University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance: Ranking, Acceptance Rate, Tuition, and More


The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is widely considered the best school for a number of majors, including musical theatre and classical saxophone; however, the school offers more than just classical music performance and boasts a state-of-the-art music production facility.

With alumni like Madonna, Darren Criss, and Iggy Pop, the school is known for sending its students on to lucrative positions in the professional music world. Further, for those music students looking to round out their academic education, the University of Michigan offers a strong background in traditional academics set in Ann Arbor, MI, an intelligent, liberal arts community.

The school is also well-funded and awards more than $3 million annually in scholarships for undergraduates. The scholarships are “merit-based, need-informed,” meaning they reward artistic and academic excellence while also considering a student’s complete financial resources. To apply for scholarships, you must complete an FAFSA application, which you can find here and a CSS/Financial Aid Profile to apply for scholarships from the U-M School of Music, which you can find here.

University of Michigan School of Music
Photo by MLibrary via Flickr Creative Commons

The U-M School of Music was founded in 1880 and continues its tradition as one of the finest performing arts schools in the United States. Indeed, the school’s performance calendar features over 450 performances a year; however, in addition to the performance calendar, there are also many additional opportunities to participate is solo and small ensemble performances and various other ensembles in early music, electronic music, contemporary classical music, jazz and improvisation, and many eclectic styles of music such as Klezmer, mariachi, Japanese music, and Javanese gamelan.

In short, if you are looking for a music school with a depth of performance opportunities, you should certainly put the U-M School of Music at the top of your list.

Keep in mind, while your first impression of the University of Michigan as a very large institution is certainly correct, the School of Music is on the smaller side with 1,100 students and 150 faculty members (which, by the way, makes the student to teacher ratio approximately 7:1).

At Music School Central, we regard the U-M School of Music very highly and place the school at #4 in our 2014 list of the top 15 music schools.

Acceptance Rate

Although the U-M School of Music is certainly selective, the acceptance rate was 26% in 2015 according to U.S. News, which puts the school slightly more in reach compared to a school like the Curtis Institute of Music with acceptance rates typically below 5%.

The U-M School of Music lists the average academic standards of accepted students as follows: Average GPA 3.67, 4.0 GPA – 8.6%, Average SAT score 1945 (Critical Reading + Math + Writing), Average ACT score 29.

As with all applications to music school, keep in mind sometimes the numbers just don’t work to your advantage. For example, teachers can only take on a certain number of students for a given instrument each year. In these cases, musicians who apply for maxed-out studios are usually refunded their application fee and told no one who plays their instrument will be accepted that particular year.

Tuition & Fees

Because the U-M School of Music is a state university, the tuition varies for Michigan residents and non-residents. To further complicate the tuition structure, the cost varies by year.

For residents, undergraduate tuition is $14,402 for freshman and sophomore year, which then rises during junior and senior year to $16,218 per year. For non-residents, freshman and sophomore tuition is $45,410 per year and $48,589 for junior and senior year. Graduate tuition is $14,676 for residents and $43,674 for non-residents.

Further, book and personal expense are estimated by the school at around $3,500 per year.

You can find a helpful break down of the school’s expenses here.

For all classes from freshman to graduate regardless of resident status, the university estimates the cost of living at $10,872 per year for students living on and off campus; however, estimates can be misleading.

The cost of living off campus will vary based on your living arrangement, choice of neighborhood, and other living expenses. For on-campus students, the estimated cost of room and board of $10,872 is a bit misleading. The estimated amount is based on the basic meal plan and the level 4 residence hall type. For example, level 4 means shared rooms often with a shared bathroom. If, however, you choose a higher room type and an unlimited meal plan, the cost can be as high as $14,659 per year.

For non-residents wishing to attend U-M School of Music, the price is steep. Please keep in mind, unlike some school that offer loop-holes such as residency status for tuition purposes, the University of Michigan is not one of them. To gain in-state residency, you must meet the state’s rigorous requirements and prove you are a permanent resident of the state. For example, if you are under 24 and your parents or parent lives outside of Michigan, you are ineligible to apply for in-state tuition.

For those wishing to pursue in-state tuition, you can find all the requirements here.

Requirements and Admissions Tips

At the U-M School of Music, pre-screening materials are required for Dance, Clarinet, Flute, Musical Theatre, Piano, Percussion, and Trumpet. To upload your material, you must create a DecisionDesk Profile.

The profile includes a recent photograph of you, your repertoire list (required for instrumental and vocal music programs only, including a complete list of your solo and chamber music repertoire), audition/interview date preferences, contact information for recommender(s), and the pre-screening recordings, portfolio, video interview, studio teacher preference, and/or writing samples required by your Department.

Please note: The U-M School of Music requires undergraduate students to submit ACT and/or SAT scores.

More advanced degrees at the U-M School of Music have additional application requirements.

You can find more information about the SMTD Graduate Admissions here and Rackham Graduate Admissions here.

If you are invited to audition at the U-M School of Music, you should become familiar with the requirements of each department as they all vary.

You can find audition / interview information for each department here.

If you are accepted to audition at the U-M School of Music, I would recommend you schedule a lesson with a faculty member in the department you are interested in enrolling into at the U-M School of Music prior to your audition. Knowing how a specific teacher works with you is critical for determining if a school is a good fit. Also, if they like you and your playing in your lesson together, your chance for getting in might be higher. Keep in mind this is only a recommendation and not a fact in every instance.

Notable Alumni

The U-M School of Music has impressive alumni and is known for sending its students to lucrative professional music careers throughout the world. From top pop singers like Madonna to talented conductors like Rico Saccani, the U-M School of Music has a proven track record preparing its students for the music industry.

For a good list of alumni, scroll down to the music section on this Wikipedia page.


The extraordinary faculty at the U-M School of music includes musicians currently active on the international stage; former members of symphony orchestras, opera houses, and dance and theatre companies; prize-winning composers; and renowned scholars in theory and musicology. Among its faculty is the most popular cello teacher in the nation, Richard Aaron, Grammy-Award winning composer Michael Daugherty, and recently appointed saxophone professor Timothy McAllister, a man who has held a dramatic influence over the state of classical saxophone in the last 10 years.

You can browse the faculty at the U-M School of Music here.

Similar Schools & Ranking

A school similar to the U-M School of Music would be a university-based music school known for sending its students on to successful careers in music. My picks for schools similar to the U-M School of Music in the US would be Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

At Music School Central, we rank the U-M School of Music highly. Overall, we have chosen the school as our number four pick in our 2014 list of the top 15 schools.

One Response

  1. Rhonda Chase March 27, 2018

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