Last Updated on May 19, 2022
Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics (loudness and softness), and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture (which are sometimes termed the “color” of a musical sound).
In order to excel in the beautiful art of music, besides talent and passion, one has to educate themselves. Music professions pay well and you can have a lot of fun as a musician given that you’ve taken excellent education in this area. The best music education schools in Michigan offer master’s degrees for candidates wishing to become professional performers or teachers.
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Types of music degree
Bachelor of Music (BM) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
Music schools see the BM or BFA degree as an intensive program that prepares students to be professional musicians. As a BM or BFA candidate, you’ll embark upon your four-year curriculum starting on day one (an important consideration for students considering transferring or changing their major). Music classes will take up two-thirds to three-quarters of your classes, depending on which school you attend.
Music schools offering BM or BFA degrees within universities will require you to take specific music and non-music classes. This pushes you to maintain your writing and reading skills and gives you an opportunity to round out your education. As a BM or BFA candidate, you’ll perform a recital in your junior and/or senior year.
Some schools will give you credit for AP or IB exams taken in high school. You may also be able to test out of lower level requirements. But in general, the BM or BFA degree requirements are lengthy and limit the number of electives you’ll have room for in your schedule.
BM and BFA music students who want to graduate in four years may have a hard time fitting study abroad into the regular school year. They should also realize that friends who are pursuing degrees in other areas may be able to start college as sophomores, thanks to high AP/IB test scores, but that the BM and BFA degrees are typically non-negotiable four-year programs.
Bachelor of Music Education (BME)
The BME degree prepares you for a career in teaching K-12 vocal and instrumental music, along with the preparation necessary to gain state licensure. Be sure to check licensure requirements in the state where you think you’ll want to work, as this may inform your decision about where you’ll want to go to school.
As a BME student, your curriculum will include a combination of music education courses, conducting, music theory, aural skills, and music history. You will study a major instrument, take methods courses, and gain experience through observation and supervised teaching in classroom situations. You will student teach, attend workshops and events for current and future teachers, and gain exposure to a host of professional development opportunities. You will also take a required number of liberal arts courses as well as music technology classes.
Bachelor of Arts in Music (BA)
If you want to study music but also want the flexibility to prepare for a career in another field or in a field of music not addressed by other programs or departments, you may consider the BA in music degree. Approximately one-fourth to one-third of your credits will be in music, depending on the school you attend. The other requirements will be in musicianship, general education, and electives, based on your interests. Because there is more flexibility with a BA degree, you are more likely to be able to take a semester abroad during the school year, while still graduating in four years.
Bachelor of Science in Music (BS)
The BS degree is offered at some schools where the emphasis is more business-oriented. Music business and music industry majors are likely to find themselves getting BS degrees. Some schools also offer the BS for music education and sound recording technology.
Best Music Schools In Michigan
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, MI
Every student pursuing a degree in music needs to look into University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. U-M is a fairly large public university located in the midsize city of Ann Arbor. A Best Schools rank of #40 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means U-M is a great university overall.
There were roughly 191 music students who graduated with this degree at U-M in the most recent year we have data available. Soon after graduating, music degree recipients generally make an average of $21,300 in their early careers.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
Michigan State University is one of the best schools in the country for getting a degree in music. Located in the small city of East Lansing, Michigan State is a public university with a fairly large student population. A Best Schools rank of #157 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means Michigan State is a great university overall.
There were roughly 129 music students who graduated with this degree at Michigan State in the most recent data year. Music degree recipients from Michigan State University receive an earnings boost of approximately $4,833 over the typical income of music majors.
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MIBachelor’s Degree
Grand Valley State University is a great choice for students interested in a degree in music. GVSU is a very large public university located in the large suburb of Allendale. A Best Schools rank of #405 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means GVSU is a great university overall.
There were about 36 music students who graduated with this degree at GVSU in the most recent data year. Music degree recipients from Grand Valley State University earn a boost of around $5,933 above the average income of music majors.
