Top Universities with Music Performance Degrees

Read about programs in music performance, which typically include the study of musical instruments, music theory and musicology. See what four of the top schools have to offer in terms of courses, degree options and professional training, and find out what other universities in the U.S. have programs in music performance.

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Students in a music performance program can earn a Bachelor or Master of Music in Music Performance and specialize in one type of instrument, such as piano, brass or percussion. These programs may be found at universities or dedicated art schools.

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

School Information

While three of the universities profiled below offer undergraduate and graduate programs in music performance, one school only offers undergraduate programs. Each of these schools was nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 2017.

Ohio State University in Columbus

School Highlight: Ohio State University's School of Music offers undergraduate musical performance degrees in four areas: orchestral instruments, piano, voice and jazz studies.

Ohio State University (OSU) is a public research institution that ranked 54th on the U.S. News & World Report's 2017 list of Best Colleges and 33rd among graduate fine arts schools. OSU's School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Performance with four possible areas of study: orchestral instruments, piano, voice, and jazz studies. Prospective students must complete an entrance audition, typically during their senior year of high school. In order to prepare for this audition, the school strongly recommends taking piano lessons. OSU's School of Music also offers a Master of Music in Performance, with six possible specializations: brass, percussion performance, piano performance, string performance, vocal performance and woodwind performance.

Boston University in Boston, MA

School Highlight: Boston University's College of Fine Arts features the Virtual Concert Hall, which showcases music performed by faculty and students through a live-streamed video feed.

Boston University (BU) is a private school that was ranked 39th among national universities and 59th in the graduate fine arts category for 2017 by U.S. News & World Report. BU's School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Performance and a Master of Music in Performance. Students in both programs study an instrument, such as the flute, tuba, oboe or violin. Students are also required to participate in a musical organization, such as a chamber orchestra. In the master's program, students take proficiency exams in music theory and musicology before enrolling in classes.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA

School Highlight: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's music performance program features a low student-to-faculty ratio.

For 2017, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) ranked 74th on U.S. News & World Report's list of Best Colleges in the Nation. Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance through the Department of Music. Students take courses in ear training and early music literature and participate in recitals.

Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH

School Highlight: Students are required to perform a full recital as a graduation requirement.

Through the College of Musical Arts at Bowling Green State University, undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Musical Arts or Bachelor of Arts degree. Possible majors include brass and percussion, keyboard, strings and vocal arts. At the graduate level, Master of Music, doctoral and certificate programs are available. Master's students who choose the performance major can choose a focus in choral conducting, orchestral conducting, instrumental performance, jazz, piano or voice. For 2017, the school was ranked #194 among national universities and #114 among graduate fine arts programs by U.S. News & World Report.

Top Schools for Music Performance

Here are some more schools with strong musical performance training offerings:

  • At Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, some of the Music Department's faculty members are featured on records with national distribution.
  • At California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA, the School of Music complex consists of two buildings on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
  • At Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA, students in the School of Music work with members of the Atlanta Symphony.
  • Located in East Lansing, MI, the Michigan State University College of Music presents over 300 concerts and events each year.
  • Seton Hall University's Arts Council Concert Series exposes students to professional musical performers. The school is located in South Orange, NJ.
  • At the University of Maine in Orono, music performance students can focus on the study of music history and theory.

Musicians who want to focus their studies on performance can find both undergraduate and graduate-level options at well-regarded universities and art schools.

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