Here Are The 20 Best Colleges & Conservatories for Music In the US

Bard College-Conservatory of Music (Annandale-On-Hudson, NY)

Noted for top-tier performance faculty, incredibly talented students, and an administration headed by a legendary President, Bard is an intriguing option for an aspiring music major.

For the student desiring both music and a rigorous academic major, this represents the ultimate option to immerse yourself in a culture where every single student is encouraged to pursue a well-rounded, individualistic path.

The culture of Bard is best described as liberal. Nearly the entire student population is leans left on the political spectrum, and historically the school has been noted as a haven for the non-traditional student.

The embodiment of the non-traditional student is well-represented by Leon Botstein, the President of Bard College and a maverick in the world of academia who himself is an accomplished musical artist.

Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)

Berklee College of Music

While other schools have been focused on the “traditional” classical performance of music, Berklee has always had a taste for the contemporary, placing itself at the forefront of modern music styles.

On top of this, the school’s business program offers real-world music business training to students who want to take their music degrees into marketing, booking, entrepreneurship, and representation.

In 2016, Boston Conservatory, once an independent institution, merged with Berklee. Since then, these two institutions have combined to create one of the most impressive programs spanning classical, jazz, and contemporary styles.

At Boston Conservatory, the most noted program is perhaps musical theatre, which has sent countless students to Broadway as well as other top theatres and commercial venues throughout the entire world.

The deep connection Boston Conservatory has with the greater Boston music scene is deep. Students, alumni, and faculty are affiliated with the dozens of orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, jazz clubs, and more that Boston has to offer.

There are five colleges of music in the greater Boston area – Berklee, New England Conservatory, Boston Conservatory, Boston University’s School of Music, and the Longy School of Music – all of which are among the best in the country.

Featured Programs

Larger public universities run excellent programs through their music departments. Their students have the opportunity to have the “full college experience,” as well as the ability to expand their academic careers beyond performing arts. The curriculum at smaller college-level conservatories and music schools doesn’t stray from the performing arts, and these schools are typically more expensive and harder to get into. While students at conservatories and small, private schools don’t have the lifestyle choices of a large college, they are more likely to get individualized attention from high profile faculty members and occasionally free tuition. For those of you who want the best of both worlds, schools like the University of Southern California have a conservatory on campus. However, some students struggle to balance their general education requirements with their music school commitment.

In the end, each student planning to earn a degree in music should choose his or her school based on personal wants and needs, paying close attention to things like location, private lesson teachers for the desired discipline, class sizes, and post-graduation employment numbers. Today, those graduating with a degree in music learn the benefits of having versatile diplomas that reach beyond a performance program. Many of the best music schools on our list offer varying ranges of majors, like music education for those looking to become teachers, music business degrees, audio engineering/music production, music therapy, industry studies, and more. Some even offer or require their music majors to earn a double degree to better set them up for the working world.

Choosing the Right Audio Engineering School for You

By now, you’ve probably realized that there are plenty of options to study audio engineering in schools across the country. The real task is deciding which is the right one for you. All of the schools we’ve mentioned on this list are reputed, taught by industry experts, and are equipped with state-of-the-art sound technology.

But the real reason why students decide to go to a particular school is much more personal: though great teachers and equipment act as prerequisites. Before you get overwhelmed trying to choose from a list of seemingly perfect options: let’s get a better understanding of your own requirements.


This doesn’t apply to just audio engineering: most students select their school based on the city/state they want to move to. In some cases, it’s close to home, and sometimes as far as possible. However, there’s more to a location since you’re planning to study audio engineering. If you aim to work in famous professional recording studios, you know the importance of networking in audio engineering society.

Choose a school that is ideally in a city where there’s a strong music performance and sound production culture. For example: if you plan to move to LA after school, it may not be the wisest idea to study in Tennesee. The networking you do with your fellow students and teachers in a school will be most effective in the same city, as you’ll get to form connections with the professionals in the industry closest to you. Moving to a completely different city than the one you studied in will invariably mean that you have to start afresh with your networking.

However, this isn’t a rule set in stone. There are plenty of audio engineers who are successful by merit of their experience and skills in audio post-production alone, without having to bank on their network connections.

We make the argument that it can’t hurt to have both — a bachelor’s degree in audio engineering from a top school as well as a strong network of music producers, audio engineers, sound engineers to help your launch into the music business.

Access to Equipment

Sound equipment is expensive and is constantly being revamped in the industry: and it isn’t always feasible for some schools to restock on new recording technology every year. However, that puts their new students at a disadvantage: who graduate well-versed in audio production tools and audio engineering technology that the music industry has long moved on from.

You should find out the specifics of the audio production equipment that’s available in the school, and also take a look at the music production curriculum. Looking at the curriculum can be key to understanding how much time is really allocated towards working hands-on with audio technology, and how much is allocated towards learning theory in a classroom.

Talk to Alumni and Faculty

There’s no better way to do your background check before you take the plunge on a music degree in a recording school than to actually speak to the students who went there before you. And no, reading testimonials from a brochure is definitely not enough — if you want authentic insight about the audio engineering degree experience, you’ll need to snoop around and track them down! Most schools will proudly claim their alumni if they’ve made it big in the music industry and recording industry.

If you read reviews before going to a restaurant, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the time to find out what the audio engineering classes and experience will be like from someone who went there. Focus on the recording techniques they picked up, their career as a music producer, and how their bachelor’s degree in audio engineering helped them achieve this.


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