Here Are the Top 10 Colleges for Music Education Majors In the US

Music education is, without even a close second, the most popular college major musicians pursue in the United States.

The reasoning behind this is very simple — music education students have the highest rate of employment out all music majors just coming out of an undergraduate degree.

Music education graduates are needed at just about every public and private K-12 institution in the US that has a music program. The job market is, unlike with many other college majors and degrees, exceptionally favorable for music education graduates.

When making this list of the top music education colleges in the US, I looked at the employment rate of students who graduate with music education degrees at different schools, the depth and variety of research the specific program conducts, the strength, reputation, and publishing history of the faculty, what kinds of connections the school has to K-12 institutions in its area, the curriculum, and other factors, such as the overall strength of the school.

But before we talk about the top 10 colleges for music education majors, keep in mind a couple things when choosing the music education school best for you.

A music education program prepares you for statewide certification in the specific state you go to school in. So, while a school like Indiana University has a widely heralded and known music education program, if you don’t foresee yourself making a living in Indiana in your future, then perhaps it is not in your best interest to go to that particular school.

That said, you can still get certified in any state if you meet the requirements, it’s just the requirements do vary from state to state and it could take some extra work outside of just your degree to meet the minimum requirements.

There are other tips you should know about when choosing a career in music education — this article published in late October can give you some ideas.

Ok, so let’s get into it — here are the top 10 colleges for music education majors in the US.

10. University of Wisconsin, Madison — Madison, WI

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Historically a premium epicenter for music education in the United States, the University of Wisconsin, Madison graduates students who approach multifarious topics in this broad field, including social policy issues as well as gender and racial equity issues.

The three primary faculty members of UW Madison’s music education program are among the most widely read and published authors in music education today, Teryl Dobbs, Julia Eklund Koza, and Alison Margaret Hooper. The combined qualifications of these three professors are marvelous, with thoughtful publications in the Musical Quarterly, Journal of Research In Music Education, Indiana University’s Philosophy of Music Education Review, the Bulletin of the Council of Research in Music Education, and many more.

Committed to training music education majors who are also passionate and strong at their respective instruments, all undergraduates must audition on their major instrument and continue to hone their skills while learning music education.

UW-Madison’s music education program is known for being a place that embraces interpretive, qualitative research in the field of music education, and claims to be among the first programs for this field in the world to do so.

Students at this program not only receive an exceptional education that will lead them to certification in the state of Wisconsin, they also become integrated into a prominent school that places exceptional emphasis into both the practical aspects of music education as well as its far-reaching philosophical challenges and explorations forward.

9. SUNY Fredonia — Fredonia, NY

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One of the best values in music education, SUNY Fredonia has a nationally recognized music education program that consistently sends students to teaching institutions throughout the entire state of New York.

Placing an exceptional emphasis and value on “Responsive Music Educators,” their core belief is summarized in their music education handbook as follows:

We believe that all children can learn and make music, and that they can learn and make music best when taught by Music Educators who are responsive.

Becoming a responsive music educator is among the primary goals for students at SUNY Fredonia, who are taught to plan, instruct, reflect, and then respond to a given student’s needs.

The faculty for music education at SUNY Fredonia is very well-regarded, including names such as Christian Bernhard, whose writings have been published in the College Music Symposium, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and Journal of Band Research. Vernon Huff is also on the faculty at SUNY Fredonia, a noted expert in elementary choral methods as well as choral music literature.

8. Eastman School of Music — Rochester, NY

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Eastman School of Music’s Music Education program boasts some of the world’s finest faculty and teachers that have made seminal advancements in music education.

The Chair of the Eastman Music Education department, Christopher Azzara, has made significant and impactful developments on the understanding of improvisation as it relates to learning music, frequently describing it as central to the process of a musician grasping the basic elements of music.

Other faculty members include the highly esteemed Richard F. Grunow, a recognized expert in helping beginner musicians learning instruments. Within the last year alone, Grunow has spoken at Duquesne University, the University of Delaware, the Padova Conservatory of Music, and at the Baldwin Wallace University’s Conservatory of Music, among several other schools.

