Got a serious bass player? A percussionist? A mezzo-soprano? Some kids who play musical instruments gravitate toward big universities with marching bands. It's a way for them to continue playing and enjoying the camaraderie of a large ensemble. But serious musicians who are headed for careers in classical or jazz performance, composition or similar music careers are looking for something very different: music conservatories or highly ranked music schools in a university setting.
There's no doubt that universities have pecking orders, with Harvard and Yale at the top and less competitive schools farther down the pyramid. But the stratification of music schools is even more extreme. You'll find the best conservatories in the country at the top.
Conservatories aren't for everyone, though. A conservatory on a university campus or a college with a really excellent music department can be a better fit for some kids.(This article on colleges vs. conservatories will tell you why.) The best music schools, whether it's an independent conservatory or university based, require auditions, performance resumes and a very different college application process from what your family may be expecting. If you have older children who have applied to non-music schools, you'll find this process very different.
The first step, though, is to find a music program that fits your child's skills, talent and level of passion. We'd all like to think our kids are Juilliard material. The truth is, very few musicians perform at that level - and the more important truth is, if your kid gets in there and is not up to that caliber, his life will be hellish. Finding a good fit is key. You'll find the lowdown on some of the best Midwestern music programs on the following pages. Every major university boasts a music program, but these five schools offer more.