Top Music Colleges, Schools and Universities

Oct 20, 2021

Learn about top music schools in the United States, including degree programs, courses and special facilities. Find out what you can study at three of these high-profile institutions, and find a list of other schools and universities around the country that offer programs in music.

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School Information

A number of the nation's leading schools offer music programs. Many are highly ranked, and their music programs are first-rate. Students interested in a career in music can pursue undergraduate and graduate degree programs in music performance, direction, instruction and composition. Several of the top-ranked national universities offer well-respected music programs, as well as specialized fine arts and music schools. Three of the four universities we are about to explore hold Ivy League status.

Princeton University in Princeton, NJ

Princeton University, a 4-year private institution, ranked first among national universities by U.S. News and World Report for 2017, making this Ivy League institution the highest-ranked school to offer a music program. Their Department of Music offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. At the undergraduate level, students can pursue a bachelor's degree in music with an emphasis on writing music.

At the graduate level, students can pursue a Ph.D. in Musicology or Composition. There is also a performers-in-residence program named after the composer Edward T. Cone, which currently hosts the Brentano String Quartet. Certificates in Musical Performance and Jazz Studies are also offered.

Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

Next, according to U.S. News and World Report's 2017 list, Harvard University came in at number two among the best national universities. Harvard University's Department of Music offers both undergraduate and graduate programs, including a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Music, a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Performance Practice and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Areas of emphasis include music theory, composition, ethnomusicology or historical musicology.

Facilities available to music students include the Ethnomusicology Lab or the HUSEAC, practice rooms and a music library. The Department of Music also houses the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall.

Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA

The Berklee College of Music is a specialty school that offers 12 music majors, including professional music, songwriting, music education or therapy, film scoring and jazz composition. Students can also major in contemporary writing and production, electronic production and design or performance. Industry-specific training in music production and engineering is also available. Graduate students in the music business and management program can pursue an accelerated Master of Business Administration (MBA), offered in conjunction with the Suffolk University.

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, tied for the #15 slot among the best national universities, according to the U.S. News and World Report in 2017. Cornell's Department of Music provides students with composition, theoretical, and historical curricula and focuses on performance and research.

Music is taught in a liberal arts fashion and the program concludes with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Doctoral degrees in musicology, composition, and performance practice are available. Cornell also houses the Gamelan Ensemble, a 1950s Javanese set on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Top Music Programs

Music programs are also available from the following top schools, all held in high regard:

School Name Distinction Location
Duke University Nine distinctive student performing ensembles Durham, NC
Juilliard School New historical performance program established in 2009 New York, NY
University of Notre Dame Interdisciplinary Master of Sacred Music program Notre Dame, IN
University of California - Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT) Berkeley, CA
University of Chicago Home of the Center for Italian Opera Studies Chicago, IL
Vanderbilt University The Pre-College and Adult Program in music Nashville, TN

In summary, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and Berklee are among the many great schools that offer music programs. Generally they are noted for their program variety and their high quality facilities.

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