25 Best Music Schools In The World

You are currently viewing 25 Best Music Schools In The World

For many aspiring musicians and performers across the world, music schools form an integral part of their education, with the potential of leading to great success in the industry.

Music schools offer not only a setting to research and study the overall field but to also specialise in a particular topic area and kickstart budding musical careers.

Such organisations are often referred to by several different names including academies, colleges, institutes or conservatories. They provide a range of experiences for its learners, from performance, to composition, to building expertise in music history or theory.

There are numerous prestigious music schools around the globe, and the more elite establishments are notoriously difficult to gain acceptance. Yet those lucky enough to be selected can access an incredible quality of teaching and unique working opportunities. 

So which are the best music schools in the world?

25. Columbia College

Location: Chicago, USA
Year founded: 1851
Acceptance rate: 90%
Notable Alumni: Paul Broucek (Warner Bros Pictures) and Jonathan McReynolds (Grammy-nominated Gospel Musician)

In terms of reputation, Columbia College has been travelling on an upward curve in recent years. The Illinois-based school employs professional musicians and engineers to work with its students in the studio – helping them to record and mix sound. 

One of its most celebrated courses is their two-year ‘Master Of Fine Arts In Music’ qualification where learners focus on mainly composing for screen via a range of media including film, TV, advertising and video games.

Learners can also intern with professional composers to gain vital industry experience.

24. Manhattan School Of Music

Manhattan School Of Music

Location: New York City, USA
Year founded: 1917
Acceptance rate: 49%
Notable Alumni: Harry Connick Jr (American singer, pianist, composer, actor, and television host) and Steve Gadd (American drummer, percussionist and session musician)

The Manhattan School Of Music is a private conservatory based in New York. The school offers a variety of qualifications including bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.

The conservatory specialises in classical and jazz genres with the chance to both perform and compose – students are also able to take part in live shows. The Manhattan School Of Music is very well-resourced with a total of 132 practice rooms and performance spaces. 

The school has spawned three major orchestras including the MSM symphony. The institution holds an annual concerto competition in which the winner is presented with an incredible opportunity to accompany the Symphony Orchestra.

23. Moscow Conservatory

Moscow Imperial Conservatory

Location: Moscow, Russia
Year founded: 1866
Acceptance rate: 53%
Notable Alumni: Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (Russian-American composer, virtuoso pianist, and conductor) and Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (Russian composer, pianist, and conductor)

The Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory is one of two famous and globally renowned Russian conservatories. It is famed for producing a host of world-class musicians and composers even to this day. The conservatory has long been considered amongst the best music schools in the world.

The school is home to more than 1,300 students and offers the highest quality education using some of the best music teachers in the whole of Russia.

It specialises in musical performance alongside musical research, offering several degree options including Bachelor of Music Performance, Master of Music and PhD in research.

22. Cleveland Institute Of Music

Cleveland Institute Of Music

Location: Ohio, USA
Year founded: 1920
Acceptance rate: 32%
Notable Alumni: James Merrill Brickman (American pop songwriter, pianist and radio host) and John McLaughlin Williams (Conductor and Violinist)

Cleveland Institute Of Music is quite selective and has a significantly small cohort of only 325 students. Typically between 1,000 and 1,200 prospective students apply each year with just 100 openings available.

The school’s main building houses teaching studios, practice rooms, a music library and classrooms – all opened in 1961 and further expanded in 2007 – adding 34,000 square feet of space to the existing campus.

The school’s specialisms lie within the orchestral and rock genres. Many members of the CIM alumni can now be found in major orchestras throughout the United States and all over the world.

21. Boston Conservatory At Berklee

Boston Conservatory At Berklee

Location: Boston, USA
Year founded: 1867
Acceptance rate: 42%
Notable Alumni: George Bassman (Broadway orchestrator and songwriter) and Victoria Livengood (Opera Singer)

Although more accommodating than many other schools, Boston Conservatory is still relatively selective, with applicants expected to meet certain SAT or ACT scores to qualify for a potential place.

