Why have Juilliard fees leaped 50%?

Why have Juilliard fees leaped 50%?


norman lebrecht

March 07, 2022

Clarinet player Eric Black argues that attending a US conservatory does not represent value for money, considering the eventual pay. Juilliard fees are up 50% in a decade. Orchestra wages are generally down.

Black thinks conservatories are scams.




  • Fliszt says:

    And those astronomical figures don’t include the hidden costs, i e , private lessons. The students enrolled in Juilliard often find that their famous instrumental teacher can’t teach, so they resort to “moonlighting” – i e., taking lessons with a teacher outside of the school. So figure $150 per private lesson. As any Juilliard student can tell you, this practice has been going on for years.

    • Yardbird says:

      I am “any Juilliard student” and I’ve never heard of this happening. Maybe speak for yourself.

    • Larry W says:

      As a former Juilliard student, I can say the practice that matters most is 4 to 5 hours a day on your instrument.

    • Kyle Black says:

      That is absurd. The teachers at Juilliard can all teach. Yes, some take additional lessons on the side and sometimes pay for summer festivals and vocal institutes.

      • Paul Easy says:

        How do you define teaching? We can see in videos where Dorothy DeLay would give her students several alternatives, clearly indicating the proper paths, but letting them choose their own mistaken paths without any guidance at all. That’s not teaching, in my book. Interpretation has to be taught just as technique does, and on my instrument, the two cannot be separated. I know a teacher who makes her students’ techniques worse and provides no guidance in taste.

    • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

      Fliszt is correct. I was at Juilliard from ’73 to ’77 (piano) and many piano students there – those with ample financial means – were studying on the side. Despite its stellar reputation, some of Juilliard’s faculty at the time simply were not good teachers. And tuition in those days came to less than $3000 a year, often reduced by competitive scholarships.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        In my experience learning the piano from age 35 it was musicians who weren’t in the top sphere of performance who made the best teachers because they knew the difficulties they’d had themselves. Those who are excellent musicians think others can pick it up as quickly as they did. Ergo, they pay scant regard to the techniques which will really help the student.

        • Paul Easy says:

          Or, they were dedicated pedagogues, often wives of great artists, like Rosina Lhevinne or Mrs. Rosenthal, or Lucile Salzedo.

      • NotToneDeaf says:

        And you think nothing has changed in 50 years?? What you describe was once true but is no longer the case. Things changed and improved considerably when Joe Polisi took office.

      • Ludwig's Van says:

        Indeed, the Juilliard piano faculty of the 1970’s was a sorry lot – a pack of pompous has-beens whose interest in getting the most prize-winners into their class outweighed any pedagogical pursuit.

        • Paul Easy says:

          That has much to do with the character of the student. Adele Marcus produced some very fine artists as well as mechanical, joyless players. Many students are unwilling to change, to be led, to be real students of their teacher, who just want magic pills and instant successes. They will always be disappointed and blame their teacher. These are also students who went for the Big Name School, when they could have gone to Manhattan School of Music, or Mannes, and had a fine, artistic teacher. This person is also ignoring the great teachers I believe already at Juilliard, such as Gyorgy Sandor, Raymond Lewenthal and others.

          • A Pianist says:

            Poor Jerome Lowenthal, always getting confused with Raymond Lewenthal. Both kickass pianists but only the former is a highly sought-after teacher at Juilliard.

    • Louis Sedano says:

      Biden PROMISED to CANCEL student loan debt, so what’s the worry?? It’s only money. Think of all the great jobs waiting for you, just like all the grads before..

      People should have more faith and certainty now that he and Harris are running the USA!

  • phf655 says:

    How does this compare with other higher educational institutions in the United States? Juilliard gives out large amounts of financial aid, so relatively few students actually pay these fees. At least instrumental and vocal technique can be taught, though ultimately, artistry can’t. American MFA programs in the visual arts are increasingly, and accurately, seen, as keys to opening doors, and little more. Techniques here can be taught too, but they matter little in today’s visual arts environment, where it seems that the main goal is to shock.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    As are most young artist programs at opera companies….they are a windfall for fundraising however.