Grand Rapids, MI
Every student who is interested in music has to take a look at Calvin University. Calvin is a small private not-for-profit university located in the city of Grand Rapids. A Best Schools rank of #334 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Calvin is a great university overall.
There were about 6 music students who graduated with this degree at Calvin in the most recent data year.
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, MIMaster’s Degree
Central Michigan is a large public university located in the distant town of Mount Pleasant. A Best Schools rank of #701 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Central Michigan is a great university overall.
There were roughly 27 music students who graduated with this degree at Central Michigan in the most recent year we have data available. Students who graduate with their degree from the music program report average early career earnings of $20,100.
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MIMaster’s Degree
Located in the small city of Kalamazoo, WMU is a public university with a fairly large student population. A Best Schools rank of #811 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means WMU is a great university overall.
There were approximately 65 music students who graduated with this degree at WMU in the most recent year we have data available. Students who graduate with their degree from the music program state that they receive average early career wages of $24,800.
Wayne State University
Wayne State is a fairly large public university located in the large city of Detroit. This university ranks 25th out of 67 schools for overall quality in the state of Michigan.
There were roughly 47 music students who graduated with this degree at Wayne State in the most recent year we have data available. Students who graduate with their degree from the music program report average early career wages of $29,400.
Saginaw Valley State University
University Center, MI
Located in the suburb of University Center, Saginaw Valley State University is a public university with a medium-sized student population. A Best Schools rank of #1101 out of 2,576 schools nationwide means Saginaw Valley State University is a great university overall.
There were about 11 music students who graduated with this degree at Saginaw Valley State University in the most recent year we have data available.
Aquinas College Michigan
Grand Rapids, MI
Located in the city of Grand Rapids, Aquinas College Michigan is a private not-for-profit college with a small student population. This college ranks 29th out of 67 colleges for overall quality in the state of Michigan.
There were about 5 music students who graduated with this degree at Aquinas College Michigan in the most recent year we have data available.
Rochester Hills, MIMaster’s Degree
Oakland is a large public university located in the large suburb of Rochester Hills. A Best Schools rank of #792 out of 2,576 colleges nationwide means Oakland is a great university overall.
There were roughly 18 music students who graduated with this degree at Oakland in the most recent year we have data available.
Best music colleges in the world
1. The Juilliard School
Location: New York City, NY
Notable Alumni: Barry Manilow, Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams
The Juilliard School, or simply Juilliard as most people call it, is known as the most prestigious performing arts educational institution in the world, according to a number of rankings doled out every year. The college teaches students in a number of verticals, including dance, acting, and, of course, music, which it is perhaps best known for.
The school is attached to the similarly prestigious Lincoln Center, which plays host to some of the best live music performances to be found anywhere, with a focus on all things classical and opera. This option is best for those who one day would like to compose or perhaps play in an orchestra, but it probably isn’t ideal for anyone looking to create more contemporary popular music.
2. Berklee College of Music
Location: Boston, MA
Notable Alumni: Melissa Etheridge, Quincy Jones, John Mayer
Unlike many other music programs all around the world, Berklee College of Music is focused on churning out artists who go on to top the charts and own the pop culture conversation. Many of the most successful alumni aren’t in orchestras or crafting classical compositions, but rather, they have squarely focused their musical efforts in pop, rock, and other modern genres.”Berklee College of Music produces more hitmakers than any other school in the world so if you want to make it big in the Top 40 world, this is where you need to go.”
Boston is known as a college town and Berklee College of Music is simply one of the best in a crowded area.
3. Yale School of Music
Location: New Haven, CT
Notable Alumni: Marco Beltrami, Michael Daugherty, Matt Brubeck
Yale needs no introduction, but sadly, many people overlook the music education school as the other programs receive the majority of attention. The legendary university’s musical wing is world-renowned and not just because of the name. It has truly earned its stellar reputation and it lives up to the Yale brand, producing many incredibly accomplished musicians.
New Haven, Connecticut is a relatively smaller city without all the flash of (fairly) nearby NYC but it will be worth it when you get out of school and have Yale on your resume.
