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10 Most Prestigious Music Schools in the World

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“Music is the universal language of mankind.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 


If you’re a student who wants to take your talents to different heights, there are numerous conservatories of music that you can choose from. A music degree – which usually lasts for four or more years depending on the school – can open many doors for you after college, and if you want to pursue that path, all you need is the right music school for you! 

When researching the best music schools in the country, many hopeful music majors are faced with the high tuition and low acceptance rates of major music conservatories like Juilliard without realizing that there are a plethora of accessible and cheap colleges with good music programs.

Students with a passion for music must decide whether they want to devote their lives to music and thus attend a college dedicated to training musicians, namely, a conservatory. In choosing a conservatory, music students seek a program that will provide them with the skills and opportunities needed for them to grow and flourish as artists. At the same time, they want a program that prepares them in a practical way for a career in the music world.

The following is a list of 10 schools worldwide that arguably are the most prestigious institutions to study music, offering the finest in musical education.


1. Juilliard School

Photo credit from The Juilliard School Official Website (www.juilliard.edu) 


Juilliard, founded in 1905 and located in Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, is one of the most widely recognized names in higher music education both in the United States and worldwide. Both competitive and diverse, with an acceptance rate of just under 7 percent (6.7 percent).  Admission is highly competitive and requires a live audition. Each year, only about five percent of vocalists and 16 percent of instrumental musicians are accepted.

Juilliard boasts of very gifted, motivated and high achieving artists, comprising a student body of around 600 from forty different countries. With a student to faculty ratio of 3 to 1, each student musician has direct access to faculty musicians and instructors. First-year students are required to live in student housing, almost all of which is ideally located around the Lincoln Center area. 

Juilliard also confers several degrees. On the undergraduate level Julliard offers either a Bachelor of Music or Diploma program. Graduate degrees offered are Master of Music, Graduate Diploma, Artist Diploma, and Doctor of Music. Yo Yo Ma and Bernard Herrmann are two examples of a long list of illustrious alumni. 


2. Curtis Institute of Music

Photo credit from the Curtis Institute of Music Official Website (www.curtis.edu)


Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and founded in 1924, Curtis Institute of Music is one of most prestigious places to study music. Its alumni include musicians such as Leonard Bernstein and Lang Lang. One of the most highly competitive music schools, accepting below 5 percent of applicants, a small student body (165 students) have the opportunity to work closely with Curtis’ decorated faculty (99 faculty members), linking students to past great masters. Although admission is difficult to secure, Curtis is uncommon in that tuition is always completely free of charge. 

The rigorous music education students receive at Curtis is seemingly successful at propelling students into musical careers. Students can participate in any of the four campus ensembles, all of which are led by an elite faculty.

Curtis offers several programs of study: the Diploma for post-secondary-school students; the Bachelor of Music, which takes 3 to 5 years; the Professional Studies Certificate; and post-baccalaureate Diploma and Master of Music tracks, which may be completed in 2 to 3 years.


3. Berklee College of Music

Photo credit from the Berklee College of Music Official Website (www.berklee.edu)


Founded in 1945, Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts, is said to be renowned equally for its distinctive philosophy of music as for the College’s striking success. Berklee is a distinctively contemporary music school. Its philosophy holds that music can be best taught through the music of the time. This approach, marrying surrounding culture with musical composition and expression has resulted in alumni winning more than 250 Grammys and, for example, Howard Shore, multiple Oscars.

Although larger than many of the other schools present in this list with a 606 faculty and almost 4200 students, and accepting a higher percentage of applicants than most of the other finest music schools (35% acceptance rate), this seems to have in no way diminished Berklee’s prestige and its draw. 

Berklee offers both undergraduate and graduate programs with a wide diversity of subjects. It also provides accessibility to non-traditional students through a well-developed online program, which allows students to earn a degree or a certificate in music at a distance.

The College's long list of successful alumni include composer/producer extraordinaire Quincy Jones, jazz-pianist legend Keith Jarrett, film composer Howard Shore, and countless Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winners.


4. The Royal Academy of Music

Photo credit from the Royal Academy of Music Official Website (www.ram.ac.uk)


The Royal Academy of Music, Britain’s oldest music conservatoire, is located in London, England. It is one of the finest places to study music in England. Founded in 1822 and now a constituent college of the University of London, the Royal Academy has an almost 2 to 1 student to faculty (684 students and 380 faculty) ratio, guaranteeing that students receive close faculty attention and instruction. 

The Royal Academy of Music has provided training for both popular and classical musicians. Its former students include the conductor, Sir Simon Rattle as well as Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox. The Royal Academy of Music also serves as a link to music’s tradition. Its museum collection includes instruments by Stradivari and the Amati family as well as manuscripts by Purcell, Handel and Vaughn Williams. The Royal Academy offers instruction from childhood through the doctoral level in both performance and research tracks.

5. New England Conservatory of Music

Photo credit from the New England Conservatory of Music (www.necmusic.edu)


The oldest independent school of music in the U.S., the New England Conservatory (NEC) was founded in 1867 in Boston and has played a major historical part in the musical life of the world. It is the only music conservatory named as a National Historic Landmark. 

The Conservatory is also home to the 1,013-seat Jordan Hall, a National Historic Landmark and “one of the world's most acoustically-perfect performance spaces.”

It consists of 750 students with a student to faculty ratio of 5 to 1 and an acceptance rate of 28%. NEC also offers a unique 5 year program together with Harvard University, conferring upon students degrees from two of the finest institutes in the nation. It also offers degrees up to the doctoral level. 

The Conservatory has recently received positive press for its newest program, Entrepreneurial Musicianship, which is designed to assist students in establishing successful careers in the music industry.

6. Yale School of Music

Photo credit from Yale School of Music (www.music.yale.edu)


Yale School of Music is unique among Ivy Leagues Schools, having the only school dedicated to Music. The School of Music, developing out of the 1889 established Yale Department of Music, received a dean of the School of Music in 1904. And, in 1958, the Yale School of Music became a graduate professional school, requiring a BA and conferring only the Master of Music degree. In 2005, a 100 million dollar gift enabled the Music School to offer tuition to its students, to update all of its music buildings and provide new instruments and venues for the students and faculty. Like each of the schools on our list, admission is very competitive. Only 8-10% of applicants are accepted to join the approximately 200 students that comprise the Yale School of Music student body. As a graduate professional school, Master of Music, Master of Music Arts and Doctor Music Arts programs of study are offered. Joint Bachelor of Arts/Master of Music courses of study are also offered to current Yale College students, showing outstanding ability in music performance or composition. The Music School also confers the Artist Diploma and Certificate in Performance.


7. Jacobs School of Music

Photo credit from Jacobs School of Music (www.music.indiana.edu)


Located in Bloomington, Indiana, the Jacobs School of Music is well known for the success of its students.  It was the learning place of violinist, Joshua Bell and opera singer Richard Cowan, and includes on the faculty the pianist Andre Watts.  There is a 25% acceptance rate of incoming students, and around 1600 students that attend the school. The Musical Arts Center that seats 1,460 people features acoustics and technical abilities that are some of the best in the nation as well as a world class opera stage. The Jacobs School of Music also has a 400 seat music hall that has a high beamed ceiling and side terraces. The school offers more than 1,100 performances a year, including 7 fully staged operas and 3 ballets. Jacobs School of Music has the facilities, reputation and faculty to offer students one of the best musical educations in the world.


8. Mannes School of Music

Photo credit from Mannes School of Music (www.music.indiana.edu)


Established in 1916, The Mannes School of Music has an amazing faculty whose awards include Pulitzers, Grammys, a MacArthur Genius, a Guggenheim, and an Avery Fisher Prize. Its alumni include the famous pianists Richard Goode and Murray Perahia who both graduated the same year.

Both undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in departments such as classical music performance, voice, composition, jazz, and more.

Located in New York, New York, Mannes School of Music has a 33% acceptance rate. The musicians at Mannes still mirror the desire of its founders, David and Clara Mannes, who looked for students “whose sincere love of music alone prompts them to take up study.”

Mannes's elite faculty includes a number of well-respected composers, as well as past and current members of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.


9. Manhattan School of Music

Photo credit from Manhattan School of Music (www.msmnyc.edu) 


The Manhattan School of Music began as a community school in East side New York, bringing high quality musical instruction to the immigrants of New York City. It is now located in West side New York and has continued its mission of excellence. Its founder, philanthropist and pianist Janet Shenck, borrowed the schools motto from Virgil: “Those who excel, thus reach the stars.” The school quickly gained international reputation and within 20 years of its beginning in 1917 offered higher degrees in music.  

The school itself is moderately selective. Forty percent of applicants are admitted to join the undergraduate student body of about 400. First-year students are required to live in student housing, and approximately 55 percent of all students receive some sort of financial aid. 

All students take classes in Music Theory, Music History, and a variety of performance arts. Popular degrees offered include Doctorate of Music Arts and Master of Music in Classical Studies, Jazz Arts, and Orchestra Performance, among others.

But the conservatory isn't just about jazz. In fact, the Manhattan School of Music boasts strong programs all around, all of which are headed by a first-class faculty that includes members of the New York City Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Manhattan School of Music alumni, including Harry Connick Jr. and Jesse Rosen, have gone on to perform in orchestras and opera companies, teach in prestigious universities and are some of the premier recording artists of the time.


10. USC Thornton School of Music

Photo credit from USC Thornton School of Music  (www.music.usc.edu)


University of Southern California 's Thornton School of Music is established in 1884, older by 20 years than Juilliard, but its proximity to the Los Angeles movie and music scene has allowed it to flip the script from the classical canon (which it has dominated with one of the finest composition programs in the nation, and one of the few to offer classes in early music) to the modern music business and technology possibilities. 

Record producer Jimmy Iovine and hip-hop producer Dr. Dre launched the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation with a $70 million cash infusion at the school last year in an effort to smooth out the synergy between technology and liberal arts. Meanwhile there are few better places to learn the discipline of film and television scoring. “I think SC is to my mind the preeminent school in terms of their program after you get your B.A. and going into their film and television music scoring, they’re the preeminent one. It’s hard to beat them if you’re interested in music for media,” says film composer John Debney.



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