Top Music Colleges, Schools and Universities

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

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. Two of the universities profiled below enjoy Ivy league status.

1. Princeton University in Princeton, NJ

School Highlight: Princeton hosts the Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence program.

Princeton University, another Ivy League school, ranked first among national universities by U.S. News and World Report for 2015, making this Ivy League institution the highest-ranked school to offer a music program. This 4-year private university hosts a Department of Music, which 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. A Certificate in Musical Performance and a Certificate in Jazz Studies are also offered.

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.

2. Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

School Highlight: Facilities available to music students include the Ethnomusicology Lab or the HUSEAC.

In 2015, U.S. News and World Report ranked Harvard University 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. In addition to practice rooms and a music library, the Department of Music houses the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Jazz
  • Music Composition and Theory
  • Music History and Literature
  • Music Merchandising and Management
  • Music Pedagogy
  • Music Performing
  • Musical Conducting
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
  • Piano and Organ
  • Stringed Instruments
  • Voice and Opera

3. Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA

School Highlight: Berklee is a unique international college that offers 12 music majors.

The Berklee College of Music is a specialty school whose areas of study include 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.

Top Music Programs

School Name Distinction Location
Cornell University Cornell Gamelan Ensemble Ithaca, NY
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
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