  • In Germany, tuition for the Universities of Music (Musikhochschulen) range from 0 to about 600 euros per semester depending on the state. Foreigners outside the EU can be charged up to about 1600 euros here in Baden-Wurttemberg. These conservatories are excellent.

    • In Germany, and most of Europe, private universities and conservatories are forbidden by law. (They do allow for a limited number of small, private specialized trade schools, but they are not colleges, universities, or conservatories.)

      • Paul Easy says:

        That is actually rather shocking. But, a person does not require a school, if they study privately with great teachers, as it was traditionally done.

  • Steve Proser says:

    Orchestra wages are generally down? In the US? No. No, they’re not.

    • The average salary of a ROPA orchestra (the representative organization for regional orchestras) is about $13k per year. The vast majority of American orchestras are ROPA orchestras. The salary, for example, of the tutti string players in the New Mexico Philharmonic is about $3000 per year. The orchestra serves the Albquerquerque/Santa Fe metro area of about one million people.

      • Alan Glick says:

        Mentioning the lower salaried regional ROPA orchestras ignores the higher tier of orchestras: the 50+ so major orchestras of ICSOM. The salaries of these orchestras range from around 40K to 150K.

        • So 50 moderate or well paid orchestras for a population of 320 million is enough? An average of one per state?

          • Paul Easy says:

            It would seem so, reflecting the level of interest. There are additional civic/community orchestras. It is interesting to compare with ballet companies, where too many local companies reduce or eliminate the possibility of touring for national companies like ABT, yet their level can never be anywhere near that of a major company.

      • Paul Easy says:

        And many orchestra members have outside income from teaching or freelancing, few are dedicated to only playing in the orchestra.

  • Craig Campbell says:

    Conservatories are wonderful! We are living in unusual times in many ways.

  • MacroV says:

    I was going to start on a rant saying that there is nothing surprising here; that Juilliard costs a lot because every private institution costs a lot, and they’re in the most expensive part of New York. And music schools graduate people who tend not to make a lot of money, so they don’t can’t raise massive amounts of donations from alumni; they’re not Harvard Business School. All true, but Juilliard has a $1 billion endowment with an enrollment of about 1,000 students. Which comes to $1 million per enrolled student. Less than half that of Harvard, but still quite impressive. So I don’t know.

    But maybe go to Indiana University instead of Juilliard? Great school, cheaper housing, I’m sure.

    • Simon Greenblatt says:

      about 850 college students and an endowment that is more like 1.5 billion. It is in the Harvard/Stanford league. Still, Juilliard only discounts tuition at around 60% overall. Why it isn’t free, is really the question considering the money they have

      • Bill says:

        Obviously, you have little or no experience with the curriculum taught at Stanford or Harvard business schools. The endowment at Juilliard is currently about 10x the size of the annual budget, based on the 2019 tax return (though that is the 2021 endowment figure, so the multiplier may be less). Any competent endowment manager will tell you that drawing much more than about 5% annually from the endowment is unsustainable in the long run. And those funds are not necessarily unrestricted funds that can be spent however they like.

        Tl;dr the reason it isn’t free is that they would be broke in a few years!

    • Paul Easy says:

      Indiana has long been known as a factory for musicians, and with far lower standards. Only its size keeps its reputation up. I have read dissertations for DMAs there that were completely amateur, full of mistakes. It seems to me a number of less-well-known colleges and universities do a much better job. Oberlin is one, Rice University seems to be the top. What, if anything, maintains these reputations and “standings” of “top” schools, like Eastman, Indiana, Michigan? Is it just having big name faculty? Or aggressive placement offices?

  • Recently there was an attempt to hold for-profit trade schools in the US to some sort of minimum standard for post-graduation employment.

    I doubt many “non-profit” art and music schools could meet even the lame standards that the for-profit trade schools were assigned.

  • Y says:

    “Why?” Because the number of administrators has increased, and so has their pay. Bureaucracies always grow out of control.

