Performing Arts Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Music, dance and theater are the major areas of focus at a performing arts college. Many schools offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in the performing arts.

How to Select a Performing Arts School

The student's own talent and performance goals are central to choosing a performing arts school. Programs are varied, and include areas such as theater, music and dance.

Consider the following when looking for performing arts schools:

  • Students may wish to seek out schools that offer ample performance opportunities and venues suited to their own interests.
  • Many students are attracted to performing arts schools in large metropolitan areas that provide opportunities for internships, research opportunities and part-time, off-campus jobs.

Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A major in theater immerses the student in a variety of liberal arts subjects as they relate back to the theater. Analysis of plays, the history of drama, cross-cultural, social and political studies is incorporated. A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Studies (BFA) program is tailored to students who wish to pursue a career in the performing arts. Aspiring actors, directors and technical crew specialize in their crafts of choice.

A Bachelor of Arts in Dance program is geared to more general studies, while the Dance Bachelor of Fine Arts is expressly for performers. Auditions are typically required for BFA programs. BFA in Dance programs immerse the student in numerous styles of dance and also other aspects of the arts, including acting and improvisation. A Bachelor of Arts in Music program provides a rounded liberal arts education with a central focus on music. Vocalists may be drawn to a major in opera, vocal performance or musical theater. Performing musicians will want to investigate programs suited to their instruments. Other programs focus more on the recording technology side of music production or on the business side. Coursework varies according to the student's major, but can include topics like:

  • Theater history
  • Dramatic writing
  • Acting
  • Music theory
  • Music technology

Master's Degree Programs

A Master of Theater Studies program is suited to those interested in pursuing a teaching career in the performing arts. Coursework focuses on mastering the technical side of theater performance. A Master of Fine Arts in Dance program gives students the opportunity to work with accomplished choreographers and to gain valuable performance experience. Some Master of Arts in Music programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (http://nasm.arts-accredit.org). Coursework can include:

  • Performance studies
  • Dance
  • Costume design

10 Schools with Performing Arts Programs

College/University Institution Type
University of Central Florida 4-year, Public
Mills College 4-year, Private
University of Michigan 4-year, Public
American University 4-year, Private
The American Musical and Dramatic Academy 4-year, Private
University of Minnesota 4-year, Public
Southern Oregon University 4-year, Public
Georgetown College 4-year, Private
Virginia Tech 4-year, Public
University of California Los Angeles 4-year, Public

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