THE TOP 32 CLASSICAL, JAZZ & CONTEMPORARY VOICE PROGRAMS IN THE U.S.

By Steve Lipman, former Director of Admissions at Berklee College of Music & Founder of Inside Music Schools

If you’re one of the up-and-coming songbirds of the world, you may be asking yourself, “What is the best school at which to study voice?”

For singers, studying vocal performance in college is the chance to develop both a larger “vocabulary” if you will, and a more practiced technique. And for many, their vocal performance program of choice is where passionate singers discover their voice. Surrounded by other serious, like-minded, and complimentary musicians – both vocal majors and otherwise – you can find lasting and valuable inspiration.

But let’s face it. You’re a creative person who needs the right environment to flourish. With enough hard work and fortitude there’s no doubt you can make the most of a vocal performance program anywhere. You can even strive for the “best” music school, but you’ll never have the same experience as attending the “right” school for you.

And the right school – or a selection of top schools – for you will have specific criteria for auditions, portfolios, and experience. Some schools are more rigorous and disciplined, while others offer experimental paths to explore your creativity. You might also want to know whether your favorite singer or composer is an alumni of one of your top choices, which you might find out below.

Inside Music Schools has put together a list of the top 32 vocal performance bachelors programs to shed some light and offer guidance. For singers, preparing for the next step to serious vocal study is crucial, and that’s where we can help.

We are educators who know music schools inside and out. Informed by over 40 years of experience in music school admissions, we offer students audition preparation, portfolio development, and a personalized list of schools to submit applications to based on your career goals and creative aspirations.

If you want some quick facts on schools you may already have in mind, take a look at this list. You’ll find some information about the school and program, top faculty, and notable alumni. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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CLASSICAL / OPERA VOICE PROGRAMS:

1. THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL

New York City, NY

In name alone, Juilliard is arguably the most famous – and one of the most exclusive – music schools in the world. It’s legacy as a performing arts school bleeds into the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, with a curriculum spanning one of the broadest ranges of performance.

Find out more about Juilliard’s vocal program here.

Outstanding Faculty: Edith Wiens, Darrell Babidge, Cynthia Hoffmann, Donald Palumbo, Natalia Katyukova

Well-known Alumni: Renee Fleming, Anne Brown, Neil Rosenshein, Ruby Elzy, Hanan Alattar, Paul Groves, Audra McDonald, Pamela Coburn, Sarah Brightman

2. UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI COLLEGE & CONSERVATORY

Cincinnati, OH

Along with offering the full range of degrees from bachelor’s to artist’s diplomas, the Conservatory at the University of Cincinnati, most years the school produces a staggering six operas. Students of opera often find their first gigs after graduation from one of several companies who scout there.

Find out more about UCC’s opera program here.

Outstanding Faculty: Karen Lykes, Thomas Baresel, Robin Guarino, Kenneth Shaw

Well-Known Alumni: Kathleen Battle, Cortez Mitchell, Corwyn Hodge, Sylvia Cooper, Audrey Luna

3. NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY

Boston, MA

The extensive voice and opera faculty at NEC take their students through a course of study spanning baroque to modern, and operatic singing. Students who are particularly focused on classical forms will be well-served at NEC, perhaps the oldest traditional conservatory in the country.

Find out more about studying voice at NEC here.

Outstanding Faculty: Carole Haber, Jane Eaglen, Justin Williams, Karen Holvik, Joshua Major

Well-Known Alumni: Phyllis Curtin, Denyce Graves, Deke Sharon, Monir Vakili

4. INDIANA UNIVERSITY (JACOBS SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Bloomington, IN

Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music is one of the largest and most diverse music programs in the country. Your talents will be employed at the Jacobs School of Music Ballet and Opera theater, and most all students take part in at least one of six double-cast operas and musicals each season.

Find out more about studying voice and opera at Jacobs here.

