Music schools in the United States

Music schools in the United States

In the United States, there are four types of music schools. Three of them follow the more traditional formats of music education. The last one is more informal and includes schools that teach the history and performance of world music.


Preparatory schools

The first type and seemingly the most prevalent (though not the largest) are preparatory schools. Almost all of the major conservatories and music schools of the United States also carry a preparatory program, which trains elementary school-age children and high school-age youths in music performance, dance, or other artistic endeavors. The top students from the preparatory programs may continue their studies at the post-secondary level, and enter professional training programs. There are also 3 boarding preparatory schools in the US that offer pre-professional training in music at a college level. They are: Idyllwild Arts Academy, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Walnut Hill School

Independent conservatories

Conservatories are the most individual and popular type of music school. Conservatories completely focus on music and do not specialize in anything else. Usually emphasis within the school will be focused on either "Classical" or "Contemporary" studies, though in recent years, this divide has begun to meld. Some conservatories also include instruction in drama and dance, most notably the Juilliard School, however this instruction is usually not considered part of the "Conservatory" part of the School. In the Juilliard School, for example, there are three schools each operating quasi-independently; the Juilliard School of Music is the only true "Conservatory" part of the school.

Notable Classical conservatories in the United States are:

Notable contemporary music (Jazz and popular styles) conservatories are:

Often, academic requirements for conservatories are merely supplemental to a music student's education and career. This makes them very popular with students who are aiming at a professional performance career, and who do not wish to do all of the academic requirements that are normally required at music schools that are part of a larger university system.

As part of a larger university

While closely related to independent conservatories, some important music schools are incorporated into larger universities.

Notable examples of this type of music school are:

Conservatory as part of a larger university

These schools are somewhat in between a university music school and an independent conservatory.

Several conservatories and contemporary music (jazz) schools that are tied to a university often function as a separate entity while being attached to a university. There are several reasons that music conservatories want to be affiliated with universities. Being affiliated with a university may enable a music college to offer a broader education to its students, because it enables students from the music college to take liberal arts courses from the university (e.g., English literature, history, etc.) as well as enabling musically-gifted students from the main university campus to have access to conservatory-grade music lessons. As well, with the affiliation, the students from the music college may be able to use the facilities of the university, such as the gym, swimming pool, and health services. Finally, affiliation with a university may enable a music college to offer a broader range of degrees, such as the Master of Music degree (M.Mus.), which the university may be able to grant. However, because of the separation, students are often given more freedom in choosing their curriculum than those in a typical university music school. For example, while they have the option of taking classes at the main university campus, they are generally not required to do so. Likewise, more academically-minded music students are given more freedom to pursue their non-musical interests than they would be at a regular, independent conservatory.

Notable cases of conservatories that are affiliated with universities are the Eastman School of Music (affiliated with the University of Rochester), Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music (affiliated with Northwestern University), Mannes College (affiliated with the New School), Blair School of music (affiliated with Vanderbilt University), and the Peabody Institute (affiliated with The Johns Hopkins University). All of these conservatories were independent schools before joining a larger entity. For example, Eastman and Mannes, while having separate admissions offices than the larger university, both share the larger's bursars and student services offices. These schools are also removed from their respective university's campuses further showing their independence.

Though some of these music schools do forego requiring prospective applicants to meet university admission standards, most still follow a strict complementary structure of general education along with music education.


The fourth type of music school is the most informal. These schools are not incorporated in terms of their recognition as a school entitled to non-profit legal status. Almost anyone can attend these schools and pay a for-profit fee for instruction in diverse types of music.

See also

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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