Alumni of the Eastman School of Music music education program have become employed in public and private schools as well as in music organizations, colleges, and in community programs worldwide. Employment rate for graduates of this program is exceptionally high.

7. University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, MI

An enduring and long-established leader in the field of music education, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor prepares students for the highest level of teaching mastery at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Known for having an intensive music education program, students are required to successfully learn multiple instruments in order to best prepare them for the real world of education in K-12 schools. Many of the faculty members at the school are equally at home in both music education and performance; the chair of their department, Michael Hopkins, is both a nationally recognized music education expert as well as a conductor and composer of over 40 published pieces of music for orchestra.

Other notable professors include Colleen Conway, a heralded music education expert who has given presentations at international conferences as well as written books published by GIA and Oxford University Press.

Graduates of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s Music Education program are frequently placed into real world jobs immediately after graduation in Michigan and beyond.

6. Teacher’s College at Columbia University — New York, NY

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Perhaps the finest education college overall in the entire United States, the Teacher’s College is a graduate-only school at Columbia University in New York City. One of the oldest programs of its kind, students at the Teacher’s College are regularly lauded academicians; one of their Doctoral students was recently deemed the first runner-up for New York State Teacher of the Year.

Students at the Teacher’s College are afforded the opportunity to work with K-12 students with exceptionally diverse backgrounds growing up. Some partnerships the school has taken on to help serve underprivileged youth include the Partnership for the Homeless as well as the Charles Mingus Foundation.

The faculty at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University is exceptionally notable and accomplished; heralded professor Harold Abeles is a widely published music education researcher whose writings focus on a number of relevant, real-world topics, including gender stereotypes in music, arts organizations and their impact on the community, and more.

Although this college is not for undergraduates looking to find a job in music education, this institution is among the most spectacular in the entire world for intensive research and focus into the theory and practice of this very broad field.

5. Westminster Choir College of Rider University — Princeton, NJ

Widely considered to be among the very finest programs in the entire country for vocal music education, the Westminster Choir College is an intriguing choice for the aspiring music ed. major. As the name suggests, the school’s most famous specialties lie within choral music education, choral music conducting, and vocal performance, invaluable strengths that will prepare a musician to be a great teacher to any K-12 student body.

For the past 11 years, the Westminster Choir College’s music education students have enjoyed a 100% job placement rate upon successful graduation. The students at the school themselves are not separated from the performance majors, but rather, are seamlessly integrated into the ensemble and studio classes of the college.

The voice faculty at Westminster is the largest voice faculty of any college in the world, which is a large reason why an emphasis on choral music education at this school exists.

If you are looking to pursue music education either as a stand-alone major or in conjunction with arts management, conducting, composition, or another performance major, with the intent of landing a job in New Jersey upon successful graduation, look no further than this prestigious college.

4. SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music — Potsdam, NY

The Crane School of Music’s greatest legacy hinges on the strength of its superior music education department. In fact, the school’s namesake is derived from legendary founder Julia Ettie Crane, who originally founded the Crane School of Music in 1886 for the specific purpose of training public school teachers.

In the state of New York, many, many music public school music teachers had their training at the Crane School of Music. I have personally read that 10% of all music educators in the United States are pedagogically related to someone who trained at the Crane School of Music. Considering there are hundreds of thousands of K-12 schools in the US with music programs, that is a compelling and ubiquitous legacy that SUNY Potsdam should take pride in.

Like many of the top music education schools, Crane School of Music also boasts a near 100% favorable job placement rate for music education students. Many of the elite-level performance students double major in music education, making this school one of the smarter choices for the well-rounded musician looking to double major.

3. Ithaca College School of Music — Ithaca, NY

Widely considered to boast one of the most eminent music education programs in the entire United States, Ithaca College frequently graduates students that, quite simply, get jobs on the local and national scale. In fact, for those who seek jobs upon graduation, Ithaca’s student job placement rate is close to 100%, a number that is only enjoyed by students at top music schools, such as at Northwestern and Indiana.

The program is exceptionally prestigious and well-known in a state that has many competitively excellent music education programs, including those at SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Fredonia, and Columbia University, all of which are on this list.