The institution specialises in both undergraduate and graduate degrees from a range of arts subjects including music, theatre, dance and even opera. 

In 2016 the school merged with Berklee College of Music to form the umbrella institution known simply as Berklee – along with Berklee Online, Berklee Valencia and Berklee NYC.

20. Bienen School Of Music

Bienen School Of Music

Location: Illinois, USA
Year founded: 1895
Acceptance rate: 10%
Notable Alumni: Kay Davis (Singer with Duke Ellington band) and Andrew Mason (Founder and former CEO of Groupon)

Part of Northwestern University, The Bienen School of Music is based in Evanston, Illinois. 

Named after the University’s President Henry Bienen, the school has a fairly small cohort of just 600 students and 125 faculty. There are a number of performance degrees available to study such as piano, guitar, voice, jazz studies, and all orchestral instruments. 

The school also offers academic degrees in composition, music history, music education, and musicology along with music theory and cognition.

19. Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute

Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute

Location: Baltimore, USA
Year founded: 1857
Acceptance rate: 52%
Notable Alumni: Geoff Knorr (Composer and Recording Engineer) and Tori Amos (Singer, songwriter, pianist; the youngest student ever admitted to the institute)

The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University is the oldest conservatory in the United States. It was founded over 150 years ago by the merchant, financier and philanthropist George Peabody.

The Institute’s collaboration with JHU began in 1977 and since then has allowed students to explore a wide range of disciplines. It is one of 156 organisations in the US to offer a Doctorate of Music Arts degree.

The school is renowned for producing an impressive alumni of the world’s best professional orchestras and its classical music education is undoubtedly some of the finest on the planet.

18. Jacobs School Of Music At Indiana University

Jacobs School Of Music At Indiana University

Location: Indiana, USA
Year founded: 1921
Acceptance rate: 25%
Notable Alumni: Patrick Summers (Conductor, artistic and music director of Houston Grand Opera) and Leonard Slatkin (Conductor, music director of Detroit Symphony Orchestra)

One of the larger music institutes in the US, Jacobs School Of Music is based at Indiana’s public university and is home to almost 2,000 students.

The school is an attractive option for budding musical talents from a variety of backgrounds with much lower tuition fees than many of the private institutes.

The reputation of Jacobs is continuing to steadily rise, and although considered less prestigious when compared to some other music schools, it specialises in nurturing the growth of aspiring artists and musicians.

17. Norwegian Academy Of Music

Norwegian Academy Of Music

Location: Oslo, Norway
Year founded: 1973
Acceptance rate: 10%
Notable Alumni:  Lalla Carlsen (Singer and actress) and Leif Solberg (Classical composer and organist)

A university level conservatory, The Norwegian Academy of Music is the largest of its kind in Norway and provides the nation’s most elite music education. 

Incredibly, the school is free of charge for its student body, who are accepted via an auditioning process and coupled with the quality of their prior educational CV.

The conservatory is ideal for composers and performers who are looking to specialise in genres such as classical, jazz, church music, and even folk. 

It is also responsible for the organisation of around 300 concerts per year with an alumni of Norway’s most celebrated musicians.

16. San Francisco Conservatory Of Music

San Francisco Conservatory Of Music

Location: San Francisco, USA
Year founded: 1917
Acceptance rate: 46%
Notable Alumni: Isaac Stern (Violinist) and Aaron Jay Kernis (Pulitzer Prize winning and Grammy Award-winning composer – member of the Yale School of Music faculty)

The San Francisco Conservatory Of Music is a very small community of around 200 enrolled students.

Whilst the school is competitive, its acceptance rate is nearly 50%, which makes it fairly inclusive for an above average private college.

The conservatory has many popular majors to choose from including Voice and Opera, and musical instruments, alongside the exciting prospect of studying newer subjects such as music technology.

15. Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Oberlin College

Location: Ohio, USA
Year founded: 1833
Acceptance rate: 34%
Notable Alumni: Christopher Rouse (winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Trombone Concerto) and James Burrows (Producer and creator of Cheers and Emmy award-winning director of Will & Grace, Wings, News Radio)

Founded nearly two hundred years ago, The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is amongst the oldest operating institutes in the entire United States. Over the decades, it has always been considered as one of the best music schools in the world.

The school is revered for its ground-breaking inclusivity and progressive student activism. As far back as the 1830s, it became one of the first U.S schools to accept African American students and later to admit women.

The standard of applicants at Oberlin is high with over half of its cohort recording scores of between 1338 and 1460 on their SATs.

14. Royal College Of Music

Royal College Of Music

Location: London, UK
Year founded: 1882
Acceptance rate: 18%
Notable Alumni: Andrew Lloyd Webber (English composer and impresario of musical theatre) Vanessa-Mae (Violinist)

The Royal College of Music has a reputation for producing highly skilled musicians and composers. It offers a wide range of programs including performance, composition, and musicology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

The school provides students with high quality training designed to reach a professional performance level. There are fantastic opportunities to study under accomplished musicians and educators whilst performing in renowned venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Wigmore Hall. 

RCM places an emphasis on research – with centres dedicated to the study of music history, performance practice and music psychology. It also boasts one of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world including a Stradivari violin on permanent loan.

13. Mannes School Of Music

Mannes School Of Music

Location: New York City, USA
Year founded: 1916
Acceptance rate: 24%
Notable Alumni: Burt Bacharach (Songwriter, composer and performer) and Mary Rodgers Guettel (Composer and Philanthropist)

Located in New York, The Mannes School of Music is a highly respected, renowned music conservatory which provides a unique and diverse educational experience.

Students can choose from undergraduate and graduate programs in music performance, composition and music education with a strong focus on classical music. The curriculum is crafted to give students a comprehensive understanding of music history, theory and performance practice.

The school has several ensembles, including a symphony orchestra and vocal groups, which perform regularly on campus and in the local community. It also invites guest artists and performers to teach, giving students the chance to learn from and interact with some of the most renowned musicians in the world.

12. University of Southern California Thornton School of Music

University Of Southern California Thornton School Of Music

Location: Los Angeles, USA
Year founded: 1884
Acceptance rate: 20%
Notable Alumni: Bear McCreary (Television score composer) and Glenn Dicterow (Concertmaster of New York Philharmonic)

Based in Los Angeles, the Thornton School of Music offers programs in music performance, composition, music education, and music industry. 

The school is known for its focus on both traditional and contemporary music with specialisms in scoring for Motion Pictures or Television.

There is also a focus on specific music styles like jazz, classical and earlier forms of music. The institution has a celebrated program for those looking to work in the music industry but who may not have a musical background.

Thornton School of Music has a strong emphasis on community engagement, offering its students the chance to perform in various venues throughout Los Angeles, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Bowl.

11. New England Conservatory of Music

New England Conservatory of Music

Location: Boston, USA
Year founded: 1867
Acceptance rate: 36%
Notable Alumni: Vic Firth (American musician and the founder of Vic Firth Company) and Aoife O’Donovan (American singer and Grammy award-winning songwriter)

The New England Conservatory Of Music is arguably the best conservatory in the world at providing an education in stringed, woodwind and brass instruments.

It is a small institution with around 300 undergraduate students who are able to study classical instruments. Overall, the school is focused on classical music with popular majors including Musical Instruments, Voice and Opera.

The Conservatory also offers the chance to secure a qualification from Harvard on a dual degree study because the two universities have a close collaboration.