Outstanding Faculty: Brian Horne, Marietta Simpson, Heidi Grant Murphy

Well-known Alumni: Lawrence Brownlee, Jamie Barton, Kevin Langan, Vivica Genaux, William Burden, Bruce Hubbard, Sylvia McNair

5. UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER (EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Rochester, NY

Eastman prides itself as an artistically diverse program, even for opera majors. Students will learn from a range of styles outside their focus because of a notable emphasis on holistic development in technique and repertoire.

Learn more about studying voice at Eastman here.

Outstanding Faculty: Katherine Ciesinski, Steven Daigle, Lindsay Baker, Timothy Long, Kathryn Cowdrick

Well-known Alumni: William Warfield, Joyce Castle, Karen Holvik, Thomas Meglioranza, Maurice Stern, Claire Watson

6. BOSTON UNIVERSITY

Boston, MA

While most notably a major research university, Boston University’s School of Music students benefit greatly from both accomplished faculty and expansive, well-rounded academic opportunities. Students who would like the option to incorporate a liberal arts education into their musical one will enjoy studying at BU.

Learn more about Boston University’s vocal program here.

Outstanding Faculty: Sharon Daniels, James Demler, Penelope Bitzas

Well-known Alumni: Janet Chvatal, Arturo Chacon-Cruz, Grace Bumbry, Marcus Haddock, Stephen Salters

7. MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC

New York City, NY

Manhattan School of Music’s “historical approach” takes most of its students through different eras of vocal music. They also boast performance opportunities with the likes of the New York Philharmonic, the Verdi Square Performing Arts Festival, and more. Little can compare with studying the arts in NYC.

Learn more about studying voice at the Manhattan School of Music here.

Outstanding Faculty: Maitland Peters, Marlena Malas, Harolyn Blackwell, Neil Rosenshein, Ashley Putnam, James Morris

Well-Known Alumni: Dawn Upshaw, Beth Clayton, Kate Aldrich, Ned Barth, Lauren Flanigan, Brandon Jovanovich, Susan Neves, Sanford Sylvan

8. JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY (PEABODY INSTITUTE)

Baltimore, MD

This incredibly vigorous program offers students many avenues to perform across the nation and the world. Additionally, Peabody’s faculty are among some of the most accomplished in the world, a valuable asset for any ambitious student.

Learn more about studying voice at the Peabody Institute here.

Outstanding Faculty: Madeleine Gray, Min Sang Kim, Lori Sen, Alina Kozinska, Kristen Toedtman

Well-known Alumni: Jessye Norman, James Morris, Rebecca Pitcher, Tori Amos

9. ACADEMY OF VOCAL ARTS

Philadelphia, PA

For operatic soloists, this is one of the top schools to seek admission. It also offers tuition-free education for their highly-competitive program – only about 30 students a session are admitted.

Learn more about studying voice at the Academy of Vocal Arts here.

Outstanding Faculty: Luis Ledesma, Sally Wolf, Bill Schuman, Florence Quivar

Well-known Alumni: Beverly Wolff, Seymour Schwartzman, Gwendolyn Bradley, Gregory Stapp, Joyce DiDonato, Richard Troxell

10. BARD COLLEGE & CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Another incredibly competitive program, voice students at Bard embark on a storied tradition of musical education excellence. Intensive language lessons help students explore deeper into the heart of their favorite French, Italian, and German operas.

Learn more about studying voice at Bard College here.

Outstanding Faculty: Ilka LoMonaco, Rufus Muller, Teresa Buchholz

Well-known Alumni: Ann Moss, Gilda Lyons, Attila Dobak, Jeanne Lee, Michelle Trainor, Davron Monroe

11. CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY

Pittsburgh, PA

Carnegie Melon’s robust and diverse musical program is made more valuable by its cutting-edge academic offerings. Vocal students take on a diverse set of courses for a holistic and technology-enhanced learning experience. Their musical theater program is among the very best in the country.

Learn more about studying vocals at Carnegie here.

Outstanding Faculty: Maria Spacagna, Douglas Ahlstedt, Marianne Cornetti, Thomas Douglas

Well-known Alumni: Liam Bonner, Lisa Vroman, Emily Skinner, Leslie Odom Jr.

