music performance graduate programs

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

If you are a musician and you want to know more about grad schools for music performance, or if you want to know what steps you need to take to be admitted at a university and earn your graduate degree and online masters in music performance, this article is the place to discover the best ones.

Music is a product of culture and human creativity reflecting the attitudes and emotions of the people who live it. Music performance, as one of the most notable performance art derived from music, allows the performer to interact through music with the audience, helping them to share their experience and emotions about life and culture more effectively than any other art form. The post will provide you with details of some great schools that offer Masters in Music Performance online, including Berklee College of Music, University of Southern Mississippi and others.

Music Performance Graduate Programs

Master in Chamber Opera

Västerås, Sweden: The Chamber Opera education at Mälardalen University comprises two separate years of full-time study at an advanced level. As a student, you need to apply for both study periods. It is intended for you who have a passion to perform on stage, conveying opera through your singing. If you wish to develop yourself as a singer in this multifaceted art form, this is the perfect course for you! 

Online Master degree M.Mus Popular Music Performance

Edinburgh, United Kingdom: In affiliation with the London College of Music and the University of West London, the AMSonline M.Mus Popular Music Performance has been developed to address the needs of contemporary musicians on a practical, academic and professional basis delivered by highly qualified professionals active in the music industry.

Master in Performing Public Space

Tilburg, Netherlands: Located in the heart of Tilburg, the Netherlands, Fontys University of Fine and Performing Arts is dedicated to the study and investigation of cultural developments of all kinds, and to understanding how they can produce meaningful change within our shared spaces. 

Master of Music

Harrisonburg, USA: The School of Music offers a Master of Music degree with concentration options in composition, conducting, music education, and performance. The program seeks to provide an opportunity for the highest level of musical development and professional training for each student, appropriate for careers in teaching, performance, and composition of music. Conducting majors will undertake a comprehensive study of the literature of their medium, develop advanced insights into the musical ideas and structure of the major works, and refine their conducting and rehearsal skills. 

MA in Music Performance

Bath, United KingdomYou’ll receive one-to-one instrumental or vocal tuition from our team of experienced tutors as part of a series of performance modules. The course culminates with a final project, where you’ll prepare a performance, normally a high-profile public recital. Alongside your solo work, you’ll develop your research, collaborative, ensemble, and publicity skills. 

A Master in Music Performance prepares students to pursue a variety of careers in the music industry by teaching music theory and technique, as well as giving students the opportunity to practice their skills in choral and orchestral settings.

What is a Master in Music Performance? A Master in Music Performance is a program that teaches students music theory, solo repertoire and performance, pedagogy, diction, and musical training pertinent to the individual field of study being pursued. Students can choose from a variety of performance majors, including oboe, voice, cello, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, tuba, trumpet, viola, harp, oboe, double bass, organ, piano, and more. Students can work towards a wide range of career options within the music field.  

Students who complete a master’s program in music performance benefit from learning pertinent skills that allow them to competently pursue professional careers in the music industry. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be equipped with the skills and confidence they need to become successful in the music industry.

The cost of a Master in Music Performance varies significantly based on the individual institution as well as the country where it is based. Students can expect to complete the program within two to five years, depending on whether they are full-time or part-time students.

A Master in Music Performance allows students to seek career opportunities in many different areas, including: education, music performance, personal vocal coaching, composing, arts management, audio production, collaborative pianist, acoustician, accompanist, copyright consultant, lyricist, and conductor. Students who want to pursue careers in the music industry will have greater success upon completion of a master’s degree in music performance.

A Master in Music Performance can open up many opportunities for a variety of music-related careers. If you want to pursue a Master in Music Performance, search for your program below and contact directly the admission office of the school of your choice by filling in the lead form.

In affiliation with the London College of Music and the University of West London, the AMSonline M.Mus Popular Music Performance has been developed to address the needs of contemporary musicians on a practical, academic and professional basis delivered by highly qualified professionals active in the music industry.


  • Explore in-depth an area of musicianship that interests you
  • Expand and develop your competitive edge
  • Gain academic recognition to explore theories and ideas

For Industry Professionals:
We offer the opportunity to fast-track students with industry experience (10+ years) onto the masters. We map your previous experience against the two years of the foundation degree allowing you to progress straight onto the final year and achieve your masters degree.

M.Mus Popular Music Performance


Consolidate and build on performance skills with a focus on stylistic interpretation, technique, and creativity.


Rehearse and perform with the aim to develop ensemble skills with an emphasis on musical direction, creative interpretation and technical skill.


Undertake several tasks related to your discipline, including building a documentation of research and dissertation proposal or project with an annotated bibliography.


