Music Schools in Los Angeles with Degree Program Overviews

Feb 18, 2019

Research music programs in Los Angeles, which currently has many schools offering training in the field. To decide which one is right for you, explore the admission and degree requirements for three schools that are within roughly 15 miles of the downtown area.

Los Angeles Music Programs

The Los Angeles area has many options for students seeking a musical education. Read about the required coursework and culminating experiences at three universities, which altogether have 16 undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field. A table of statistics on each profiled institution, as well as info on a few other school options, is also provided.

  • California State University - Los Angeles (CSULA) offers bachelor's and master's degrees in music, and it is located about five miles from the city center. The most affordable of the three school options, CSULA is one of 23 campuses that make up the California State University system.
  • The University of Southern California (USC), a private, 4-year institution also located about five miles from central Los Angeles. It offers students bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the field. Through its Thornton School of Music, students seeking music careers can pursue a liberal arts degree in music, as well as conservatory-style programs.
  • A 4-year, public institution, the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) offers programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels in music, musicology and ethnomusicology through its Herb Alpert School of Music. One of the most popular institutions in the nation, the school receives more applicants than any other university in the United States. The campus is situated about 16 miles from downtown L.A.

Comparison of Schools

The tuition and fee rates for the profiled universities vary significantly, which could impact your decision on where to study music. Take a look at the costs and other facts about each school in the table below.

California State University - Los Angeles University of Southern California University of California - Los Angeles
School Type 4-year; public* 4-year; private, not-for-profit* 4-year; public*
Total Enrollment (2017) 28,531* 45,687* 44,027*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Tuition & Fees (2017-2018) $6,639 in-state; $18,519 out-of-state* $54,259* $13,261 in-state; $41,275 out-of-state*
% of First Year, Full-Time Students Receiving Any Form of Aid (2016-2017) 91%* 64%* 65%*
Acceptance Rate (fall 2017) 46%* 16%* 16%*
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 79% for full-time students* 96% for full-time students* 97% for full-time students*
Undergraduate Graduation Rate (students who began in Fall 2011) 47%* 92%* 91%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

California State University - Los Angeles

CSULA offers bachelor's and master's degrees in music through the Department of Music. In 2016-2017, CSULA granted music degrees to 24 students at the baccalaureate level and 20 students at the graduate level, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Bachelor of Arts

The B.A. in Music program is designed for students seeking a comprehensive liberal arts education to complement their musical studies. Foci include music history and literature, music theory and instrumental performance. To graduate, students must take general education courses, electives in the liberal arts and 84 units of music classes. A senior project or recital is also required.

Bachelor of Music

CSULA's B.M. is a specialized, career-oriented program, allowing students to pursue a concentration in jazz studies, composition, performance, music education or commercial music. Students are required to participate in performance ensembles and complete general education requirements, core music courses and coursework in their chosen concentration areas. Those concentrating in any area except for music education or commercial music perform a junior recital, and a senior recital is required for all but commercial music students.

Master of Arts

To enroll in this program, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in music or demonstrate equivalent proficiency. Students are required to take 45 units of coursework. They follow a comprehensive musical curriculum, along with an individual curriculum tailored to their abilities and interests, such as music history, music education or composition. Studies culminate in a final project or thesis.

Master of Music

The M.M. program allows students to pursue advanced studies in one of six specific areas of music: Afro-Latin music, composition, conducting, music education, commercial music or performance. Program applicants must possess a bachelor's degree in music and either present a portfolio or perform an audition, depending on their desired area of emphasis. Once admitted, students are required to take placement exams in both music history and music theory. Required coursework includes music analysis and research techniques; other course requirements vary by concentration. Students conclude their studies with a comprehensive exam and a thesis or final project.

University of Southern California

USC houses the Thornton School of Music, which blends traditional conservatory education with research-based courses. The Thornton School of Music was founded in 1884 as the first professional school at USC, and now offers programs including performance, composition, motion picture scoring, popular music and music education.

Bachelor of Arts

To apply to this program, students must audition in their primary instrument and submit a resume, repertoire list and statement of their goals. Students fulfill general course requirements in the liberal arts and required music coursework in composition, performance and music history and literature. They can choose to organize their studies around a topic of interest; two possible areas of specialization are vocal jazz and choral music. Students are also required to take private instruction and have the opportunity to perform in ensembles.

Bachelor of Science in Music Industry

This career-oriented degree program focuses on the music industry. Entrance is based upon academic review; no audition is required. Students can concentrate in music technology or music business and law. They're required to fulfill general education requirements in the liberal arts and writing; take courses in economics, accounting and business administration; and complete a music core curriculum, which includes courses in music industry, history, literature, performance and composition.

Bachelor of Music

This 4-year undergraduate program requires students to audition for acceptance as well as give a senior recital prior to graduation. The degree is offered in numerous concentrations, such as jazz, composition, music industry and performance of various classical and contemporary instruments, including voice. Requirements vary between concentrations, but typically include core music courses in music history, literature, theory, performance, conducting and composition.

Master of Arts

Students applying to the M.A. program in music must have an undergraduate degree in music or equivalent experience. Once accepted, they choose an emphasis in music history and literature or in early music performance. The music history and literature emphasis requires courses in music history and electives in the liberal arts, while the early music performance emphasis requires participation in music ensembles and music history and literature courses with an emphasis on the Renaissance and Baroque periods. To graduate, students must complete a thesis and demonstrate reading knowledge of French, Italian, German or Latin.

