The Hollywood Reporter Unveils the Top 25 Music Schools 2014

THR Herb Alpert - H 2014
Koury Angelo

THR Herb Alpert - H 2014

From L.A. to Nashville to Seoul, the Grammy, Emmy and Oscar winners of tomorrow are practicing in these notable institutions

This story first appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

1. The Juilliard School NEW YORK

Some students call it "Jailyard," but only 6.7 percent of applicants are admitted (with 90 percent receiving scholarships covering two-thirds of tuition). "It's fantastic, with every program imaginable," says alum Mark Snow, who scored The X-Files. In 1967, he started the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble with fellow oboe student Michael Kamen, played a Juilliard Halloween party, wowed Leonard Bernstein, got signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun and wound up, like Oscar nominee Kamen (Die Hard, X-Men), a top composer. Says Snow, "I was a fan of atonal music and put some of that into my score for X-Files."

Notable alumni Yo-Yo Ma, Bernard Herrmann

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2. Berklee College of Music BOSTON

Other schools often worship eminent dead composers, but Berklee always has championed the populist idea of studying contemporary music, which explains why alums have won more than 300 Grammys. This year, the school opened a $100 million 16-story tower with a 10-studio production complex. "Berklee gave me the tools I needed to do what I do now," says alum Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings), who has won three Oscars, four Grammys and the 2014 Billboard/THR Maestro Award. Recently launched: Berklee Online, offering bachelor's degrees in music production and music business at 60 percent of the cost of a traditional degree.

Notable alumni Kiesza, three members of Imagine Dragons, Jeff Bhasker, Psy


The university's Thornton School of Music is 130 years old — making it L.A.'s oldest continuously operating cultural institution. Thornton is where one studies with DJ-producer Young Guru or aims to emulate alumni Bear McCreary, who scores The Walking Dead. When Chaka Khan recently led a master class, says publicist Evan Calbi, "students began playing her hit 'Tell Me Something Good,' and she jumped up and sang with them." USC's Iovine and Young Academy, opened this fall, was launched with $70 million from Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. It's a collaborative program for arts, technology, and business.

Notable alumni David Newman, Marilyn Horne

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Prolific musician, mogul, philanthropist and nine-time Grammy winner Alpert was photographed with students in May at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, ranked No. 4 on THR’s Top 25 Music Schools list.

4. UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music LOS ANGELES

Thanks to Alpert's $30 million gift, UCLA is strongly interdisciplinary, with music, musicology and ethnomusicology departments. Students can study jazz at the school's Thelonious Monk Institute or ad-jingle culture with Timothy D. Taylor, author of The Sounds of Capitalism.

Notable alumni Randy Newman, John Williams

5. Oberlin Conservatory OBERLIN, OHIO

Mixing a liberal arts college (Lena Dunham's alma mater) with the nation's oldest conservatory, Oberlin recently launched an artists-in-residence program funded by alum Ed Helms. Its first visitors, grad Chris Eldridge's Punch Brothers, mix classical and bluegrass "like chocolate and peanut butter, two things wonderful on their own," says Helms. "Together, it's, 'Wow, that's really, really delicious also.' "

Notable alumni Jonathan Sacks, Liz Phair

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6. New England Conservatory BOSTON

Homeland composer Sean Callery credits his three Emmy wins for 24 to the NEC teachers who made him practice six to eight hours a day: "All my teachers were at the top of their game." Seven alums won 2014 Grammys playing with Beyonce and Yo-Yo Ma.

Notable alumni Bernie Worrell, Sarah Caldwell

7. Curtis Institute of Music PHILADELPHIA

An acceptance rate of 4.8 percent, one point lower than the undergraduate rates for Harvard and Stanford, comes as a result of the school's free-tuition policy. Its 177 students follow in the footsteps of such alums as Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber.

Notable alumni Jennifer Higdon, Lang Lang

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8. Eastman School of Music ROCHESTER, N.Y.

Students and the job market don't always make beautiful music together, but a third of Eastman upperclassmen prepare for a paying career through the entrepreneurial Institute for Music Leadership. "As soon as I arrived, I went to work," says Kathryn Lewek, '08, who in 2013 debuted as the Queen of the Night in the Met's The Magic Flute.

Notable alumni Ron Carter, Jeff Beal, Renee Fleming

9. New York University NEW YORK

NYU's Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions emphasizes "collaborative competition" and launches people like The Book of Mormon lead Nic Rouleau. The separate Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in NYU's renowned Tisch School of the Arts has launched creative moguls and such rising stars as ABC's Nashville songwriter Grace Kelly and Bjork's new producer Arca.

Notable alumni Elmer Bernstein, Alan Menken

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10. Royal College of Music LONDON

Students get weekly one-on-one lessons from players in London's symphony orchestras — who swiftly are poaching Hollywood soundtrack work. Hans Zimmer and soprano Kiri Te Kanawa give master classes.