10. The University of Music and Performing Arts

The University of Music and Performing Arts

Location: Vienna, Austria
Year founded: 1817
Acceptance rate: 26%
Notable Alumni: Gustav Mahler (Composer) and Linda Watson (Soprano Singer)

With a student body of over three thousand, The University of Music and Performing Arts is the largest institution of its kind in Austria, and one of the biggest in the world.

This music school offers all kinds of degrees from traditional music qualifications to movie and even theatre honours. There is no requirement to be proficient in German in order to enrol.

In 2019, The University of Music and Performing Arts was named one of the “best performing arts schools in the world” by CEOWORLD magazine.

9. Sibelius Academy

Sibelius Academy

Location: Helsinki, Finland
Year founded: 1882
Acceptance rate: 8%
Notable Alumni: Erkki Melartin (Composer, Professor, Director Helsinki Conservatory) and Soila Sariola (Singer of the double platinum awarded and multiple gold winning vocal ensemble Rajaton)

You cannot talk about the best music schools in the world without mentioning the Sibelius Academy. Named after the great Finnish composer Jan Sibelius, the school is merged with the Academy of Fine Arts and Theater Arts. It has over 1,000 students and 1,500 faculty members.

The school’s specialisms include degrees designed for vocalists, composers and conductors that offer a blend of music theory and practical experience for its undergraduates.

A significant number of their alumni play professionally all around the world and also have a ‘cooperation’ with the Peabody Institute – meaning that they often collaborate to support students from both schools.

8. Conservatoire de Paris

Conservatoire de Paris

Location: Paris, France
Year founded: 1795
Acceptance rate: 19 to 5%
Notable Alumni: Philippe Honoré (Professor of Violin) and Xian Xinghai (1905–1945)

Conservatoire de Paris is one of the world’s grandest conservatoires, is highly selective and commands a stringent two-part entrance examination in which applicants are assessed on their technical mastery and artistic potential. It’s no wonder that it’s widely considered to be one of the best music schools in the world.

The school only accepts thirty students each year, who have the chance to learn the industry that produced the most prestigious French name in world music over the last two centuries.

The Conservatoire offers a breadth of qualifications from instruction in music to dance degrees, with qualifications following the traditional methods of French Schooling.

7. Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Location: London, UK
Year founded: 1880
Acceptance rate: 18%
Notable Alumni:  George Martin (British Composer and Producer to The Beatles) and Fred Astaire (American dancer, choreographer, actor, and singer)

Comprising students from over seventy countries, Guildhall School of Music and Drama is one of the most famous and illustrious music schools in England. The institute currently has a cohort of approximately 1,000 students of which around 800 study a form of music.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is known for its music degrees, providing training in all aspects of classical music and jazz along with drama and production arts. In particular, if you’re a vocalist, the school offers fantastic singing training. They also provide high quality tuition – with one-on-one classes available in many specialisms.

6. Yale School Of Music

Yale School Of Music

Location: Connecticut, USA
Year founded: 1894
Acceptance rate: 6-8%
Notable Alumni: Martin Leung (Pianist known as the Video Game Pianist) and Howard Boatwright (Violinist and musicologist)

Yale School of Music has long been regarded as one of the best music schools in the world. It has built its immaculate reputation on the Yale brand and maintains those standards having developed a variety of incredibly accomplished musicians.

Interestingly, Yale remains the only Ivy League school in the U.S to host an independent school of music. It is also highly selective, with only 200 students on roll, adding to the perception of exclusivity and impeccable expectations.

The school offers three main graduate degrees; Master of Music (MM), Master of Musical Arts (MMA) and Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) alongside a joint Bachelor of Arts (Master of Music).

5. Eastman School of Music

Eastman School of Music

Location: New York City, USA
Year founded: 1921
Acceptance rate: 11%
Notable Alumni: Alfred Klingenberg (Director) and Robert Freeman (Director)

Based in the Big Apple, Eastman School of Music is a large institute and each academic year around 2000 students apply, a mixture of undergraduates and graduates. It houses people from across the globe, approximately 25% of its cohort are foreign students, all in search of some of the finest music education on the planet.