  • Monsoon says:

    Whether or not there are places where conservatories are over charging/over promising, this is really an issue of Baumol’s cost disease that affects the entire education sector.

    The idea is very simple: Labor costs grow, but productivity doesn’t. We pay teachers more than we did 50 years ago because of inflation, demand for better benefits over time (e.g. health insurance, retirement program, etc.), etc. Those higher costs don’t result in higher productivity — the amount of time it takes to teach someone to play the violin, for example, is pretty much the same as it was 50 years ago. This applies to all fields in education — the length of time it takes to complete a bachelors degree in any subject hasn’t gone down through teachers being able to teach more efficiently. And the way many colleges and universities have tried to deal with this is by cutting labor costs through hiring fewer tenured professors and more adjunct. Butt

    And this is the same problem orchestras face — the cost to run an orchestra have increased without any efficiency gains to offset those cost — the time it takes to play and rehearse Beethoven’s 5th never really goes down (though following the original metronome markings help).

    • Paul Easy says:

      I would question the issue of time. Because the top level of musicians have percolated downward into many or most communities, the level of entering students may be much higher than previously, meaning they will complete studies sooner. Then, there is the fact that few students seem to pursue graduate studies anymore, which lowers their overall level of accomplishment. Is it due to the high cost of schools, or a lack of deeper interest? In the 1980s, the only students who could complete their studies with an undergrad degree were those who had perfect training from day one and whose playing in their last year was equal to that of most graduate students, or at least master’s degree students. My teacher always said, you study until you are done, not until you get a degree then quit. Most of her students continued lessons for several years more. Naturally, one can prepare better and deeper, so that the time between lessons gradually expands from weekly to monthly to annually. That is the natural way, if you have a great teacher. Degrees actually get in the way. She never got a degree, she studied privately with great masters and entered her career.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    If there was a guaranteed payoff at the send of such a huge investment, then that fee increase would be worth it. Sadly, it seems like a Juilliard degree doesn’t have the relative prestige advantage it used to. Grads from other conservatories and even good state music programs (Indiana, Michigan, CCM, et al) are doing just as good if not better than Juilliard grads. As the post below noted, a lot of Juilliard professors are world-renowned performers, but not the best teachers–and they do a lousy job preparing them for the job market after graduation.

  • GCMP says:

    This is not really a problem specific to music conservatories. American higher ed in general cannot live within a budget and colleges consistently raise tuition and fees above the inflation rate. And the demographic decline in numbers of potential college-age students exacerbates the issue.

    • Paul Easy says:

      Part of it is simply the high cost of living. In the 1970s, professors received a moderate middle-class salary, but it was enough to buy a home near the campus. By the 1990s, they could not afford those homes anymore without doubling their salaries. But the schools also got better at fundraising. Students began demanding fancier dorms and food service, so that doubled the cost of room and board if not more. Then there is the demand for more and more technology. What is rotten is that professors in business schools, whose departments get the biggest contributions, get more pay than, say, English professors, whose departments raise very little. Pay should be equalized.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Can anyone enlighten me: how do music conservatories work in places like London, Vienna, Paris, and other European music centers? Are they tuition free? What are the entrance requirements? By and large, I think too many American schools admit too many students for performance degrees (including conductors!) who really aren’t up to world-class standards. And, too many public universities have no business offering performance degrees anyway; they can create excellent music teachers, but that’s about all.

    • Hugo Preuß says:

      It is rather simple. They are financed by tax money, just like the general universities are. They are tuition free; a small nominal fee goes to student activities, free regional travel on public transportation, cheap meals at the student cafeteria, subsidized housing for students, and so on; at least in Germany.

      The entrance requirements are the same as everywhere. And foreign students are welcome – which benefits the German orchestras greatly, once these students graduate.

    • Paul Easy says:

      The reality is that most students go on to other careers, or settle down into teaching, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is the assumption that one must have an orchestra job or major performing career to be a success. Not everyone needs to be “world-class.” And there are those who grow more slowly, wisely, deliberately. Not everyone flowers in their 20s. All these expectations and myths need to be adjusted. I have a book from 1915 or so called “Success in Music and How It Is Won” and everything it says is still true. Without wealthy, supportive relatives or patrons, it is all but impossible to have “success.”

  • Raro says:

    There could be differing views — are conservatories merely trade schools? Is the value of an education just what you can earn after graduation? Surely music is more than just a way to make money. Then, on the subject of “moonlighting” at Juilliard, it’s less common now than in the past. However, the fees are much higher these days. A noted pedagogue in NYC is charging more than $800 for a lesson…

  • Max Raimi says:

    Many years ago I was offered a faculty position at a Chicago conservatory. I regretfully decided I could not in good conscience recruit kids to spend four years and significant tuition dollars acquiring a skill that in most cases would not avail them of anything resembling a middle class existence. I felt I had to decline the offer. I do not by any means judge those who decide to teach performance at the college level; that was just my decision.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    I don’t think they are scams. Some orchestra wages are up but certainly not this amount.

  • JoshW says:

    Crazy idea: If you don’t think it’s worth it, don’t go. Is someone being forced to attend? I’m sure Eric Black would give his left nut to be admitted into any of the conservatories he thinks are a scam.

  • caranome says:

    What’s the difference between a 14″ pizza and a classical musician?
    A: the pizza can feed a family of 4.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      That’s a dreadful joke. What in the world are you to do if you have a talent for music and a ‘calling’ for it in your deepest heart that cannot be ignored? I would never want to be in a position to have to ignore that passionate need to make music, which I’m sure many people have. In fact, without them we wouldn’t have top tier orchestras.

      • Henry williams says:

        I worked in jobs i disliked. But they paid my
        Mortgage. It was not easy to find a job i liked that was well paid. I wanted to be a bookseller but the salary was low. I had no

  • Douglas Ray Sandvos says:

    You offered a lot of good information. However, you didn’t talk about costs incurred prior to going to school or after graduation. I’m talking about the cost of an instrument which could be 5 or 6 figures for a string player or the costs of auditioning which could add countless thousands more. There is the fact that months could go by without a single opening anywhere. I love music but the industry has been in serious decline for decades. I think it’s virtually impossible without having come from a musical household and from parents or benefactors with very deep pockets. Good luck! (I’m glad that I’m semi-retired and in a different industry.)

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    My niece turned down this Eastman Music School for her Masters.

    One credit hour: $1890 US

    One semester of private lessons: $11,340 US

    …if there are 14 lessons per semester, that equates to $810 per hour lesson. A two year Masters would equate to: $45,360 in lessons alone (totaling about 56?)–not factoring in yearly tuition increases.

    Curiously, this institution awards 4 credit hours but charges for 6 credit hours for private lessons.
    For a school dominated by musicologists and musictheorists the fee (penalty?) to be an instrument major seems high.

    My niece was wise and although she liked the teacher at Eastman she chose to attend the RAM, in London. One must wonder how lessons can cost so much in a city wrought with poverty, such as Rochester, N.Y.

    I recall as a teenager visiting the old Kodak headquarters in the 80s. The city was already lackluster.


    • Paul Easy says:

      Eastman students do not largely remain in Rochester, I’m sure. The school manages to maintain a top reputation and has many fine instrumental teachers. There’s no guarantee of that at a British school. But many other American schools would have provided the same education for much less money. One can always attend the big name school for a graduate degree to get the networking value. The big name gets you in, to auditions, to interviews, but then it is up to you.

  • Wise Guy says:

    The youngster quoted doesn’t understand that what it costs Juilliard to provide him his gold-plated education in the most expensive neighborhood in the US is what it costs. Its not their problem that the eventual earnings as a professional would make it appear that taking on debt to attend would be a bad wager. There are many students who go there on full-scholarships as well as others who receive government funds from their home countries that pay full-freight.

  • Tony says:

    Sounds like the kid would have been better off spending his 15 mins youtube whine reading rudimentary economics instead.

