Slipped Disc’s top ten music schools for 2019

Slipped Disc’s top ten music schools for 2019


norman lebrecht

May 03, 2019

Based on our readers recommendations and disapprovals:

1 Curtis Institute, Philadelphia

2 Sibelius Academy, Helsinki

3 Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, Berlin

4 Royal Conservatoire, The Hague

5 San Francisco Conservatory

6 Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London

7 Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest

8 University of Music, Vienna

9 Juilliard, New York

10 Royal College of Music, London

Feel free to add your own.




  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Jacobs School of Music in Indiana. CNSM-Paris (the Paris Conservatory). Any list is pretty arbitrary. Music is not a competitive sport like soccer.

    • fflambeau says:

      I will second Ruben Greenberg’s nomination of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana U: Menahem Pressler, Andre Watts, and about 178 other outstanding musicians are on the faculty.

      The Peabody Institute should also make the list with faculty like Marin Alsop, Leon Fleisher, Midori, Amit Peled, Kevin Puts, and many more on the faculty.

      Or how about the USC Thornton School of Music with stars like Glenn Dicterow, Jeffrey Kahane, Morten Lauridsen, Pepe Romero, Carl St. Clair, and many others on board.

      Russia also turns out many fine classical musicians but I don’t see any of their schools on your list.

      It all depends on what you want, and yes, it’s purely subjective, just another list.

      • Kolb Slaw says:

        It all depends on what you are studying. The great teachers are not at all the “great” schools. Curtis relies on a lot of orchestra members who are not necessarily great teachers, certainly not pedagogues. Graffman changed that direction. It is not what is used to be, by a long stretch.

      • Anonanon says:

        It is incredibly subjective. Frankly the best star artists aren’t always the best teachers, and vice versa. And also there is a certain nature versus nurture in judging how much credit to give the school in the success of any student that comes out of it.

        I don’t have a profound opinion on the matter because I sure haven’t observed more than a handful of conservatories, but I will say I was impressed by the Peabody dean’s point of view on the need to evolve the curriculum to match the modern musician market – more emphasis on learning the business side, entrepreneurial side, and being able to work across genres rather than focusing single mindedly on practicing your violin to try to get that very rare full time orchestra gig.

  • Two thoughts: 1) The only way to make somewhat objective evaluations in this regard is to reduce the ranking by instrument. The quality is determined by specific teachers. E.g., the best place to study trumpet, oboe, basson, or violin. On that basis, one can be much more accurate.

    2) The idea of ranking schools is an Anglo-American perspective created by their class systems. In most of continental Europe, private schools are forbidden by law since they are seen as promoting classism. Even the idea of elite states schools isn’t very common. In Germany, for example, there are laws that stipulate that all universities and conservatories have equal quality. No one is entitled to a privileged education. Even the idea of ranking schools would be seen as somewhat socially and morally questionable. Sometimes, however, universities specialize in certain departments. The University of Konstanz, for example, excels in limnology, the study of lakes, because it is on the shores of Europe’s largest lake. The conservatories in Germany all have equal quality, but students strive to enter those with the best teacher for their instrument.

    The Anglo-american world might give some thought to its conceptions of education. The racially informed classism and Darwinistic worldview of entitlement is not just vulgar, it leads to concrete social values that are deeply harmful.

    • Operafan says:

      Absolutely true. Brilliant comment.

    • Bone says:

      How can there be a best teacher if everything is equal? Is there no recognition of arete anymore because of some Marxist notion of classless society? And by concrete social values, do you mean stereotypes (I.e. things that happen so often within a culture that they become predictable)? Lawd, Bill, you live in some rarified air.

      • opus131 says:

        I missed the part where Bill said “everything is equal”. You should try as best you can to confine your attacks to things that were actually stated. Everything is different, but that doesn’t mean you can rank them in any meaningful way. I know people who thrived at Juilliard; I also know people who foundered there. Ditto Curtis, and Indiana, and any number of conservatories with a less august reputation. So it is a fool’s errand to say that one such school deserves a higher rank than another. Is that clear, bone? Or am I going too fast for you?