4. New England Conservatory of Music
Location: Boston, MA
Notable Alumni: Neal E. Boyd, Aoife O’Donovan, Vic Firth
Yes, of course, another Boston college makes this list! With so many schools in such a relatively small area, it’s impossible to avoid including more than one institution from the city on any ranking of great universities. While Berklee does get a majority of the music-focused collegiate attention when it comes to Beantown, there is plenty of room for the New England Conservatory of Music, as the two don’t overlap very much.
Where Berklee is focused on creating hitmakers and pop stars, the NECM keeps its eyes (and ears) on helping those with a passion for playing become some of the best in the world on stringed, woodwind, and brass instruments.
5. University of Southern California Thornton School of Music
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Notable Alumni: Herb Alpert, James Newton Howard, James Horner
Founded just four years after the university itself, the Thornton School of Music is one of the oldest musical institutions in America and it benefits immensely from more than a century of knowing what it takes to craft a truly wonderful musician. While the organization focuses on styles like jazz, classical, and earlier forms of music, the school also has a celebrated program for those looking to work in the music industry but who may not be musicians themselves.
Even if you want to be on the more creative end of things as an artist, taking classes to teach you what’s happening in the business can only benefit you and this is a great place to receive such a blended education. Aspiring Music Business majors should take note of this school. USC also has strong connections to the film music industry.
6. Curtis Institute of Music
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Notable Alumni: Leonard Bernstein, David Brooks, Lang Lang
While not specifically known as one of the better music cities in America, Philadelphia does have at least one hidden gem everybody considering going to college to study the craft should look into: The Curtis Institute of Music. The school, which is coming up on one hundred years of age, has been quietly producing some of the most accomplished musicians in the world for a long time. While you might not have heard of it, everybody in the opera field (the school’s specialty) certainly has!
It is notoriously difficult to be accepted to, as it agrees to take on less than five percent of all applicants, so you’re going to need to show them something really special if you want to go here.
7. The Royal Academy of Music
Location: London, UK
Notable Alumni: Elton John, Annie Lennox
If you’re looking to travel overseas when you take up your musical studies, the Royal Academy of Music may be exactly what you need. The school accepts students from dozens of countries so you certainly have a chance of going but you’re going to need to be really, really great to be included in the incoming class -— this is one institution that can afford to be picky.
The college is also connected to the University of London which can come in handy if you’re looking to study something other than music (in addition to becoming a serious artist, of course).
8. Royal College of Music
Location: London, UK
Notable Alumni: Andrew Lloyd Webber, James Horner, Vanessa-Mae
Speaking of London, if you don’t get into the Royal Academy of Music, there are other options in that great city and the second one on your list should absolutely be the Royal College of Music. The two similarly-named universities are part of the ABRSM (the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music), four wonderful educational institutions in the U.K. dedicated to teaching the art of performance.
Only two of the four are located in London, which is where you probably want to live if you’re moving to the country for college. In addition to actually helping people become better musicians, the Royal College of Music does a lot of research into all things related to performance, which further influences teaching methods and how live events are staged and buildings are created.
9. Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University
Location: Bloomington, IN
Notable Alumni: Joshua Bell, Carl Broemel
It may not be quite as impressive as some other schools on this list and it doesn’t carry the same reputation to one day help you get noticed by employers simply because of a famous name but the Jacobs School of Music, which is based at Indiana University, offers the greatest chance of acceptance for many up-and-coming artists. Many of the universities I’ve already mentioned only admit a small group of new applicants every year, while the Jacobs School has almost 2,000 students at any given time.
As a public university, this option is often offered at a lower price than many private choices, especially for those from the region.
10. Mannes School of Music
Location: New York City, NY
Notable Alumni: Burt Bacharach
Another New York City school, I know — but there’s a reason why so many of these colleges are located in the Big Apple!
While it may be difficult to make a go of being a professional musician in America’s largest metropolis, it also happens to be where the majority of the music industry is focused. Students at the Mannes School of Music benefit not only from excellent Professors who typically have decades of experience, but from being just a subway ride away from countless opportunities for internships, jobs, and places to perform whenever they like.