12. RICE UNIVERSITY (SHEPHERD SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Houston, TX

Rice University’s music program is a major part of Houston’s cultural scene, averaging several hundred performances and lectures offered each year. They are also constructing a new 600-seat, European-style theatre to house one of the country’s most quickly-evolving opera programs.

Learn more about studying voice at Shepherd here.

Outstanding Faculty: Stephen King, Bethany Self, Robin Rice

Well-known Alumni: Fredrick Ballentine, Ben Edquist, Ricardo Jose Rivera-Soto, Angel Vargas, Nicholas Newton, Lindsay Kate Brown, Brandon Gibson

13. NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY (BIENEN SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Evanston, IL

Bienen’s opera program is a robust one, with three productions put on a year. Also only a short drive from downtown Chicago, this school offers a massive amount of performance opportunities in a widely-coveted music scene.

Learn more about studying voice at Bienen here.

Outstanding Faculty: Pamela Hinchman, Theresa Brancaccio, W.Stephen Smith, Nancy Gustafson

Well-known Alumni: Grace Bumbry, Mary Dunleavy, Phillip Skinner, Nancy Gustafson, Sherrill Milnes, Margaret Lloyd

14. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY (BLAIR SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Nashville, TN

Vocal students at Blair are in the heart of Nashville, with all its varied and rich musical history. Blair alumni have found themselves performing across the world, armed with a valuable education in music business and marketing.

Learn more about studying vocals at Blair here.

Outstanding Faculty: Gayle Shay, Tyler Nelson, Amy Jarman, Tracy Prentice

Well-known Alumni: Chris Mann, Evan Mack, Joshua McGuire

15. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (THORNTON SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Los Angeles, CA

You’ll be busy at Thornton not only because you’re a stone’s throw away from the renowned Los Angeles music scene, but because students at Thornton take on many performance opportunities to continually sharpen their skills in voice, performing arts, and musical literacy. LA’s ever-expanding cultural and arts scene presents a creative environment for music students.

Learn more about voice at Thornton here.

Outstanding Faculty: Lynn Helding, Thomas Michael Allen, Elizabeth Hynes, Rod Gilfry, Lisa Sylvester

Well-known Alumni: Marilyn Horne, Angela Meade, Kelley O’Connor, Alexander Blake, Karen Garret, Jessica Rivera,

16. UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI (FROST SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

CORAL GABLES, FL

The Frost School of Music is known for its highly innovative music program that is, perhaps more than others, integrated deeply with technology. Along with a coveted set of entrepreneurial skills, voice students at Frost are truly receiving a cutting-edge education.

Learn more about singing at Frost here.

Outstanding Faculty: Frank W. Ragsdale, Robynne Redmon, Jeffrey Buchman

Well-known Alumni: Marvis Lynn Martin, John Easterlin, Johanna Meier, Carl Franklin DuPont, Linsey Coppens, Justin Moniz, David Tayloe, Elizabeth Caballero, Sandra Lopez

17. SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY (MEADOWS SCHOOL OF THE ARTS)

Dallas, TX

The Meadows School offers wide-ranging opportunities to develop the whole artist, as it’s focus on a complete set of artistic study enables students to explore both their passions and interests in excellent programs.

Learn more about studying vocal arts at Meadows here.

Outstanding Faculty: Cliftin Forbis, Barbara Hill Moore, Virginia Dupuy

Well-known Alumni: John Holiday, Laura Claycomb, Fernando del Valle

JAZZ & POPULAR MUSIC:

1. BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC

Boston, MA

Berklee is a name that is behind the careers of many artists who have transformed their genres. The highly creative, collaborative, and expansive offerings for both performance and academic enrichment are renown the world over, and will suit adventurous, modern-minded students perfectly.

Learn more about studying vocals at Berklee here.

