What are the Best Colleges to Study Clarinet in the US?

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Studying Clarinet at College

Widely played in both classical and jazz, the clarinet is a popular woodwind musical instrument. Unlike piano, guitar or violin however, clarinet instruction is not widely available. For students seeking a professional music career in an orchestra or other high end setting, finding a top colleges in which to study clarinet lays the groundwork for a successful musical career. You might also want to start your research with a list of the best colleges to study music.

In selecting a college, students should consider both the quality of the music department in general, and whether or not the college has particular expertise in clarinet performance and study. Participating in a well-known music program also presents students with the opportunity to meet famous performers and instructors.

What Should Clarinet Students Look For In a College?

After finding a reputable and well-resourced college program, students need to research whether the department has particular expertise in the art of clarinet performance. Many colleges have annual performances and events where they showcase their outstanding students and faculty. Do you see any clarinetists featured in these events? Are any noteworthy clarinetists or adjunct professors from local music organizations or orchestras currently visiting or teaching at the school? Beyond performance considerations, you can also consider whether or not the department has a rich collection of clarinet library resources. A rich collection of clarinet resources also provides the opportunity to rediscover lost classics.

Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

The Bienen School has three clarinet instructors with varied professional experience. Student auditions may be completed in person by CD or DVD recording. Students have the option to study abroad in France, the UK and other countries to further develop their knowledge. Tuition fees are approximately $41,983 per year. Northwestern offers Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees as well as performance certificates.

The Bienen School is affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where a number of instructors and students have performed. In addition to studio classes, The Bienen School provides instruction in the Alexander technique and other non-traditional methods. Guest master classes in clarinet have recently been taught by Eddie Daniels and Karl Leister.

Music groups and activities available to students include a variety of ensembles and chamber groups. Students may also choose to study abroad in Paris, Vienna, Oxford and institutions outside Europe. These study abroad programs offer instruction in both English and the local language.

University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)

This program allows students to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Clarinet and provides them with the opportunity to develop skills in different musical styles such as jazz and classical, including orchestral works. In addition to music theory, Cincinnati provides private clarinet lessons to students. Tuition and fees for Ohio residents in an undergraduate program are $25,816; non-Ohio residents have to pay higher fees.

James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)

This university has a clarinet studio and widely recognized professor in clarinet, Dr. Janice L. Minor. Students are required to audition by playing two selections of classical music. In addition to SAT scores and GPA, applicants are required to submit a full resume describing their music education and experience. Undergraduate tuition and fees for Virginia residents are $9,176 per year.

For students interested in deepening their musical knowledge, the JMU School of Music offers courses in ethnomusicology, the music industry, music education and theory. The school has two main facilities available for performances: the two-hundred seat Anthony-Seeger Hall and the Wilson Hall Auditorium, which seats over one thousand people.

New England Conservatory (Boston, MA)

With four dedicated clarinet instructors, NEC provides significant expertise in clarinet studies. Thomas Martin, Craig Nordstrom, Richard Stoltzman and Michael Wayne are the current clarinet faculty members; three of which also perform for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The admissions process requires letters of recommendation (one for music specifically and one for academics), a resume stating music background, and a solo recording in some cases. Full-time tuition fees are $39,500 per year.

Most of the Conservatory’s financial aid and scholarship programs are targeted to students with financial need. There are several merit-based awards available including the NEC/From the Top! Scholarship which provides a minimum of $7,500 to admitted students who have performed on the From The Top! Program. Other scholarships offered by the Conservatory require students to apply for FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Additionally, there are several music scholarships available to choose from.

In addition to the usual student music groups, NEC offers a rich variety of student clubs and courses. Students can write for the student newspaper, The Penguin, help the needy through the Musicians for Humanity organization and develop leadership skills in the Student Senate. Specialized courses offered include Liberal Arts, Historical Performance, and Entrepreneurial Musicianship.

Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

The Institute provides a conservatory experience to students and has two instructors in clarinet performance; Steven Barta and Anthony McGill. Auditions are generally ten to fifteen minutes in length and the emphasis is on classical music. Full-time undergraduates pay $39,796 per year in tuition and fees at the Peabody Institute.

Clarinet students at the Peabody can play in both general and specialized ensembles. The Peabody Jazz Orchestra and the Peabody Wind Ensemble both provide opportunities for clarinetists to develop their skills in classical and jazz music. Peabody is also known for its Early Music programs for students interested in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. For students without an instrument, the Institute has instruments available for rent.

Once you know where you want to apply, you can take the next step in your application process; preparing for the inevitable audition.

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