by Steven Lipman
Choosing the best school to study musical theater can be a daunting experience. Fortunately, there is help available for picking the best ones, and each has something special to consider. To help make the process as seamless as possible, Inside Music Schools offers admissions consulting for college-bound students interested in the musical stage.
The Top Schools to Study Musical Theater
- NYU: Tisch and Steinhardt: Both of these reputable schools at NYU offer an undergraduate musical theater program that pairs a broad and empowering academic curriculum with rigorous conservatory training. Instructors ready students to recreate the fields they enter. They do this by building on the school’s intellectual and creative assets – and through the unrivaled cultural resources of NYC, including the diverse schedule of productions steered by theater artists and internationally renowned faculty. Tisch Drama empowers aspiring artists to influence the performing arts field and beyond, allowing them to apply their talents across multiple disciplines and industries.
- University of Michigan: The Department of Musical Theater at UMich has the reputation of being one of the top musical theater programs in the world. The college offers young performers the opportunity to receive a premier university education and conservatory-style instruction. Hailed for its intelligent and skilled graduates, the program has one of the largest alumni networks employed on Broadway. The faculty consists of expert industry professionals, along with leading pedagogues. UMich students, who proudly call themselves “Wolverines,” reflect the diversity of today’s world. Individualism is treasured, and the university cultivates each Wolverine’s unique hopes, strengths, and talents.
- Carnegie Mellon University (CMU): The Musical Theatre program at CMU is conservatory training taught within a university setting. Students in the program can expect to attend a four-year, sequence-based program that leads to a BFA in Drama. Both musical theater and acting students take the same intensive core curriculum with classes that include acting and movement, as well as voice and speech. While attending the School of Drama, students can also take several cross-option courses and periodic electives. Classes at Carnegie Mellon are small, which provides the perfect environment for in-depth and personal attention. In turn, this promotes a strong sense of collaboration.
- American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA): AMDA provides exceptional, performance-based instruction and an industry-focused educational experience. Students attending the Academy discover an appreciation for transformative and universal power through art, and its extensive curriculum inspires graduates to excellence. AMDA bases its educational philosophy on individualized interaction between instructors and their students. The school’s location in New York City provides the student body with scores of enriching opportunities to immerse themselves in theater.
- University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music (CCM): the New York Times declared CCM “one of this country’s leading conservatories.” Students seeking their BA in Music can get their start at this college with study that spans the spectrum of media and performing arts. CCM provides a life-changing, highly creative, and multidisciplinary artistic learning environment. The prestigious institution, with roots going back to 1867, is nationally ranked and internationally renowned. CCM’s visionary instruction, character, and the synergy created by housing its facilities within a comprehensive college prepares artists and scholars for the world stage. Noted alumni include Ashley Brown, known for her title role in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins, and Li Chuan Yun, Chinese concert artist and violin virtuoso.
- Boston Conservatory at Berklee (BOCO): This conservatory is associated with Berklee College of Music. BOCO emphasizes classical music training, and its progressive spirit is readily apparent in the variety of music-making opportunities found there. The world-class facility challenges students to define the type of musician they desire to be. This approach, matched with focused, individual, and extensive training, is vital to developing each student’s artistic voice and technical skills. Students attending BOCO have the opportunity to work with musicians across a wide array of styles, enriched by a diversity of cultures. The conservatory houses division in classical music as well as the dramatic arts. It also offers cross-registration of courses with the Berklee College of Music.
- Northwestern University – Bienen School of Music: Founded in 1873, Bienen is one of the oldest degree-granting music schools in the United States. An education there provides students with mastery as well as such essential values as superb musicianship, communication, a sense of discipline, and a commitment to excellence, all paramount for success wherever their interests lead. The journey starts in the classroom, teaching studio, practice room, and concert hall. The school is close to Chicago, and several of its alumni and faculty received Grammy nominations for 2021.
- Point Park University: Point Park’s BFA in Musical Theater is a robust and thorough eight-semester program designed to ready graduates for careers in professional theater. It emphasizes acting, music, and dance. The demands of the training, performance, and creative components are intense. Students learn from faculty who have trained and worked on global stages. Acclaimed guest artists, casting directors, playwrights, and choreographers frequent Point Park’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus, where they direct master classes and workshops.
- Oklahoma City University (OCU): The Bachelor n Musical Theater at OCU focuses on training students with a high aptitude in singing for careers in Broadway-style performances. The highly committed faculty trains musical theater majors as professional musicians, highly skilled dancers, and actors. The vocal cross-training they provide makes graduating students both competitive and versatile. The degree is music-intensive, and students in the musical theater program audition for all six annual productions by the Bass School of Music and are cast in other operas and musicals as well. Students at the university gain performance skills and music training through courses in acting, dance, stagecraft, and performance techniques, in addition to general studies.
- University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA): The university combines intensive, individual study opportunities under artist mentors with a rich variety of performance opportunities that include more than 200 concerts, recitals, and other performances each year. Many of the musical experiences are collaborations with other UNCSA arts schools. Students attend weekly master classes taught by noted guest artists. They rehearse and perform in state-of-the-art facilities and also book performances as musicians in Winston-Salem. Additionally, UNCSA offers one of the only four-year residential high school arts programs in America.
Here are other excellent schools for your consideration:
- Penn State University
- Pace University
- Yale University (Drama grad.)
- Syracuse University
- Baldwin Wallace University
- Manhattan School of Music
Some Things to Consider When Selecting a School to Study Musical Theater
There are many factors to keep in mind when selecting a musical theater school. The following are a few to consider:
- Location: Students should consider a school’s location and look for programs close to a major city or a thriving theater community. This action can help make getting internships or work possible and provide good networking opportunities.
- Interests: Students need to identify their specific interests (film, television, vocal training, etc.) and choose a program that offers courses within that specialty. Students interested in costume and set design or production may wish to select a program that includes courses in subjects or opportunities for hands-on experience in theater production.
- The Space: Finding a musical theater school with various facilities and performance spaces, such as auditoriums and black box theaters, will allow students to perform and get familiar with all the different types of productions available.
former Director of Admissions at Berklee College of Music & Founder of Inside Music Schools