Approximately one-half of the students at Ithaca are either sole music education majors or are music education majors with a joint degree in performance. At the Master’s degree level, permanent New York State certification is awarded to all successful graduates of the program.

In terms of finding a job after certification, its difficult to beat a prestigious school like Ithaca in New York — students here are able to choose from so many teaching options, from wealthy districts in Northern New York to urban settings in Brooklyn. The practical advantages of a music education from this school are limitless.

The faculty is also among the largest in size of all music education programs in the country. There are 32 members of music education faculty at the Ithaca College School of Music whose interests range from the aesthetic and social functions of music education in schools to the usage of technology in 21st-century music education.

2. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music — Bloomington, IN

“JacobsSchoolofMusic“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Long considered one of the foremost colleges for music education in the entire US, Indiana University’s music education graduates frequently enjoy a near 100% employment rate at various Indiana K-12 schools. The program not only provides an exceptionally well-rounded curriculum to its music education majors, but also allows students to choose a music education focus in one of four major areas: choral, general, band, and orchestra. No matter what your goals as a student are at this major music education hub, you will find a program that fits your interests well.

An exceptionally well-rounded institution we recently qualified as the best overall music school in the US, music education majors at IU never run out of opportunities to perform in music ensembles at the school. There is never an orchestra spot, choir seat, or other specialty ensemble that can’t be filled with an aspiring music teacher. IU is an excellent choice for those who wish to double major in both an elite performance and education program.

Additionally, the schools provides students with the opportunity to work with major music education associations as well as with public music teachers who already have years of experience under their belt. Student apprentice teaching, of course, is a requirement of all music education majors as well.

At the graduate level, the level and depth of research that students explore at IU are fascinating, rich, and exceptionally varied. Some topics that the college’s published Philosophy of Music Education Review include examinations of musical instruction using MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) based composition, the evolution of systems utilized in music education, the implications of free improvisation in the classroom, and the relationships between music and spirituality.

The faculty at the program is second to none, and includes notable music education researchers and professors such as Brent Gault, past president of the Organization of Kodaly Educators, and Patrice Ward-Steinman, a widely published author in the field of music education.

1. Northwestern University Bienen School of Music — Evanston, IL

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Northwestern University has been among the highest leaders in music education for the last several decades, producing many thousands of exceptional music teachers that can be found working throughout the US and beyond.

Producing music education studies that are frequently cited by the most widely read publications in the entire world, the depth of research that Northwestern has produced on the subject can only be described as not only admirable but most importantly, exceptionally authoritative.

Students who pursue a music education career upon successful completion of the music education degree from Northwestern University successfully find jobs shortly after graduation. According to Northwestern University, their music education job placement rate is actually 100% every single year.

While this seems like a bold claim to make, this figure actually makes a lot of sense. Northwestern University has connections to over 60 Chicago area public K-12 schools that regularly employ graduates of Northwestern into their program. If you are looking to get involved right away with real K-12 music students at real schools in both a major city as well as suburban Illinois, Northwestern may just provide for you the exact experience you require.

At the PhD level, students also have access to one of the most innovative centers for music education research in the entire country, the CSEME, which stands for the Center for the Study of Education and Musical Experience. Some dissertation focuses the Center has presented in the last two decades include an examination of peer tutoring in the United States, relationships between what music a student likes and what his teacher likes, and an analysis of software relating to the education of jazz music students.

Overall, the program at Northwestern University is among the most innovative, in-depth, and practical of its kind in the entire nation.

Other Top Music Education Schools:

  • Boston University — Boston, MA
  • Florida State University — Tallahassee, FL
  • University of North Texas — Denton, TX
  • University of Northern Colorado — Greeley, CO
  • Berklee College of Music — Boston, MA
  • VanderCook College of Music — Chicago, IL
  • Michigan State University — East Lansing, MI
  • Oberlin College Conservatory of Music — Oberlin, OH
  • Lawrence University Conservatory of Music — Appleton, WI
  • The Hartt School — West Hartford, CT

Featured Image by Daderot Via Wikimedia Commons


Originally published at musicschoolcentral.com on December 9, 2014.