Eastman School of Music boasts an Alumni that many of which have gone on to become some of the biggest names in classical music or other media including T.V, Film and Theatre.

The school offers the opportunity to gain a Bachelor of Music (B.M.), Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Music (M.M.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) degrees in a range of musical settings. 

4. Berklee College of Music

Berklee College of Music

Location: Boston, USA
Year founded: 1945
Acceptance rate: 55%
Notable Alumni: Ramin Djawadi (House of the Dragon composer)  and Alan Silvestri (Ready Player One) composer.

Berklee College of Music is unique in some regards to other global music programs, focused on more contemporary music and aiding students to gain success in mainstream landscapes or even pop music.

Students are also able to gain international experience by visiting Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain where they can take part in the school’s scoring program and use its facilities. The program is led by music producer Sean McMahon and offers bachelor’s degrees in film and media scoring including video game composition.

The school has a focus on pop, rock and other modern genres. Students can also specialise in jazz and a host of contemporary music.

One of the most famous examples of Berklee alumni success is Stranger Things music editor Lena Glikson who helped incorporate the music of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” into the series fourth-season and even won an Emmy for the feat.

3. The Royal Academy of Music

The Royal Academy of Music

Location: London, UK
Year founded: 1822
Acceptance rate: 10%
Notable Alumni: Elton John (British Singer and Songwriter) and Annie Lennox (British Songwriter and Performer with band Eurythmics) 

One of the oldest and finest music schools in the United Kingdom, The illustrious Royal Academy of Music offers exemplary teaching in contemporary and classical music. Not only is it amongst top schools in England – it is amongst the very best music schools in the world.

The school consists of a cohort from numerous countries. It is affiliated with the University of London, which creates a unique opportunity for students looking to expand their studies beyond music, to branch out into other fields of the media and its industry.

A huge selling point for the Academy is its ratio of professors to students. The school boasts two professors for every student which goes a long way to ensuring every individual’s education is closely assessed and cared for throughout.

2. Curtis Institute of Music

Curtis Institute of Music

Location: Philadelphia, USA
Year founded: 1924
Acceptance rate: 4%
Notable Alumni: David Ludwig (Composer) and Charles Jaffe (Conductor)

Curtis Institute of Music has been consistently moulding some of the most accomplished musicians in the world for years. Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the school is both private and elite in the standard of its music education.

As one of the smallest institutions in the U.S, the Curtis Institute of Music enrols approximately 100 undergraduate students each year and so is considered to be very selective. The college is also absolutely free to its successful applicants with all courses available to students without charge.

The school has many popular qualifications including Musical Instruments, Music Performance along with Music Theory and Composition. It is a hugely respected name in the world of music schools and its alumni has also spawned some of the finest composers and conductors on the planet. It is routinely ranked amongst the best music schools in the world.

1. The Juilliard School

The Juilliard School

Location: New York, USA
Year founded: 1905
Acceptance rate: 8%
Notable Alumni: Barry Manilow (Songwriter and Performer) and John Williams Bill Conti (Composer for film Rocky)

Located in New York, The Juilliard School or simply ‘Juilliard’ is widely regarded by many as the most prestigious performing arts educational institution in the world.

It is an elite private college and reasonably a small institution with less than 500  undergraduate students enrolled each year. The school offers a wide range of education specialisms including dance, and acting, but it is best known for its music degrees. 

The school places a strong emphasis on preparing students for work in the music industry environment. There is a large proportion of face-to-face teaching for a more personalised learning experience with many music teachers specialising as instrumentalists and aiding students who are looking to pursue a career within an orchestra.

You might also like:

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ilana Thomas

    Uh, Juilliard is definitely NOT in Philadelphia.

    1. Michael Sandford

      Thanks for flagging the typo!

Leave a Reply