Selecting the Best College for Music & Top 10 Music Colleges

Page content

For budding musicians looking to reach their potential, selecting the best college for music is vital. Students at the top schools have access to expert teachers, top-flight facilities, and brilliant classmates to practice with. The best music schools also may present better opportunities for performances, whether in school facilities or on tour.

Different schools may be better for different disciplines, of course. One school may be tops for students interested in voice, while another is best for violinists. Students may also want to perform in a specific location or under a specific teacher, which influences the determination of which school is best.

Additionally, curious students should consider whether they want to go to a music school or a university with a music program. There are good options in both categories; music schools, however, will not offer as many opportunities outside of music as universities do.

The Top 10 Music Schools

  1. The Juilliard School: Quartered in New York City, this school is considered one of the best in the world for music. Many of the most renowned musicians, such as Yo Yo Ma, have trained at Juilliard. About 800 undergraduates attend the school, which is also well known for its programs in dance and drama.
  2. The Eastman School of Music: Eastman is located in Rochester, New York and admits about 260 students each year, of whom about a quarter are foreigners. The school is given the top ranking in many disciplines, such as piano, music education, and composition. It is also renowned in jazz and opera training.
  3. Oberlin Conservatory of Music: This Ohio school is renowned for its broad network of graduated musicians. Students, who must undergo a strenuous audition to be admitted, may also receive a traditional college education from the attached Oberlin College.
  4. Jacobs School of Music: This school is part of Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana. Students may join a large number of choirs, ensembles, and orchestras here.
  5. Lawrence University Conservatory of Music: Part of the elite liberal arts school, Lawrence University, the conservatory is in Appleton, Wisconsin.
  6. New England Conservatory: Located in Boston, Massachusetts, this is the oldest conservatory in the United States.
  7. Mannes College: This school is located in Manhattan and is a part of The New School.
  8. Rice University: The university’s music program is well known, and students are free to study other subjects at Rice (though they may lack time to do so).
  9. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor: This large public school has a highly renowned school of music.
  10. Berklee College of Music: Another Boston school, this music college is most recognized for its instruction in jazz and commercial music, though it also offers many types of contemporary music courses. Berklee is the world’s largest college of contemporary music.

Other Considerations

In selecting the best college for music to apply to, students should be aware of the difficulties of getting into elite music schools. The top schools for music are extremely selective, even more so than the most selective universities. Juilliard, for instance, admits only 5% of applicants; the Eastman School is slightly more lenient, letting in 13% of applicants. In order to be admitted, students must already be phenomenally talented; they shouldn’t expect to go to top music schools to learn how to play.

Students interested in a specific type of music, or who know they want to compose or teach, should research schools’ ratings in their interest.

Please note that this is just a ranking of US music colleges, as there are many top music schools outside of the United States not listed here. This article should give students a good starting point, though it must leave out many other good music schools due to space constraints.


The Best Music Colleges:



Oberlin Conservatory:

Jacobs School of Music:

New England Conservatory:

Mannes College:


So You Want To Be Music Major - One Family’s Experience: