Finding a music school in New York is not easy. There are so many quality schools to choose from! Music conservatories and university schools are the best places to go for traditional music lessons. Many come with studio spaces and practice rooms allowing students to play and hone their skills amongst other talented musicians. Museums are also an excellent resource for aspiring students as they provide after-school musical activities as well as free public shows on certain days of the week. Due to the high cost of private lessons, however, budgeting becomes an important factor.
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list of music schools in new york
If you want to study any type of art, you have plenty of options when it comes to schooling. Institutions across the United States and around the globe have excellent programs, giving you plenty of choices regarding education.
But if you’re interested in music, you probably know that the top of the list schools, the best of the best, are in New York. These programs take advantage of the cultural life in the area, pulling in some of the greatest living composers, jazz musicians, and music producers to serve as faculty in their program. Likewise, schools that want the best students set up shop in New York, resulting in an embarrassment of riches for music students in the area.
Of course, there is a matter of cost. Everybody knows that New York is one of the most expensive places in the world to live in.
But there’s good news there as well! While many good music schools are in the city, you can find excellent programs all across the state. Top-flight music schools are in each of the five boroughs of New York City and in every county in the state.
With so many options, music students can easily get overwhelmed. Ranking the schools according to the faculty, placement of students into the industry, and selectivity, this list will give you everything you need to find the right school for you in the Empire State.
- Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music (New York, NY)
Nkabouris, Frese Hall, CC0 1.0
Most people assume that a quality music education means an expensive education. In most cases, that’s true, but the Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) at Queens College is the exception. One of the oldest departments at Queens, ACSM features majors in general music, performance, and music education, all for $5,130, plus fees for a full year of study.
No matter which program they choose, all students take academic courses in theory, history, ear-training, sight-singing, performance, as well as private lessons.
The star of ACSM is their newly renovated music building, which features Steinway pianos in all practice rooms, a music library that has more than 35,000 scores, 30,000 books, and 20,000 recordings. Performances take place in LeFrak Concert Hall, with its acoustics and the Maynard-Walker Memorial organ. ACSM produces over 300 concerts, including recitals, orchestra, choir, ensembles, new music, early music concerts, and opera productions.
- SUNY Potsdam Crane School of Music (Potsdam, NY)
Jondude11, Satterlee Hall SUNY Potsdam, CC BY-SA 4.0
Founded in 1886, the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam is one of the oldest music schools in the U.S. But despite its rarified history, Crane is not stuck in the past. The school continues to innovate, as demonstrated by a recent $3.8 million purchase of 141 Steinway pianos, including three new concert grand pianos.
The pianos are simply the latest addition to Crane’s outstanding resources. The school already features the 1290-seat Hosmer Concert Hall and a fully appointed music library, complete with a MIDI Computer Lab.
Students attending Crane can use those resources in one of the many ensembles provided by the school. The Crane Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest college orchestra in the United States. Additionally, students can participate in the award-winning Crane Wind Ensemble, or the Crane Chorus, and the Crane Opera Ensemble, both of which have nearly 100 years of history.
- The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music (New York, NY)
The New School
Tdorante10, The New School University Center, CC BY-SA 4.0
The New School is one of the nation’s most respected and innovative liberal arts schools, a fact demonstrated that it appears two times on this list (once for its jazz program, and another for its classical program). That fact is also shown by the many legends teaching at the school, including MacArthur fellow Mary Halvorson and NEA Jazz Master Reggie Workman.
The New School amasses such an impressive faculty of performers because it believes that artists should be mentors. The school’s core curriculum focuses on performance, analysis, composition, music history, and liberal arts. Additionally, students take private lessons with one or two instructors to achieve mastery of their instruments.
One benefit of an education at The New School is its desirable location. Placed in New York City’s downtown area gives students close proximity to venues, nightclubs, and many of Manhattan’s finest artistic institutions.
- Ithaca College School of Music (Ithaca, NY)
Kenneth C. Zirkel, View of Ithaca College from Eddy Street, CC BY-SA 4.0
Founded in 1892, the School of Music at Ithaca College has grown into one of the nation’s most popular music education programs. That popularity is the result of the school’s world-class faculty, which includes musicians renowned for their teaching and performance abilities.
Students get to hone their skills by working alongside that faculty in organizations such as the Ithaca College Contemporary Ensemble. Emphasizing music from living composers, the Ensemble performs two concerts a year. Students can also participate in ensembles for everything from classical chamber music to vocal jazz to every type of instrument.
Regardless of which ensemble they join, students get ample opportunity to perform. Ithaca sends its ensembles on regular tours, teaching students how to perform for a live audience and on the road. Over just the past five years, Ithaca students have performed at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Strathmore, and ACDA.
- Bard College-Conservatory of Music (Annandale-On-Hudson, NY)
Bard Conservatory of Music
Daniel Case, Bard College Fisher Center front view, CC BY-SA 3.0
Bard College is well known for its exacting standards, and its Conservatory of Music is no exception. In addition to their music major, students must also have another major outside of the program. So high are the standards that most students take five years to graduate.
While those expectations may be off-putting to some students, those who take the challenge will be richly rewarded by Bard College. The Conservatory encourages intellectual curiosity and an analytical approach to performance, heightening the art and technique of music.
Students hone their skills in Bard’s remarkable facilities. Constructed thanks to a $9.2 million gift from a Bard alumnus, The László Z. Bitó ’60 Conservatory Building contains a 100 seat performance space, classroom and teaching studios, two percussion studios, a student lounge, student instrument lockers, and the main Conservatory office.
Designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry, the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts seats approximately 800 people and features a proscenium stage accommodating opera, music, dance, and theater. A concert-shell insert can be used to accommodate orchestral and chamber concerts.
- New York University (New York, NY)
New York University
Jean-Christophe BENOIST, NYC – Washington Square Park – Arch, CC BY 3.0
At New York University, music majors can learn every part of the business, from performance to business.
Those attending the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music (CDIRM), learn about music production and the music business. The program gives students everything they need to succeed in the industry, build their intellectual and creative abilities, and develop their business skills.
Students learn from faculty members who have experience in every aspect of the industry, from research scientists to game designers, from musicians to engineers.
On the other end, NYU Steinhardt emphasizes music production, technical skills, and even traditional performance.
At the center of the program is the school’s new James Dolan Music Recording Studio. Not only does the studio feature a control room with class space and a 40-channel SSL console, but it also has New York City’s first Dangerous Music 10.2 surround installation.
- Mannes School of Music (New York, NY)
When you’re going to Mannes School of Music, you’re not only learning the tools of your trade; you’re also following in the steps of greats such as alumni Burt Bacharach, Bill Evans, and conductor JoAnn Falletta
The second music program from The New School on this list, Mannes continues to grow, hiring excellent faculty members such as classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and composer Missy Mazzoli.
In addition to classes on performance and theory, students at Mannes learn music technology classes, improvisation ensembles, teaching artistry, arts journalism, film music composition, creative entrepreneurship, and more.
Located on The New School’s Greenwich Village campus, Mannes also strives to make music accessible to the public, thanks to regular, affordable performances. As this initiative demonstrates, students at Mannes learn to approach music as a vital part of everyday life.
- Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY)
Manhattan School of Music
ajay_suresh, Manhattan School of Music, CC BY 2.0
When one thinks of great music schools, Juilliard and the New England Conservatory leap to mind. But the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) deserves to be mentioned alongside these storied institutions. Located near the Columbia University campus, MSM has been training generations of musicians since 1917.
In addition to the degrees in musical theater, performance and composition in jazz, and classical performance and composition, MSM partners with Barnard College at Columbia to offer cross-registration classes.
Students at MSM have ample opportunities for performance, including the MSM Symphony, the Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Chamber Sinfonia. Ensembles for students cover everything from chamber music to every type of Jazz.
These groups can perform in one of MSM’s many performance spaces, such as the recently renovated Neidorff-Karpati Hall. Operas and modern chamber music is presented in the Ades Performance Space, while various performances and recordings are done in the Carla Bossi-Comelli Studio.
- Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY)
Eastman School of Music
Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers), Rochester Eastman Theatre – Exterior, CC BY-SA 2.5
All of the schools on this list have their respected alumni. But it’s hard to beat the former students from the Eastman School of Music, which includes singer Renée Fleming, cellist Robert deMaine, flugelhornist Chuck Mangione, drummer Steve Gadd, and trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, as well as composers Maria Schneider and Cardon V. Burnham.
With such an impressive list of alumni, it should be no surprise that the Eastman School is highly selective.
Only 13% of applicants are given offers of admission, making it one of the most challenging schools to enter. This low rate creates a challenge for those who want to study at Eastman, but those who do get in enjoy specialized attention from faculty.
Students also enjoy opportunities to participate in excellent orchestras and ensembles. The Musica Nova orchestra emphasizes new music, performing the greatest works of the past 100 years.
Music from the 16th to 18th centuries is the focus of the Collegium Musicum orchestra. Additionally, Eastman offers four choral groups, an opera theater, and multiple jazz ensembles.
- Juilliard School (New York, NY)
Juilliard School of Music
Pmasck, Juilliard School – Alice Tully Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0
While Eastman is definitely selective, it’s even harder to get into the Julliard School. In 2020, a microscopically small 8% of applicants were accepted.
There’s a good reason that Julliard is so exclusive. Simply put, it’s one of the best music schools in the entire world.
Alumni of Juilliard are among the who’s who of classical music, including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, John Williams, Philip Glass, Leontyne Price, and countless others.
Rather than rest on its laurels and reputation, Julliard is continuing to expand its knowledge and resources. Recently the school has added a focus on Black composers, work that better represents the current state of the classical world.
Combining the time-honored and the new, Julliard has clearly earned its reputation as not only the best music school in New York but one of the best in the world.
best music colleges in the world
One of the first things you should be doing as a student still in high school is decide which establishments you will even attempt to get into in the coming months and years. Depending on what you want to study, there could be literally hundreds of options, and all of them will claim to be the perfect fit for you.
As someone who wants to study music, you are both lucky and limited when it comes to colleges, depending on how optimistic you want to be. There are many schools with music programs but only a handful have developed well-earned reputations as excellent educational leaders and those are the ones you want to go for.
Having said this, because there aren’t hundreds of beloved, truly exceptional choices, the playing field is smaller and it can be even more difficult to stand out and eventually be accepted into a program. There are more students who would love to attend these locations than spots available, so you certainly have your work cut out for you if you want admissions counselors to look upon you with favor. For better or worse, that’s just how these things go.
If you’re just beginning your search for where you may go to study music, consider these ten colleges and universities above all others, as they are widely understood to be the absolute best in the world.
best music colleges
In no particular order, our picks for the best music schools in the world are:
- The Juilliard School
- Berklee College of Music
- Yale School of Music
- New England Conservatory of Music
- University of Southern California Thornton School of Music
- Curtis Institute of Music
- The Royal Academy of Music
- Royal College of Music
- Indiana University – The Jacobs School of Music
- Mannes School of Music
1. The Juilliard School
Location: New York City, NY
Notable Alumni: Barry Manilow, Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams
The Juilliard School, or simply Juilliard as most people call it, is known as the most prestigious performing arts educational institution in the world, according to a number of rankings doled out every year. The college teaches students in a number of verticals, including dance, acting, and, of course, music, which it is perhaps best known for.
The school is attached to the similarly prestigious Lincoln Center, which plays host to some of the best live music performances to be found anywhere, with a focus on all things classical and opera. This option is best for those who one day would like to compose or perhaps play in an orchestra, but it probably isn’t ideal for anyone looking to create more contemporary popular music.
2. Berklee College of Music
Location: Boston, MA
Notable Alumni: Melissa Etheridge, Quincy Jones, John Mayer
Unlike many other music programs all around the world, Berklee College of Music is focused on churning out artists who go on to top the charts and own the pop culture conversation. Many of the most successful alumni aren’t in orchestras or crafting classical compositions, but rather, they have squarely focused their musical efforts in pop, rock, and other modern genres.”Berklee College of Music produces more hitmakers than any other school in the world so if you want to make it big in the Top 40 world, this is where you need to go.”
Boston is known as a college town and Berklee College of Music is simply one of the best in a crowded area.
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3. Yale School of Music
Location: New Haven, CT
Notable Alumni: Marco Beltrami, Michael Daugherty, Matt Brubeck
Yale needs no introduction, but sadly, many people overlook the music education school as the other programs receive the majority of attention. The legendary university’s musical wing is world-renowned and not just because of the name. It has truly earned its stellar reputation and it lives up to the Yale brand, producing many incredibly accomplished musicians.
New Haven, Connecticut is a relatively smaller city without all the flash of (fairly) nearby NYC but it will be worth it when you get out of school and have Yale on your resume.
4. New England Conservatory of Music
Location: Boston, MA
Notable Alumni: Neal E. Boyd, Aoife O’Donovan, Vic Firth
Yes, of course, another Boston college makes this list! With so many schools in such a relatively small area, it’s impossible to avoid including more than one institution from the city on any ranking of great universities. While Berklee does get a majority of the music-focused collegiate attention when it comes to Beantown, there is plenty of room for the New England Conservatory of Music, as the two don’t overlap very much.
Where Berklee is focused on creating hitmakers and pop stars, the NECM keeps its eyes (and ears) on helping those with a passion for playing become some of the best in the world on stringed, woodwind, and brass instruments.
