & Multimedia program. Having high-level student filmmakers in the school offers opportunities for collaboration that are incredibly valuable to the education of an aspiring film composer.
Students of the school frequently find success in the commercial music industry upon graduation. Various recent alumni accomplishments include winning the Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival, scoring theatrical releases involving high-profile celebrities such as Forrest Whitaker, and providing the soundtrack to films featured in the Sundance Film Festival.
1. University of Southern California Thornton School of Music – Los Angeles, CA
Possibly the most well-known film scoring program in the entire world, the “Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television” faculty at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music is uniquely unparalleled. Some of the faculty members include veteran television scorer Jack Smalley, who has written music for the long-running television drama Murder, She Wrote as well as Charlie’s Angels.
Another faculty member, Bruce Broughton, has received 10 Emmy awards for his work in television, as well as Oscar and Grammy nominations. Composer Christopher Young, composer of the “Spider-Man 3” and “Swordfish” soundtracks, is yet another name that demonstrates the excellence and diversity of faculty at this distinguished film program.
The students at the USC program are exceptionally accomplished for their young age. Many, if not all, have already begun their forays into professional film composition. Some current students’ music has been featured on Nickelodeon and ESPN, while another student has written advertisements for sneaker company New Balance. Several have written music for independent productions that have been viewed millions of times online.
On top of the high quality students and faculty, the location of the school could not be better. Located in the undisputed mecca of film and television production in the entire US, Los Angeles is home to many of the world’s finest film & television studios as well as producers and composers of commercial music. Alumni of USC’s film scoring department frequently enjoy paid opportunities in this lucrative entertainment industry.
This program is one-year Master’s certificate in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television, so a prospective undergraduate composer wishing to pursue a film career may be better off checking out the school’s exceptional undergraduate degree in traditional music composition before applying to this exceptionally competitive program.