  • A Pianist says:

    Always good to see this information disseminate, but he might have ended on an upbeat note by pointing out that some places like Curtis (and I think Colburn? I’m old) are 100% tuition free.

    If you’re a kid who wants to take your shot tuition free maybe you should go for it. You’ll treasure the memories. And if you are a rich kid do what you want. But never, ever take out debt to get a classical music degree. Find another way toward what you want. This is the bottom line.

  • Nick says:

    Juilliard was always more or less a scam since beginning. And after 1970s IT IS SIMPLY A SCAM!!! a 1000% SCAM!

  • Kristi French says:

    My understanding is that conservatory and music school merit based scholarships start at 50% and many of them cover more than 50% of costs. Also I think most students have parental backing, plus gigging during the school year, and working at least part of the summer and winter breaks to pay for their college expenses. It is unrealistic to assume that they will have that high of a crushing debt when they graduate. Music students these days expect not to make a lot of money right out of college, and know that they will need to piece together a living by being in lower paid regional orchestras to begin with, and teaching, and gigging elsewhere. In Chicago, where I am from, instrumentalists land jobs in summer orchestras, in Broadway musicals that are on tour for 2 to 3 month stints, and work like crazy in December playing Messiah‘s around town. We know many instrumentalist colleagues who have been able to piece together a comfortable living this way. As was mentioned, networking is so important and it doesn’t magically happen as soon as one graduates. That’s why it seems unfair to use any kind of statistic that quotes what a graduating musician makes in his first year out of school. I don’t think the outlook is as bleak as this guy makes it seem.

  • fflambeau says:

    This is not a problem unique only to musical schools and musical students.

    I had a master’s degree from Berkeley, had international fellowships, and was offered a position at NYU Law School (very expensive). A top 10 law school. I took a call from them and they explained I could get government loans after I complained about the costs. However, I decided to go to an in-state California school (much cheaper and probably just as good of teachers. What this school didn’t have at the time was a NYU-type reputation and the connections that go with it. This is the real reason, in my opinion, students go to Julliard. I was very happy with my choice and now that “in state, public school” has a national reputation.

  • TMo says:

    Interesting, but people who go into music do so because they ‘can’t not’ do it, ie, they feel impelled to do it. That’s wonderful. The pursuit of excellence at the highest levels in any field is never a waste.

    I studied music performance and played in a mid level orchestra for five years. I loved it and was making a living, which I viewed as a success. I was a total fanatic about music (still am!), but after five years, I started to wonder if I wanted to be a professional. Not because of the money, but rather what my career trajectory might be (at age 25 then, looking at about 40 more years) and whether that was going to still be fulfilling. I was a competent professional but I realized that to move up to even tier 2 orchestra was likely not in the cards, having auditioned for a few. In the end, I took the very difficult decision to move on. I went to law school, which I found very interesting and fulfilling, keeping up with music as much as I could. I didn’t leave music because of money, or choose law because of money, by the way.

    When I got to law school I was intimidated by all the students with masters degrees in serious academic disciplines, me with my ‘lowly’ B.Mus in performance. Within a few months, I realized that my music background was in fact my secret weapon. As a result of my music studies, I knew all about hard, focused work, attention to detail, working methodically and patiently toward goals, working well with others, seeing the big picture, coming through under pressure, etc. Many of the other law students didn’t have that advantage and experience. I did well in law school and got a great job at a top law firm in my chosen specialty. I still love music more than almost anything, continue as an amateur musician, serve on the board and as a donor to the local orchestra. It’s been great.

    So the point of this is that life is long and can take you in unexpected wonderful directions, but any intense study of anything in the pursuit of excellence gives you qualities that you can use to succeed in anything. When interviewing candidates for law positions, all the candidates had great marks, so I flipped to the back of the resume for their other interests to see what they were passionate about other than law. I then got them talking about that, be it music, cycle racing, figure skating, gymnastics. I could tell more about their capacity for excellence from hearing how they spoke about it than anything else.

  • Paul Easy says:

    Is the school a scam or are students who are merely superb technicians the real scam? Juilliard turns out many virtuosos who have no real talent or art.