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The Top 10 Music Conservatories in the U.S.


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Music Conservatories & Juilliard
The Top 10 Music Conservatories in the U.S.

New York City's Lincoln Center is home to the Metropolitan Opera, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Juilliard School.

Photo by Jackie Burrell

Conservatories are not good choices for teens who merely like music and are thinking about declaring a music major. If that's your kid, he should be looking at universities with a good music program - and good everything else too. (And this conservatory vs. college article explains why.) Students who attend music conservatories are obsessively, passionately devoted to music. They can't imagine doing anything else. They warble arias in the shower, discuss Bartok (or Bach or Coltrane) over dinner, and then, having spent the entire day immersed in music studies, catch a chamber concert or recital in the evening. Saying they "like" music is like saying humans like breathing oxygen.

But there are varying tiers of music conservatories in the U.S. The best are also the most competitive - and the fact that Juilliard's 6.4% acceptance rate is lower than Harvard's 7.2% doesn't tell the whole story. Your musician is competing against musicians from all over the world. (Juilliard's students, for example, hail from 40 different countries.) The age range spans late teens to 30-somethings. And it takes more than dreams and ambition to get into these schools. It takes mastery of extremely challenging audition repertoire. These schools don't ask trumpet applicants, for example, to play two etudes of their choice. They want the Arutunian, Haydn or Hummel concerto.

So here's the lowdown on some of the top music conservatories in the U.S., along with links to find more information for each.

  • The Juilliard School: One of the world's most highly regarded conservatories for music, dance and drama, this New York City-based school is also one of the most competitive, both during admissions and after enrollment. There is no hand-holding here. The school, which is located at Lincoln Center, is known for its stringent requirements, incredibly high expectations and high stress. Some 600 of its 650 students are enrolled in the music program, which includes jazz and classical music. And the faculty roster reads like a who's who of Pulitzer Prize, Grammy and Oscar-winners. But be aware - here and at other schools - that many of those professors are professional, gigging musicians. It's thrilling when your kid's private teacher is a legendary jazz artist. It's not so thrilling when the guy's on yet another global tour.

But New York City is actually home to three major music conservatories, and Juilliard is just one of them...

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