5. University of Southern California Thornton School of Music
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Notable Alumni: Herb Alpert, James Newton Howard, James Horner
Founded just four years after the university itself, the Thornton School of Music is one of the oldest musical institutions in America and it benefits immensely from more than a century of knowing what it takes to craft a truly wonderful musician. While the organization focuses on styles like jazz, classical, and earlier forms of music, the school also has a celebrated program for those looking to work in the music industry but who may not be musicians themselves.
Even if you want to be on the more creative end of things as an artist, taking classes to teach you what’s happening in the business can only benefit you and this is a great place to receive such a blended education. Aspiring Music Business majors should take note of this school. USC also has strong connections to the film music industry.
6. Curtis Institute of Music
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Notable Alumni: Leonard Bernstein, David Brooks, Lang Lang
While not specifically known as one of the better music cities in America, Philadelphia does have at least one hidden gem everybody considering going to college to study the craft should look into: The Curtis Institute of Music. The school, which is coming up on one hundred years of age, has been quietly producing some of the most accomplished musicians in the world for a long time. While you might not have heard of it, everybody in the opera field (the school’s specialty) certainly has!
It is notoriously difficult to be accepted to, as it agrees to take on less than five percent of all applicants, so you’re going to need to show them something really special if you want to go here.
7. The Royal Academy of Music
Location: London, UK
Notable Alumni: Elton John, Annie Lennox
If you’re looking to travel overseas when you take up your musical studies, the Royal Academy of Music may be exactly what you need. The school accepts students from dozens of countries so you certainly have a chance of going but you’re going to need to be really, really great to be included in the incoming class -— this is one institution that can afford to be picky.
The college is also connected to the University of London which can come in handy if you’re looking to study something other than music (in addition to becoming a serious artist, of course).
8. Royal College of Music
Location: London, UK
Notable Alumni: Andrew Lloyd Webber, James Horner, Vanessa-Mae
Speaking of London, if you don’t get into the Royal Academy of Music, there are other options in that great city and the second one on your list should absolutely be the Royal College of Music. The two similarly-named universities are part of the ABRSM (the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music), four wonderful educational institutions in the U.K. dedicated to teaching the art of performance.
Only two of the four are located in London, which is where you probably want to live if you’re moving to the country for college. In addition to actually helping people become better musicians, the Royal College of Music does a lot of research into all things related to performance, which further influences teaching methods and how live events are staged and buildings are created.
9. Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University
Location: Bloomington, IN
Notable Alumni: Joshua Bell, Carl Broemel
It may not be quite as impressive as some other schools on this list and it doesn’t carry the same reputation to one day help you get noticed by employers simply because of a famous name but the Jacobs School of Music, which is based at Indiana University, offers the greatest chance of acceptance for many up-and-coming artists. Many of the universities I’ve already mentioned only admit a small group of new applicants every year, while the Jacobs School has almost 2,000 students at any given time.
As a public university, this option is often offered at a lower price than many private choices, especially for those from the region.
10. Mannes School of Music
Location: New York City, NY
Notable Alumni: Burt Bacharach
Another New York City school, I know — but there’s a reason why so many of these colleges are located in the Big Apple!
While it may be difficult to make a go of being a professional musician in America’s largest metropolis, it also happens to be where the majority of the music industry is focused. Students at the Mannes School of Music benefit not only from excellent Professors who typically have decades of experience, but from being just a subway ride away from countless opportunities for internships, jobs, and places to perform whenever they like.”New York City is to music what Los Angeles is to acting — you’ll be just a small fish in a big pond but at least you’re in the right pond to begin with.”
Also, as part of the New School, which houses fellow artistic college Parsons (known as one of the best in the fashion world), there are plenty of facilities and faculty who will be willing to help in whatever way possible when it comes to making you a success.
Thankfully, there aren’t just 10 great music schools in the world, there are dozens. If you don’t get into the locales listed above, or if you simply want to broaden your search as you kick things of.
Here are 10 more institutions worthy of looking at (which could all be featured in another article):
- San Francisco Conservatory of Music – San Francisco, CA
- Boston Conservatory at Berklee – Boston, MA (yes, another school within the larger Berklee institution)
- The Johns Hopkins University – Peabody Institute, Baltimore, MD
- Cleveland Institute of Music – Cleveland, OH
- Northwestern University – Bienen School of Music, Evanston, IL
- Oberlin College – Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, OH
- Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, Paris, FRANCE
- University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music – Rochester, NY
- Guildhall School of Music & Drama – London, UK
- Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, NORWAY