Outstanding Faculty: Livingston Taylor, Paula Cole, Peter Eldridge, Janice Pendarvis, Jerome Kyles, Aubrey Johnson

Well-known Alumni: Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge, Esperanza Spaulding, Donald Fagen, Natalie Maines, Jillian Butler

2. THE NEW SCHOOL UNIVERSITY– JAZZ & CONTEMPORARY MUSIC PROGRAM

New York City, NY

The sheer amount of ensembles give New School students almost non-stop performance opportunities. It’s a program not for the faint of heart, but these singers leave incredibly well-rounded and often ready to embark on exciting and thrilling careers in modern music.

Learn more about The New School’s vocal program here.

Outstanding Faculty: Sarah Charles, Marlon Saunders, Machan Taylor, Richard Harper, Amy London, Charlotte Small

Well-known Alumni:Jazzmeia Horn, Bianca Muniz, Bilal Sayeed Oliver, Becca Stevens, Thana Alexa

3. BELMONT UNIVERSITY (THE MIKE CURB SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Nashville, TN

Belmont University is right on Music Row in Nashville, which makes the Mike Curb School an exciting and adventurous choice for modern voice majors. These students perform often in one of the world’s most famous music scenes for rock, pop, jazz, and of course, country.

Learn more about singing at Mike Curb School of Music here.

Outstanding Faculty: Sandra Dudley, Henry Smiley, Stephanie Adlington, Bruce Bennett

Well-known Alumni: Brad Paisley, Trish Yearwood, Deonte Warren, Steven Curtis Chapman, Levi Kreis

4. UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS

Philadelphia, PA


UArts’ vocal program – and it’s whole music program at large – is growing quickly. A newly-installed Laurie Wagman recording studio is launching the performance and production programs into a new tier, so it’s a great time to consider this school for studying music.

Learn more about singing at UA here.

Outstanding Faculty: Tiffany Jones, Reggie Pindell, Liz Radigonda

Well-known Alumni: Josiah Wise, Elle King, Matt McAndrew, Nicole Tranquillo

5. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (Thornton School of Music)

Los Angeles, CA

Thornton, along with having an incredible classical and operatic program, developed one of the finest jazz music curriculums in the country. Long traditions of excellence inform a voice student’s educational and professional career. USC’s Popular Music Program is among the country’s most competitive and prestigious programs.

Learn more about studying jazz & pop vocals at Thornton here.

Outstanding Faculty: Patrice Rushen, Sara Gazarek, Jeffrey Allen, Lyndia Johnson, Parmer Fuller, Adriana Balic

Well-known Alumni: Renee Elise Goldsberry, Rozzi Crane, Tamar Davis, Salli Terri

6. LOS ANGELES COLLEGE OF MUSIC

Los Angeles, CA

Located in the heart of the entertainment and performance industry, students at the Los Angeles College of Music are a hotbed of exciting and inventive hotbed musical talent redefining the industry.

Learn more about studying voice at LACM here.

Outstanding Faculty: David Joyce, Cathy Segal-Garcia, Francisco Ruiz, Dani Palomino

Well-known Alumni: Debi Nova, Mayu Wakisaka, Margie Mays, Tal Wilkenfeld

7. SAN FRANCISCO CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC

San Francisco, CA

Vocal students at San Francisco Conservatory of Music deeply explore the early repertoires of Gershwin, Sondeim, and the like while also engaging in traditional jazz styles.

Learn more about vocals at San Francisco Conservatory here.

Outstanding Faculty: Carmen Bradford, Clairdee

Well-known Alumni: Desiree Goyette, Arielle Jacobs, Gwendoline Yeo

8. UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI (FROST SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Coral Gables, FL

The Frost Method is a style of teaching music developed and perfected at Frost. Known far and wide as an innovative and technology-enhanced music school, modern vocalists will dive into varied and at times highly-experimental training and ensembles. Frost remains at the forefront of top music programs.

Outstanding Faculty: Alison Wedding, Kate Reid

Well-known Alumni: Carmen Lundy, Jeremy Fox, Arianna Neikrug, Raul Midon, Dawnn Lewis

9. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

Ann Arbor, MI

For this public university, the conservatory-level vocal programs offer an incredible opportunity – especially if you’re interested in majoring or minoring in music, or pursuing a double (academic) major. U of M has been called the “quintessential” American university experience.