        • Bone says:

          No, that’s about the right speed for me, pard.
          Back to what he said: equal quality means…what to you, oh speedy one? Equal? Or no?
          Anyway, my “attack” (such a harsh word, but let’s go with it since you used it) was more about the snobbery of someone even believing that all German conservatories have equal whatever because the government won’t allow unequal anything. Hogwash, I say.

    • Allen says:

      “No one is entitled to a privileged education.”

      This looks pretty privileged to me:

      and it’s not the only example.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        There are indeed plenty of private grammar and high schools in Germany. But I don’t know of private universities.

        • HugoPreuss says:

          There are private schools and private universities in Germany. But they play no major role in the country’s education system. There may be no Harvard in Germany, but all universities and conservatories have a similar – and quite high – standard. As for public schools, the pay for teachers is determined by the state (and the unions), not by the local tax base. Again, this means that most schools are pretty much on the same level. Anyone who pays for a private school is either someone with strong religious convictions or someone with more money than brains. The same applies for the few private universities. AND they all offer only a limited curriculum.

        • fflambeau says:

          IUBH in Bonn and Berlin; University of Applied Sciences Europe (campuses in Hamburg, Berlin, Iserlohn) die Welt says there are more than 100 in Germany; many are business or management schools. In fact, “they make up a quarter of all institutions for higher education in the country.”

    • christopher storey says:

      William Osborne : Classism ? Does such a word exist ? What is ” racially informed ” – if this has any meaning, which I doubt, kindly spell it out . And what is Darwinistic please ? If you are going to make tendentious postings, it might help your cause ( which is obviously a Marxist based one ) if the post had any intelligible meaning

      • Bone says:

        Don’t look now, but Opus131 might be about to call you names and slow things down for you. He/she is purdy smart – just ask ‘em.

    • Mock Mahler says:

      I doubt that these irritating rankings have much to do with class systems. The editor of a newspaper that loved ranking things told me it was because people are anxious about thinking and so welcome ‘authorities’ doing it for them.

      • Anonanon says:

        Rankings are popular with newspapers and magazines because the audience loves them. They were the original analog click bait before the Internet. US World Report put themselves on the map and has made a cottage industry out of it.

        Back in the day when a local magazine would do a “Best of X-Town Issue,” it was all about getting advertising. A local store named “X-Town’s best laundromat” would hang a plaque in their store that suggests to everyone who sees it that the magazine who awarded it has some sort of cache and following. Stores would also be politely asked if maybe since they won an award, they might like to buy an ad to say “thank you to the readers/voters!” and drive home their brand presence in that issue all the more.

        But the thing is, not only did the magazine/newspaper like it, so did the local stores. It was free publicity and earned media coverage. And universities love those rankings for the same reason.

    • Mr. Knowitall says:

      Wasn’t there an attempt, maybe a decade or so ago, to establish a Stanford/Harvard type elite university in Berlin? I haven’t heard a peep about it in the past few years.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      And you are obviously the sole arbiter of what ‘concrete’ social values are not harmful.

      Deeply Orwellian comments, but I’m not surprised… I’m glad I don’t live in Europe; its education system sounds hideous. No one may rise above another. Yeah, well the Bolsheviks tried that and lots of people died.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Er…you have misunderstood the system in continental Europe (and the UK/US). It has nothing to do with your bizarre rant.

      In the UK and US, the universities can select their students, but in continental Europe they can not.

      In Europe, all applicants who have passed their school exam have a right to enter any university they want and universities can not set higher entry requirements to restrict entry. Hence, in principle, the standard of students is the same across all universities.

      In Britain each university sets its own entry requirement, and universities with a better reputation can select the best students. Having the best students makes those universities better (less good universities end up with less good students, making those universities less good). The US universities allows some rich students to buy entry into these better universities, and join the better students.

      In the UK/US universities compete to rise in the rankings and get better students. In Europe they do not, since being “better” will not really change to profile of students.

    • Anonanon says:

      American ideas of class likely play a role in university rankings, but I’d argue the main driver comes from how universities are funded and paid for here in the States. As you say, European universities are largely all public and heavily supported by the government.

