What to Expect at a Music School

If you love music, the idea of studying it at college might be the perfect dream come true. But not all musical students are born with the same gifts: if you’re going to pursue an education in vocal or instrumental music, you’ll need to be passionate enough to spend hours on end practicing. You’ll also have to be comfortable performing in front of others and collaborating in group settings. And because the pay for musicians is relatively low compared to other career paths, your choice of a college should be weighed against cost and potential earning power.

Music schools and conservatories offer an array of majors and minors, including performance, composition, and music business. In some cases, a student may choose to focus on a particular instrument or genre, such as jazz or classical music. Most students, though, take a more holistic approach to their studies by combining a music degree with another subject area.

In general, music classes focus on developing solid Private School technique. Like an athletic coach would, a music teacher will help students to train their bodies to perform their chosen instrument. Each week, students will usually attend one or two hour-long private lessons with their primary instrument instructor. These sessions begin with warm-up exercises designed to energize the body and target specific technical skills (for example, lip trills for vocalists). Then it’s on to honing repertoire and discussing elements of musical style. Finally, some instructors will use dictation or improvisation techniques to teach students how to express themselves creatively on their instruments.

Students will also take required courses such as music history, which are lecture- or seminar-based and contextualize the world of music from an academic perspective. Some courses will explore a single era of music, such as the Renaissance or Romantic periods. Others will look at how different styles evolved over time, with professors walking students through the development of various musical pieces and demonstrating how they were influenced by social, political, and economic trends in each era.

For some, a bachelor’s degree in music will be all they need to go on to become a professional musician. Others will find a career in the arts industry, pursuing jobs in areas like music education, artist representation or arts administration. Still others will work in health care, using their knowledge of music to promote healing or comfort patients.

The best colleges for music have a lot in common with the top schools for art. Many of them are in New York, a city that attracts some of the most talented composers, singers and producers to serve as faculty. But there are great music schools and conservatories across the United States and around the globe. The schools that make our list of the top 100 music programs all draw on this rich cultural heritage to provide a world-class education for their students.