Learn more about studying music at University of Michigan here.

Outstanding Faculty: Dennis Wilson

Well-known Alumni: Sachal Vasandani, Tyler Spencer, Becky Baeling, Joe Henry, Theo Katzman, Antwaun Stanley

10. OBERLIN COLLEGE & CONSERVATORY

Oberlin, OH

At Oberlin, all music students get weekly studio time, offering a lot of experience recording and producing music. With only about 30 students admitted each year, it’s one of the more robust and competitive programs, and an ambitious jazz singer will do well with this somewhat tucked-away school. Undergrads only; many double-major students here (music & academics).

Learn more about voice at Oberlin here.

Outstanding Faculty: LaTanya Hall

Well-known Alumni: Liz Phair, Josh Ritter, Judy Kuhn, Jason Myles Goss, Carla Kihlstedt, Amy X Neuburg

11. UNIVERSITY OF HARTFORD (HARTT SCHOOL OF MUSIC JACKIE MCLEAN INSTITUTE OF JAZZ)

Hartford, CT

While there’s only a small jazz vocal program, faculty Shawnn Monteiro and Nancy Anderson – incredibly accomplished singers and educators in their own right – foster incredible talents amid a program with a long jazz tradition. An impressive list of small combos abound.

Learn more about the Jackie McClean Institute here.

Outstanding Faculty: Nancy Anderson, Shawnn Monteiro

Well-known Alumni: Dionne Warwick, Javier Colon, Phillip Boykin, Dan O’Connor, Jessica Vosk

12. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY – STEINHARDT

New York City, NY

NYU’s Bachelor of Music in Contemporary Voice is a program that explores popular singing and songwriting in both a deeply academic and musically experimental manner. It’s a rigorous program that will develop strong career readiness skills for new vocal graduates. Outstanding opportunities to hear live music at every turn.

Learn more about studying voice at Steinhardt here.

Outstanding Faculty: Janice Pendarvis, Ana Flavia Zurim, Alex Gemignani, Sheri Sanders

Well-known Alumni: Stefani Angelina Germanotta, Donald Glover, Idina Menzel, Justin John Moniz, Dot Da Genius, Mary Wilson, Patti Scialfa

13. WILLIAM PATERSON UNIVERSITY

Wayne, NJ

Ensembles at William Paterson travel all over the country to participate in competitions and performances. Their highly-credentialed mostly NY-based faculty train students in jazz, musical theater, teaching, and other fields, and they boast a very high job-placement rate.

Learn more about studying voice at William Paterson here.

Outstanding Faculty: Nancy Marano

Well-known Alumni: Judy Bady, Alexis Cole, Jewel Crenshaw, Sarah Manning

14. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO – DENVER

Denver, CO

UC Denver’s College of Music offers a well-rounded vocal program perfect for students looking to incorporate music into a progressive liberal arts education. The program at Univ. of Col – Denver includes strong music business/industry courses.

Outstanding Faculty: Erin Hackel, Owen Kortz, Douglas Krause

Well-known Alumni: Isaac Slade, Chloe Tang

15. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT LOS ANGELES (HERB ALPERT SCHOOL OF MUSIC)

Los Angeles, CA

UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music is considered one of the best music schools on the west coast, and for good reason. Voice students benefit from a wide range of ensembles featuring incredibly talented student and teacher musicians to develop a wide breadth of performance and compositional experience.

Learn more about UCLA’s voice program here.

Outstanding Faculty: Barbara Morrison, Michele Weir

Well-known Alumni: Kalil Wilson, Martha Gonzalez

Did one or more of the schools above interest you? Contact us today to find out what the “right” school could be for you.

Head of admissions and faculty member at Berklee College of Music for 40 years, Steve Lipman and our team at Inside Music Schools speak music as their primary language. We approach each client contact with open eyes, ears, and minds. As the country’s premiere music school consultant, he advised students from the United States, Canada, China, Australia, Turkey, U.K., Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Israel, and Italy.