      The US on the other hand, even public universities are increasingly funded by tuition and donations. State (as in state government, not federal) support has declined, while costs have grown. University presidents and provosts are largely fundraisers in chief, soliciting donations from alumni or wealthy patrons. And that money is all driven by your brand and pride. So they are constantly trying to build that brand around the idea that they are the best… in something or another, and they will use these rankings in advertisements, donor guides, put them on billboards on the interstate. So you could argue this is related to your point on class, but I think it’s worth getting specific and noting the funding model, because I think that drives everything.

  • Paul says:

    For opera, conducting, or even any and all instrumental and vocal performers, you really must count Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University as one of the top two (if not in fact the best) in America. It is the only school which puts on 6 fully-staged, double-cast operas with full orchestra. Their opera stage is also the same size as the Met. Equally worth mentioning is that there are at least 4 or 5 full-time orchestras there (one can easily lose count) including a full conductor’s orchestra (with paid musicians) which meets 3 times per week. Please, can anyone name any other school in the world where conducting students work with a real orchestra that often and also assist on 6 operas per year? I believe IU also has (or had) the largest number of music students of any school, which ten years ago was around 1,600. Someone there now should update and verify these numbers I mentioned.

    • Rosinna says:

      Yet in piano (classical piano), Indiana is no where near the top…

      • Paul says:

        no where near the top? With teachers such as Menahem Pressler, Emile Naoumoff, and Andre Watts? hmm, did you audition for them? 😉

        • Fliszt says:

          Not too mention previous IU piano faculty such as Jorge Bolet, Abbey Simon, Sidney Foster, Georgy Sebok, Ozan Marsh, etc.

          • Billy says:

            There certainly WAS a time when IU had a strong piano program. Now, it’s very different. Neither Pressler nor Watts has very high level students today. The other teachers may be adequate musicians but none of them are attracting elite piano talents. The most gifted do not audition at IU.

      • Diane Schmerber says:

        My daughter graduated from Jacobs School of Music in 2018 with high honors and earned her Bachelors Degree in Piano Performance and Certificate in Entrepreneurship. She had a world-class education at a university that is a college student’s paradise.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Does she earn a living playing the piano? If not, does what she learnt at Jacobs enable her to earn a good living?

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      A school of that magnitude is not going to attract all the best players, nor serve them all well. I know at least one instrument where it’s department is now one of the worst.

    • Antonia says:

      My daughtet attended U-Mich for pedal harp and passed over even applying to Indiana once she learned that, with 27 harp students, most were taught by graduate students and only a select few were taught by then-teacher Susann McDonald.

      I wonder how many other depts. burgeoning with students teach in the same fashion?

  • Andy says:

    Glad no Russian conservatory made the list. That’ll teach those pesky Russians a lesson. 😉

  • Terence says:

    When you design a database you first ask: what information, in what form do you want to get out of it.

    I suggest any aspiring music student ask that when considering a music institution. What outcome do I want?

    A wannabe violin soloist’s needs are different to a jazz pianist’s or music teacher’s, etc.

  • Anon says:

    What are the criteria here? All round experience, quality of performance of those leaving? %age employed as performers within x time of leaving? Long-term employability in music or the arts? Facilities? Professors? Arbitrary to demonstrate how futile a ranking is?

    If there’s a substantial element of quality of performance (or facilities) in the ranking criteria then I’m amazed to see Guildhall ahead of other London conservatoires.

  • AndrewB says:

    An interesting list , but any music college is only as good as the principal study tutor that the student is allocated. That relationship can make or break a period of studies. Therefore the maintaining of a strong list of professors in each discipline is crucial.
    I suspect that RNCM should be included on this list as a recognised ‘ Centre for excellence in Teaching and Learning’ CETL. Also Trinity Laban ( ex Trinity College of Music) which has a very innovative approach and has come up very well is both international and national surveys over the past few years. In France Conservatoire de Lyon is well known for producing some great results too.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    There are great teachers in fair-to-middling schools; bad teachers in great conservatories. Uppermost in a student’s mind is the teacher of his instrument. But musical environment is also important. l’Ecole Normale-Alfred Cortot here in Paris has some great teachers, but not much in the way of an environment. To my knowledge, they don’t even have an orchestra.

  • Nick says:

    There is no question that “making lists” is a very ungrateful and useless task. There are way too many components to education that lists like simply cannot be made. A possible comparison can be made on certain parameters, if at all, such as: professors’ names, historical achievement, world’s cultural/musical contribution, accessibility, etc., etc.

    Under such criteria the offered list is obviously arbitrary at best since it is missing a few most important institutions, that contributed to world’s musical culture continuously for over a century:
    Moscow State “Tchaikovsky” Conservatory,
    St. Petersburg “Rimsky-Korsakov” Conservatory.
    Over years and generations these institutions produced countless great artist and artist/teachers who settled all over the world and kept the art of music alive and well in Europe and the Americas in numerous disciplines, namely, piano, violin, viola, cello, composition, music appreciation, harmony/counterpoint studies and conducting. The list of names is known to any cultured person on the planet – no need to name these here.

  • Simon says:

    I agree with the comments about disaggregating rankings per instrument. In addition, I think subjectivity would be reduced if we can see the whole index among which schools accrue points; schools might be good in one dimension, but bad in others. The Hague, for instance, has very good teachers but has atrocious logistics and is in general quite old-fashioned in its approach to teaching students (particularly the older teachers).

    • norman lebrecht says:

      There should also be a value for money component. Juilliard now costs $63,000 a year. Curtis offers free tuition to those it selects.

      • Rosinna says:

        Very few Juilliard students pay full price. Many receive large scholarships.

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        If this is criteria then the similar Colburn School/Colburn Conservatory has Curtis matched.
        Juilliard has the prestigious Kovner Fellowship—-far more than 100% tuition, also covers living expenses, and much much more—nothing can compete with that in a performance degree.

        And Yale School of Music—grad school only, 100% free for everyone.
        These are just a few examples.

        Park University—largely unknown—is home to an outstanding music academy based largely on the old European tradition, with very small numbers. One of its current undergraduate students won Silver at the recent Cliburn competition; Behzod Abduraimov was signed to Decca while a student, I believe; the concertmaster of Israel Philharmonic also attended the school. I don’t think tuition is particularly high, if it’s not completely free.

        • violafan says:

          Gerry, Colburn provides Tuition, living expenses, and more to every student that enrolls. So I guess the Kovner is matched quite well.

          • Gerry Feinsteen says:

            Yes, and Kovner students also receive what Juilliard calls “enhanced programmatic opportunities” in addition to all of the funding. Considering Juilliard’s wealth of programs and departments, it’s hard to imagine a more comprehensive place to study classical music in the US than as a Kovner scholar at Juilliard.
            I was quick to mention Colburn in my first post, however.

      • viola fan says:

        So why haven’t you included Colburn?

      • Kolb Slaw says:

        Not necessarily all, and not free room and board as it once provided. Not what it used to be or claims to be.

      • fflambeau says:

        Mr. Lebrecht: you are only considering tuition. There are other costs: room & board, books/instruments, insurance, etc. According to Curtis, these other “costs” total over $21,000 a year; even with “free tuition”.

        This, of course, is true of most universities that are offering “free tuition”.

        If a good musical school in the USA really wants a promising student, they offer them not only free tuition, but all costs paid, and sometimes a stipend per month.

        So a student and his/her family really has to do lots of research. There are many fine opportunities available to talented students in many different states, cities and countries. Sometimes, the “big name” is meaningless because they are on the faculty’s website but not in the classrooms when needed.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    most of the celebrated musicians of today did not attend these schools, or if they did we don’t know because its irrelevant.

    The question I have is what makes a school great? Faculty? Well—for “#1” many of them also teach a team other schools, from Juilliard and Yale to Rutgers and Temple.

    If its the curriculum…then, that’s just funny. Juilliard probably has the best musical curriculum opportunities.

    If its the success of the students—then their instrumental education is more than just an institution, especially if the school has a very challenging audition process. Clearly the auditioning institution did not train the applicants to gain acceptance!

    If its the success of alumni, we’ll many of them hold degrees from all over.

    If its the improvement students over time, how is this measurable? Seems it would largely depend on the student’s own efforts, in which case its the chemistry of the student and teacher—a good student would be good anywhere.

    • fflambeau says:

      “most of the celebrated musicians of today did not attend these schools, or if they did we don’t know because its irrelevant.”

      Leonard Bernstein: Harvard, Curtis

      Marin Alsop: Yale; Julliard

      Yo Yo Ma: Harvard/Columbia; Julliard

      Joshua Bell: Indiana U. Jacobs School of Music

      Steven Hough: Julliard; Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, U.K.)

      Hillary Hahn: Curtis

      Sir James Galway: Royal College of Music, followed by studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Paris Conservatoire

      Sabrine Meyer: Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover

      Sir Simon Rattle: Oxford U.

      Arvo Pärt: The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

      Eric Edward Whitacre: Julliard

      Morten Lauridsen: USC Thornton School of Music

      Gidon Kremer: Riga School of Music; Moscow Conservatory

      John Rutter: Cambridge

      Vladimir Ashkenazy: Moscow Conservatory

      Pierre Boulez: Conservatoire de Paris

      John Williams (guitar): Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy; Royal College of Music

      John Williams (Composer): Julliard

      Maurizio Pollini: Milan Conservatory

      Mstislav Rostropovich: Moscow Conservatory

      Renée Lynn Fleming: Eastman School; Julliard

      Evgeny Igorevitch Kissin: Gnessin State Musical College (Moscow)

      Olga Kern: Moscow Conservatory

      Daniel Olegovich Trifonov: Gnessin State Musical College (Moscow); Cleveland School of Music

      Claudio Arrau: The Stern Conservatory (Berlin)

      Daniel Hope: Yehudi Menuhin School

      Krystian Zimerman: Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice (Poland)

      Sir András Schiff: Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest

      Lang Lang: Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music;(China); Curtis

      Leonard Rose: Curtis

      Isaac Stern: The San Francisco Conservatory of Music

      Angela Hewitt: The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto; U. of Ottawa

      Jonas Kaufmann: The University of Music and Performing Arts, Munich.

      Sir Bryn Terfel Jones: The Guildhall School of Music and Drama


      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        Thank you, FF for your research.
        You did much of this illustrative the work for me! (note: Juilliard is the correct spelling)

        But I should also mention, while many of the selected names you listed attended schools not on Mr Lebrecht’s list, some of them do not hold degrees from those institutions either. Some of them were associated with the schools in pre-college coordination or mostly for private lessons study and were not fully matriculated university students.

        I doubt anyone sits around and wonders where Pollini or Stern or Trifonov Schiff studied, except those who choose to be a part of the institutions…of greater importance and value is the lineage of the pedagogues who trained them…that is far more interesting.

        Hahn is probably the most internationally recognizable violinist who happened to attend Curtis in the last 25 years.

        Patricia Kopatchinskaja? Anne-Sophie Mutter? Frank Peter Zimmermann? Christian Tetzlaff?
        Maybe their teachers’ names might ring a bell but where they attended school?
        I’d bet they’re a little beyond that at this stage

  • Brian says:

    Well, it all depends on what a student wants to specialize in. In many ways you’re better off going to a university that has a good music school so that you get a more rounded education and have some fall-back options (or can double-major in, say, business or education).

    The University of Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, USC, and the University of Cincinnati are all great colleges with first-rate music music schools.

    That being said, the Juilliard name probably opens some doors for performers that other schools don’t.

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      Indeed, for a harpist, the best teachers are now mostly at universities and colleges, not the major conservatories.

  • Rosinna says:

    Just considering classical piano, and based on the successes of recent graduates and student opinions (the most up-to-date measure), it’s quite a different list. In no particular order, the top 5:

    Juilliard (still solid)

    Curtis (recently slipping)

    New England Conservatory (on the way up)


    Hanns Eisler, Berlin

  • Axl says:

    I’m a Finn and that’s I’m more than very happy that our Sibelius academy is in the list and even placed 2nd! That’s awesome!!

  • X.Y. says:

    I asked myself which was the most accomplished and interesting young violinist today and just for me its Vilde Frang. She is a product of Barratt-Due and the Kraggeruds in Oslo, Kolja Blacher of Hochschule Musik und Theater Hamburg and (together with many others) of Ana Chumachenco (now Kronberg Academy). Where are these schools on our lists? Violinists were always produced by individual teachers, not their institutions, which to rank makes not much sense. Might be the same for other instrumentalists.