Master of Music

The M.M. program focuses on music study and/or performance, with possible concentrations in music education, jazz, conducting, composition, choral music, performance of voice or one of a variety of orchestral instruments. Although each curriculum includes individual instruction and music history courses, the remaining coursework remains unique to the major. Most of the major curricula cover pedagogy, performance and composition as they relate to a student's specific area of focus. To complete the program, students perform a master's recital, present a composition portfolio and/or complete a final project or thesis, depending on their concentration.

Doctor of Musical Arts

The D.M.A. program requires at least two years of study beyond the master's degree. Areas of emphasis include choral music, composition, jazz, music education or performance of a selected instrument. The curriculum consists of coursework within a student's area of concentration along with core classes in such areas as music composition, education, history, literature and conducting. Each major program requires at least one final recital; students concentrating in choral music, composition or music education also prepare a doctoral dissertation. Additionally, students must be able to read at least one foreign language prior to their qualifying examinations.

Doctor of Philosophy in Music

This program focuses on historical musicology. To attain this degree, students must fulfill the requirements for the relevant USC M.A. program in music and be approved to continue their studies. The ability to read German and one other language is required before program completion. Curriculum requirements include doctoral coursework in music history and literature and electives in history, language, music and the liberal arts. Additionally, students can take music history courses focusing on the following musical periods: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and/or Modern. The program is completed upon acceptance of the doctoral dissertation.

University of California - Los Angeles

The University of California, Los Angeles, typically referred to as UCLA, provides music programs through the Herb Alpert School of Music, which was formed in 2007. The school has 118 faculty and 484 students, 318 of whom are undergraduates and 166 of whom are graduates.

Bachelor of Arts

Students can earn a B.A. in Performance, Composition or Music Education from the Department of Music, a B.A. in Ethnomusicology with a concentration in jazz or world music from the Department of Ethnomusicology or a B.A. in Music History from the Musicology Department. The performance and composition programs require students to perform in at least one recital, while the music education program allows students to earn their teaching credential during their senior year. Ethnomusicology students can study jazz composition and performance or concentrate in an area of world music, such as performance and composition or scholarly research. The music history program has both performance and non-performance requirements and culminates in a senior thesis.

Master of Arts

Students can earn an M.A. with a specialization in composition or composition for visual media through the Music Department. Composition students take coursework in music theory, analysis, composition and orchestration; perform at least one original composition per year; and attain reading knowledge of Italian, French, Spanish or German. Students who choose to concentrate in composition for visual media take courses in orchestration, composition and theory; coursework is also required through the Film, Television and Digital Media Department. All composition students can take up to four units of one-on-one composition courses. Studies conclude with a thesis.

The Department of Ethnomusicology also offers an M.A. in Musicology, though PhD candidates are preferred. Required coursework includes music history, transcription and analysis and theory, as well as training in research, information technology and laboratory and field techniques. Ethnomusicology students also must achieve reading knowledge of a language, perform in at least one ensemble and pass a two-part examination.

Master of Music

This performance-oriented program offers concentrations in voice or a chosen instrument; conducting; collaborative piano; or jazz performance. M.M. candidates participate in performance groups, take a performance practice seminar and complete core courses in analysis, notation and music bibliography. Instrumental, vocal and jazz students take private music lessons, while collaborative piano students receive additional instruction in interpreting vocal music. Students of voice, choral conducting and collaborative piano must meet foreign language requirements in Spanish, French, Italian or German. Additional topics of study could include music education, musicology and/or ethnomusicology.

Doctor of Philosophy in Music

UCLA's graduate division offers PhD programs in composition, composition for visual media and composition with related studies in ethnomusicology. To earn candidacy students must complete required courses and pass written and oral qualifying exams in several areas. Prior to graduating, they must also attain reading knowledge of two foreign languages and complete a dissertation and oral defense.

To pursue the PhD in Ethnomusicology, offered by the Department of Ethnomusicology, students are required to possess an M.A. in the field or a similar degree. Within the first two years, students are required to complete at least six courses, attain reading knowledge of two foreign languages, perform in music ensembles, pass a series of written qualification exams and defend a dissertation proposal. After completing these requirements, students advance to candidacy, and they have three years to complete their dissertations, which includes research, writing and a year of fieldwork.

The Herb Alpert School of Music also offers a PhD in Musicology. Candidates must meet the musicology master's degree requirements, which include nine graduate-level courses in historical musicology, as well as complete six additional graduate-level courses in the field. Students must also pass a written and oral field examination before crafting their dissertations.

Doctor of Musical Arts

UCLA offers D.M.A. programs in a selected performance instrument, voice, collaborative piano or conducting. All students must achieve proficiency in at least one foreign language; vocal, collaborative piano and choral conducting students must attain proficiency in two foreign languages. Required coursework includes a performance practice seminar, as well as classes in music technology, analysis, repertory, notation and bibliography. Conducting, instrumental and vocal students participate in chamber ensembles, while collaborative piano students take a course in vocal music interpretation. Additional courses may be taken in music education, ethnomusicology and/or musicology. Students become D.M.A. candidates after they have passed required oral and written examinations. To earn a PhD, they must craft a dissertation, perform a doctoral recital and conduct a public lecture.

Other Schools

The Musician's Institute, located in Hollywood, CA, is primarily a music school and offers associate's and bachelor's degrees in the field. CSU Northridge is located about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles and features an extensive music department. Some of the other Los Angeles-area music schools located within 20 miles of downtown include Loyola Marymount University, Biola University and Azusa Pacific University.

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