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Music Schools

Last Updated: January 31, 2023, by TACP Staff

Music Schools

Music schools can help you achieve your dream of becoming a professional musician. Whether you want to be a pro violinist, opera singer, or music producer, music school will teach you the skills you need to succeed.

What Is a Music School?

At the college or university level, there are a few different types of music schools. One type is a music conservatory, where students almost exclusively take classes in music and music performance. As a conservatory student, you may take some core liberal arts classes, but the vast majority of your tune will be spent in studio lessons, music classes, or practicing and performing.

Music Degrees & Program Types

Every school will have its own set of requirements for each degree or major. Sometimes degree requirements will be quite different, despite having the same name. That said, there are some general differences between the various degrees available to music students that are easy to recognize once you know what to look for.

Bachelor of Arts in Music (B.A.)

A bachelor of arts (B.A.) is best known for being a well-rounded liberal arts degree. It is also a good degree for students who wish to pursue a double major in a field outside of music, as many of the core requirements to complete a music major can be achieved by earning a BA. However, a BA does not offer the intense musical curriculum as a Bachelor of Music does, since more credits are dedicated to fulfilling liberal arts requirements. There is also a Master’s of Arts (M.A.) which is best for students who wish to continue their liberal arts education at the graduate level, while pursuing coursework in a music field at the graduate level.

Bachelor of Music (B.M.) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A)

A B.M. or B.F.A. are professional degrees that prepare students for careers as professional musicians. Music classes with take up about three-quarters of your coursework, depending on the school you attend. A degree of this nature is intense and immersive into the world of music performance, as well as careers in non-performance areas, such as an arranger, composer, orchestra conductor, and in film scoring or writing music for video game development. The Master’s of Fine Arts degree is best for musical theater and drama majors who wish to achieve a terminal degree in their area of study. The Master of Music is for students looking to pursue a graduate degree in the field of music with little emphasis on liberal arts and very intensive importance placed on music performance.

Bachelor of Music Education (B.M.E)

A BME will prepare students for a career as a K-12 vocal and instrument teacher. It also prepares students to gain state teaching licensure. If you opt to pursue a BME, check out state regulations regarding licensure, as it may help you decide where to go to school. BME students study music education, music theory, conducting, music history and aural skills. This degree requires a certain number of liberal arts courses in conjunction with music technology classes.

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What to Expect from a Music Program

Today there are literally dozens of options for what you can do with a degree in music; probably more than you ever thought possible. Teaching and performing are the two most common, but they don’t come close to covering all your career choices once you graduate. And, as performance and non-performance jobs aren’t necessarily exclusive of each other, many musicians choose to combine jobs just to support themselves. Some careers require a graduate degree; some require additional training beyond an undergraduate degree. Internships are also important to form connections in the industry and gain experience, as is learning the latest technology, innovative products, and new teaching methods.


Most schools require you apply prior to auditioning. So, create of music schools you want to apply to and fill out their applications. If you’re applying to larger universities’ music schools, you will probably need to apply to both the music school and the university. Keep in mind that the needs of some music schools change from year-to-year, and there may be more or less openings for your particular instrument or voice. This may be a determining factor on whether or not you are accepted to a specific school.

There are also an increasing number of music schools who are requiring prospective students to send in a pre-screen audition (usually a CD or DVD) that must be received by deadline. This information is available on the school’s website, or you can check with the specific music department prior to applying.

Without a doubt, auditions to music school can be stressful. You may be smart to visit a few of your top school choices to get a feel of what an audition will be like and talk to other students or faculty about the process. Learn, too, all you can about live auditions vs., recorded auditions. Some schools consider both graduate and undergraduate students for all the slots they are filling, so you may find yourself competing against other students with far more experience during the audition. Find out if regional auditions are available for the schools you are considering. Are digital auditions accepted at your school choices? Do you need to provide your own accompanist if you are performing a voice audition? Are their composition-specific requirements?

Personal Development

College is critical for individual growth. Networking and participating in internships, apprenticeships, connecting with other student-musicians, etc., are all great opportunities for personal growth and development, which is learned through trial and error and learning and trying new things. Key personal development skills that can be learned in college include communication skills, multitasking, social etiquette, confidence building, accountability, motivation, listening and speaking skills, and identifying your personal strengths and weaknesses. In college, students learn to set goals, prioritize, and learn how to manage their time. They learn that hard work pays off, and that mistakes are all part of the learning process.

But, no matter where you end of attending, music schools (or any school for that matter) all have one thing in common. You get out only what you put in. Even the most prestigious schools come with no guarantees. Every music school, music school within a large university, or even two-year programs have their advantages, but it’s up to you to capitalize on them.

How to Choose a Music School

Students have many different needs and goals when it comes to enrolling in a music school. Whether you want to master an instrument, take the next step in your singing career, or learn the technical side of music production, there are plenty of schools out there that cater to all types of musical interest and career aspirations. 


When making a choice about the music school you wish to attend, it’s important to remember that you will spend a significant amount of time in the city where the school is located. Does the city have a thriving art and music scene? Are there opportunities in the community for you to make connections with other artists outside of your classmates? Is the city a place where you would like your music connections to be? These are are few of the questions you should ask yourself when considering a school program.

Program Options

It’s essential for any student who is considering music school to find a music program with a curriculum that closely fits their passion and career aspirations. The program should encapsulate you as an artist, in terms of what you want to learn and what you want to be in the music industry. For example, if you want to study piano, you should not choose a music program that focuses more on music production. Likewise, if you are interested in the technical side of music production, you should avoid a music school that primarily caters to students with instrument-based programs.  

Accomplished Faculty

Your instructors will play a pivotal role in your development as they guide you throughout your music education. Enrolling in a school with exceptional faculty who are, or have been, professional performers is critical to your development. Not only will you spend the majority of your time studying and being critiqued by your professors, but your instructors also play a key role in creating networking opportunities for you once you graduate. 

Performance Opportunities

For you to grow as a musician it is essential that you have opportunities to perform. If you are a singer, play an instrument, or are a performance major, it is important to research music programs that offer a myriad of performance courses, musical productions, musical ensembles, and various sponsored musical projects at the university. The best music programs will provide performance opportunities throughout the school year. Examples include student recitals, musical theater, student compositions, chamber music groups, operas, orchestras, and musicals. 

Other Questions to Ask

  • What types of summer programs and internships are available to students?
  • Is there enough room for students to practice and rehearse?
  • Do students receive private instruction? If yes, how many hours?
  • Is the program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music?

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