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    New England Conservatory?

    Each is world-leading in some area. The list is purely arbitrary and heavily Euro-centric, but has achieved the goal Norman undoubtedly had in mind- to agitate enough SDers to generate a lot of comment.

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      When the deans, heads, do not bother to do searches for new faculty members, hire someone convenient or because they look good on paper, take shortcuts, then you can expect the school to decline. And they do, too often.

  • Robert Freeman says:

    Those interested in the question at hand should reflect first on what they are seeking in a first class musical education. Narrowness of training or breadth of musical education? Winners of competitions or successes in achieving long-term goals? Lowness of price? Then Curtis, Colburn, and Yale lead the way. Juilliard has the advantage of proximity to what has been the music media capital of the world. Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership impels students to think of what will be needed 20 years hence. Rice has the advantage of its proximity to the Texas Medical Center and its new focus on the crucial relationship between musical performance and neuroscience. USC and UCLA have an unusually close relationship to Asia, the new hotbed for music study in the world.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      New York just is not the “music media capital of the world”. In the days of the major labels, London was clearly the [classical] music capital of world, although this is fading slightly now.

  • esfir ross says:

    Colburn school in Los Angeles like Curtis of South

    • viola fan says:


    • carlos2bass says:

      Lynn university conservatory in Boca Raton is the Curtis of the south, with teachers like Elmar Oliveira, Tim Cobb, Jeffrey Kahner who go down there to teach and giving all students full scholarships and to most of them free room and board. Also the student orchestra is very good.

  • Larry W says:

    The only meaningful measure of a music school’s success is the placement of graduates in professional jobs. A leader would be Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I sort of agree. However, a good school might also give a good rounded education allowing employment outside music, with an appreciation and enjoyment of music for the rest of the graduate’s life. If only a minority of graduates get professional jobs, then this is important.

      In sport, Manchester City have “the best youth programme” currently. One thing they promise is that they will nevertheless pay for the child’s education at an elite private school until the age of 18 even if they drop the child from their football programme. This is very attractive given how few youth players later become professionals.

  • violafan says:

    How is San Francisco Conservatory so high on your list? The level coming out of that school is nowhere near as high as NEC, Colburn, Rice etc. What factors did you use to make that decision? I have never even seen it crack a top 10 list before…

  • Spamalot says:

    Lebrecht writes: “Based on our readers recommendations and disapprovals”
    Was there a SD readers survey? How were these results tallied?

  • AlanK says:

    As an economist and an serious amateur bassoonist who did not go to music school I have no dog in this fight. But my observations from reading the Myauditions website leads me to believe that in the US the Rice University’s Shephard School of music has a remarkable record of their graduates being selected for positions in the top 20 Orchestras. Their graduates are everywhere and seem to have a success rate at or near Julliard.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Rice has a great bassoon “studio”, which I believe is the word used in the US. Also, a very fine student orchestra.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how the S.F. Conservatory ‘ranks’ among the competition, but I’ve certainly seen a number of really nice, interesting recitals there. In most cases, for no charge at all (donations always accepted). The highlight for me was a truly well done, cleverly semi-staged performance of Poulenc’s one-act comic opera, “Les Mamelles de Tiresies”. That was quite a treat.

  • Brian says:

    San Francisco Conservatory,

    But no NEC?

    Come on

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Moscow? St Petersburg?

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Ridiculous. No mention of Manhattan School of Music, or Mannes, or New England Conservatory, CIM, BU, etc? San Francisco is decidedly second-tier except for locals.

  • debusschubertussy says:

    Curtis #1? At what, putting out conservatory-trained robots with no real life practical skills? How about music schools that actually train students to function in the real world and land actual jobs.

    • Bill says:

      I guess joining the Philadelphia Orchestra doesn’t qualify? Or winning a job as concertmaster of the Vienna State Opera? Conductor of the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest? What’s on your resume?