Notable alumni James Galway, L.A. Phil president and CEO Deborah Borda

11. Manhattan School of Music NEW YORK

MSM has a slightly less formidable reputation than Juilliard, whose former campus it occupies. On the other hand, flute student Elena Pinderhughes, 19, appeared on HBO at 11 and played Carnegie Hall, the White House, the Kennedy Center and the Monterey and Montreux jazz festivals.

Notable alumni Max Roach, Harry Connick Jr.

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12. Yale School of Music NEW HAVEN, CONN.

"Yale is probably unique," says alum and UCLA ethnomusicology professor Timothy D. Taylor, because its music school and music department are separate, "so there's no competition over resources between the academics and performers/composers." Another plus: the Binger Center for New Theatre, which teams musicians with the Yale School of Drama (No. 1 in THR's Top Drama Schools poll).

Notable alumni Charles Ives, Cole Porter, Carter Brey

13. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music BLOOMINGTON

Jacobs' voice students are feared at Metropolitan Opera auditions the way Indiana wrestlers intimidate at the Olympics. To make sure students master entrepreneurship as well as art, there's a new collaboration between Jacobs and IU's Kelley School of Business called Project Jumpstart. Jacobs students will make the school's first movie musical with actor and IU professor Robby Benson in 2015.

Notable alumni Booker T. Jones, Leonard Slatkin

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14. California Institute of the Arts VALENCIA

CalArts' Herb Alpert School of Music recently added a performer/composer program and in April released CalArts Capitol Sessions, a 25th anniversary album of student jazz recorded annually at Capitol Studios. Students also stage showcase performances at the Troubadour.

Notable alumni Julia Holter, Michael Fitzpatrick

15. University of Miami Frost School of Music MIAMI

The Frost School, founded in 1926, houses a traditional school, the freely interdisciplinary Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program and the genre-busting Henry Mancini Institute, with new artistic director Terence Blanchard. In the music business program, says student Kristopher Gibbons, "Ninety percent of students find jobs as soon as they graduate."

Notable alumni Ben Folds, Patti Scialfa

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16. Conservatoire de Paris PARIS

Granted, the famous school founded in 1795 could be straitlaced, as when student Claude Debussy annoyed teachers by trying dissonance. But it has produced Edgard Varese, idol of Frank Zappa, and Andre Previn.

Notable alumni Pierre Boulez, Maurice Ravel

17. University of North Texas DENTON

Austin is a famous music capital, but plenty of hipsters prefer Denton, which has its own music festival with 200,000 fans. The school boasts an incredible procession of alums including Roy Orbison, Pat Boone, Norah Jones, Meat Loaf and Deep Blue Something ("Breakfast at Tiffany's").

Notable alumni Don Henley, Lyle Mays

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18. Guildhall School of Music & Drama LONDON

Besides training actors (Claire Bloom, Orlando Bloom), Guildhall is a premier school for musicians and music makers like Beatles producer George Martin.

Notable alumni Harry Gregson-Williams, Marian McPartland

19. Cleveland Institute of Music CLEVELAND

Founded in 1920, CIM is one of the few schools to require Eurythmics — not the band, the technique of using movement to learn rhythm. It's on par with global schools like the U.K.'s Royal College of Music, which offers joint classes at CIM online.

Notable alumni Anthony Holland, Dennis Eberhard

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20. Syracuse University SYRACUSE, N.Y.

The Setnor School of Music's business-focused Bandier Program, launched in 2011 by Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman and CEO Martin Bandier, sends dozens of students to network at CMJ and SXSW. Says program director David Rezak, "Our placement rate for the first three classes is 90 percent."

Notable alumni Drew Taggart, Michael George

21. Seoul Institute of the Arts SEOUL

About 2,400 students study at SIA on two campuses that president Yoo Duk-hyung has compared to a medical school: "Education meets actual professional production."

Notable alumni Lee Bo Ram, Bae Suzy

22. California State University Northridge NORTHRIDGE

CSUN sends grads to the Monterey Jazz Festival, major orchestras and L.A.'s nearby entertainment industry for a fraction of a private conservatory's cost.

Notable alumni Andy Summers, Gordon Goodwin

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23. Middle Tennessee State University MURFREESBORO

MTSU music business school grads run the Nashville outposts of Sony Music and Universal Music as well as New York's Electric Lady Studios. Chris Young and Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott went there, too. "They have an incredible music business school," says Elvis Presley expert Alanna Nash.

Notable alumni Gary Overton, Blake Chancey

24. Belmont University NASHVILLE

Belmont's Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business is wired deeply into the Nashville music scene but also L.A. and New York. And it owns studios used by everyone from Elvis to Sheryl Crow.

Notable alumni Trisha Yearwood

25. Full Sail University WINTER PARK, FLA.

The for-profit school focuses not on traditional performance art but engineering — and getting great jobs. Alums have mixed, recorded or assisted on 18 of the past 24 Grammy album of the year winners.

Notable alumni Gary Rizzo, Sebastian Krys

(For The Hollywood Reporter's annual ranking of the world's top music schools, THR editors and dozens of industry and academic insiders assessed each school's reputation, and the honored schools then ranked one another's programs anonymously.)