  • A Pianist says:

    A lot of shilling for second-shelf American conservatories, I guess a large amount of the readership is from them. From the piano perspective I’m more concerned about countries that produce a lot more great pianists than America, but aren’t represented. When I was auditioning the two most intimidating schools were Curtis and the Conservatoire Superieure in Paris, which was also free — surely the latter has not declined in standards? Also at least two Russian conservatories produce musicians at a far higher standard than almost anyplace in America. Finally there is Italy which seems to crank out genuinely wonderful musicians. If piano was a concern Imola must be included. But there must also be more generalist standout schools within the Italian system.

  • fflambeau says:

    Based on the lengthy list of classical musicians I presented above my rankings would be:

    1. Curtis;
    2. Julliard
    3. Moscow Conservatory
    4. Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London
    5. Royal College of Music, London (London);
    6. Conservatoire de Paris
    7. Franz Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest)
    8. Indiana U. Jacobs School of Music
    9. Yehudi Menuhin School, Surrey, U.K.
    10.Gnessin State Musical College (Moscow)

    But this list has weaknesses too: no German schools and the Germans are very good in classical music; no Italian schools; no Dutch or Nordic schools. Sorry Sibelius Academy, Sibelius was great but…..

  • fflambeau says:

    A good list would also look like this:

    1. Curtis;
    1. Julliard;
    1. Moscow Conservatory;
    1. Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London
    2. Paris Conservatory;
    2. Gnessin State Musical College (Moscow);
    2. Royal College of Music, London (London);
    3. Indiana U. Jacobs School of Music;
    3. U.S.C. Thornton School of Music;
    4. Milan Conservatory;
    5. Eastman School of Music;
    5. Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, Berlin;
    5. Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest;
    6. Royal Conservatoire, The Hague;
    7. Sibelius Academy;
    8. Yehudi Menuhin School, Surrey, U.K.
    9. University of Music, Vienna
    10.New England Conservatory of Music;
    10.Boston Conservatory at Berklee

    So I cheated a bit with the numbers! (It’s an impossible task)

  • AlejandroCastro says:

    As objective as any other list.

  • fflambeau says:

    More famous contemporary musicians (and where they studied music):

    Itzhak Perlman: Julliard;

    Alfred Brendel: The Graz Conservatory, Austria;

    Murray Perahia: Mannes College;

    David Oistrakh: The Odessa Conservatory (Soviet Union);

    Yehudi Menuhin: private lessons;

    Philippe, Herreweghe: The Ghent Conservatory;

    Gustav Leonhardt: the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland;

    Arthur Rubenstein: private lessons;

    Nikolaus Harnoncourt: Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna;

    Midori: Julliard;

    Valery Abisalovich Gergiev: The Leningrad Conservatory;

    Mischa Maisky: The Moscow Conservatory; private lessons with with Gregor Piatigorsky in Los Angeles;

    Martha Argerich: private lessons;

    Peter Serkin: Curtis;

    Zubin Mehta: Vienna Academy of Music;

    Claudio Abbado: The Milan Conservatory; Vienna Academy of Music;

    Herbert von Karajan: The Mozarteum in Salzburg; Vienna Academy of Music;

    Riccardo Muti: The Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, Milan; Naples Conservatory of Music;

    Arthur Grumiaux: Royal Conservatory (Brussels)

    Nelson Freire: private lessons;

    John Eliot Gardiner: Cambridge U.; King’s College, London

    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: Berlin Hochschule für Musik;

    Ricardo Chailly: Milan Conservatory; Perugia Conservatory

    Mariss Jansons: The Leningrad Conservatory; private lessons;

    Sir Neville Marriner: The Royal College of Music (London); Paris Conservatory;

    Osmo Vänskä: Sibelius Academy;

    Edo de Waart: Sweelinck Conservatory (Amsterdam);

    Placido Domingo: National Conservatory of Music (Mexico City);

    Luciano Pavarotti: private lessons;

    José Carreras: Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu; private lessons; U. of Barcelona

    Howard Hanson: The Institute of Musical Art (the forerunner of the Juilliard School); Northwestern U.

    Dale Warland: St. Olaf College (Minnesota); U. of Minnesota

    Alan Hovhaness: The New England Conservatory of Music; Tufts U.; private lessons;

    Gerard Schwarz: Julliard;

    Sir Peter Pears: Oxford; Royal College of Music (London);

    Hakan Hagegard: Royal College of Music (Stockholm);

    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Berlin Conservatory;

    Glenn Gould: Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto);

    Rosalyn Tureck: Julliard;

    Wanda Aleksandra Landowska: Warsaw Conservatory; private lessons

    Paul Warfield: Eastman;

    Samuel Barber: Curtis

    Sergei Rachmaninoff: Moscow Conservatory;

    Benjamin Grosvenor: Royal Academy of Music (London);

    James Levine: Julliard

    André Previn: Berlin Conservatory; private lessons;

    Wynton Marsalis: Julliard;

    Leotyne Price: Julliard;

    Tamás Vásáry: Franz Liszt Academy (Budapest);

    Yefim Bronfman: Curtis;

    Jorge Bolet: Curtis;

    Philip Glass: Peabody (Johns Hopkins U.); U. of Chicago; Julliard; private lessons

    Michael Nyman: Royal Academy of Music (London);

    Frederick Fennell: Eastman;

    Mikhail Pletnev: Moscow Conservatory
    Kenneth Fuchs: Julliard;

    Reinhard Goebel: Cologne Conservatory; Cologne U.; private lessons;

    Michael Tilson Thomas: Thornton

    Gustavo Dudamel: Jacinto Lara Conservatory; Latin-American Violin Academy (Venezula);

    Kenneth Woods: University of Wisconsin-Madison;

    Pinkas Zukermann: Julliard;

    André Watts: Philadelphia Musical Academy; Peabody (Johns Hopkins U.);

    Gil Shaham: The Rubin Academy of Music (Jerusalem); Julliard; Columbia U.

    Simon Preston: King’s College, Cambridge; private lessons

    Trevor Pinnock: Royal College of Music (London)

    Shlomo Mintz: Julliard;

    Some quick observations:

    1) a good musician can get good training just about anywhere but it seems certain schools do open doors (Julliard; Curtis; Royal College of Music, London; Moscow Conservatory etc.).

    2) The U.S.A. has benefited enormously from Jewish musicians seeking a musical education there (mostly in N.Y.C.).

    3) The Moscow Conservatory is definitely a top 10 school (and one of the top 3 or so in the world). Russia has maybe 2 or 3 other top schools too.

    4) Most people who end up being famous in music went to school in the state/area where they were born. Location IS important. A major exception appears to be talented Jews, who have flocked to the U.S.A.

    5) Older musicians (Rubenstein; Arrau etc.) in general appear to have studied more with private lessons with musical schools and academies being late 19th century and 20th century innovations.

    • EricR says:

      You continue writing a history. This has fairly little to do with the importance or quality of these schools NOW!

  • Eleanor says:

    I’m sorry not to see the Mozarteum University of Salzburg on your lists – probably because they don’t beat their own drums too much as everyone is too busy working hard on raising not just a fine new generation of musicians but theatre people too – in stage design and application. Their graduates are snapped up by all the best European drama establishments.

    • fflambeau says:

      I’m sure that the Mozarteum U. is a very good place for musicians to get an education/training.

      On my lists: Herbert von Karajan who was a famous graduate of this institution.

      What struck me in doing the list is that lots of very high-level German speaking performers got private lessons/training ( André Previn, for instance, or Alfred Brendel). This is especially true if they were a bit “older”. This could be a cultural difference.

      Perhaps also music schools and academies appear to be a later change. Plus, musicians in Britain and the U.K.and Canada also tended to have very rigorous training at broad-based universities they attended and then went on to a music school(Philip Glass, Leonard Bernstein and Simon Preston, are examples) such as at Columbia, Harvard, Chicago (which I don’t think really has a music program as such) Toronto, Oxford and Cambridge. I am not as familiar with German universities as those in the U.K., , Canada, and USA.

      Above all, geography appears to have been a decisive factor in choice of music school: von Karajan to Salzburg makes sense! The Russians in particular tend to stay within Russia (maybe it’s a language thing? politics?).

      GEOGRAPHY IS DECISIVE EXCEPT for two major groups: 1) Jewish students and 2) Asians, both of whom tended to wind up in the USA and especially NYC (Yo Yo Ma, Lang Lang, Gil Shaham are examples).