Develop an understanding of key critical approaches to the study of popular music through an examination of the key literature. Study a series of important practitioners, genres, and milestones from the landscape of popular music through analysis and critical thinking.


Building upon the work completed in Performance Portfolio 1, further develop skills as a performer. Key factors include the development and expansion of heightened technical performance ability, alongside interpretative and stylistic traits.


A project or dissertation based on a research question of your choosing that has been developed during the research methods module and through discussion with the module leader.



Engage in the development, management, and execution of a high-quality song portfolio. The material may be in any genre with a final presentation of a portfolio with recordings of your compositions, lead sheets, and a written critique.

Music Pedagogy

A placement to participate in learning and teaching activities based on a community music practice with the aim to develop and execute two observed sessions.


Entry Requirements

Minimum of a 2:1 in a related undergraduate qualification, plus a successful audition and interview. Equivalent overseas qualifications will be considered.


Studying at this level will broaden your horizons as a musician and scholar, to support you in a multi-faceted career. This Masters will enable you to explore areas of interest in greater depth, develop new skills and open new avenues of investigation both musically and academically.

Audition & Interview


How long will it last?

Full time 3 x 12 week trimestersLast updated May 2020

About the School

Academy of Music & Sound Online

AMS online is a pioneering online music college based in the UK. We offer fully validated Foundation Degree, BA Hons and Masters courses, written by and delivered by music professionals entirely online

best graduate schools for music performance

University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna:

The University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna is one of the oldest and largest music schools in the world. It was established in 1817 in Vienna, Austria, also one of most beautiful cities in the world. Musicians like Brahms and Mahler studied at this cultural center of arts and music. Even though it has around 3,000 students it still has 4.7 students to each instructor.  Its students have won many international competitions in all areas of music including Conducting, Organ, Voice and Film and Media Composition. 

New England Conservatory   

The oldest independent school of music in the U.S., the New England Conservatory (NEC) was founded in 1867 in Boston and has played a major historical part in the musical life of the world. It is the only music conservatory named as a National Historic Landmark.  It consists of 750 students with a student to faculty ratio of 5 to 1 and an acceptance rate of 28%. NEC also offers a unique 5 year program together with Harvard University, conferring upon students degrees from two of the finest institutes in the nation.  It also offers degrees up to the doctoral level.  New England Conservatory’s students go on to fill concert chairs, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts positions throughout the world. Almost half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra consists of faculty and former students of NEC. 

Its inclusion in the top music school rankings is also due to its commitment to a comprehensive music education. Students can study early and world music, contemporary improvisation and jazz as well as classical music. The conservatory even offers training and performance study for people of all ages, from kindergarteners to adults and seniors through its programs. These include the Preparatory School, Community Performances and Partnerships, and Continuing Education programs.

Jacobs School of Music   Located in Bloomington, Indiana, the Jacobs School of Music is well known for the success of its students.  It was the learning place of violinist, Joshua Bell and opera singer Richard Cowan, and includes on the faculty the pianist Andre Watts.  There is a 25% acceptance rate of incoming students, and around 1600 students that attend the school. The Musical Arts Center that seats 1,460 people features acoustics and technical abilities that are some of the best in the nation as well as a world class opera stage. The Jacobs School of Music also has a 400 seat music hall that has a high beamed ceiling and side terraces. The school offers more than 1,100 performances a year, including 7 fully staged operas and 3 ballets. Jacobs School of Music has the facilities, reputation and faculty to offer students one of the best musical educations in the world. 

Students and alumni agree that Jacobs School of Music offers the best college music programs partly because of its brilliant voice programs. The diverse student body come from all the states in the US and from more than 55 countries. All students undergo live or recorded audition before they can be admitted into the competitive program. 

Oberlin Conservatory of Music   As the only music conservatory awarded the National Medal of Arts, Oberlin Conservatory of Music is certainly renowned for its quality of musicians.  Established in 1833, in Oberlin, Ohio, the conservatory accepts about 38% of its applicants.  Oberlin offers Bachelor, Master and Artist Diplomas and also has a unique relationship with Oberlin College which offers a 5 year dual degree program.  With a faculty to student ratio of 6 to 1, at Oberlin the students have easy access to professors of the highest musical ability.  The music rooms, 150 of which have windows, boast a total of 233 Steinway pianos. “Together, the campus and community create a place of urban sensibility reflecting the music, art, and cultural richness of the world.” 

Oberlin is also among the good music colleges in terms of financial aid and career opportunities. Nearly all students, or about 90%, are offered significant financial aid and most of them become part of the nation’s best ensembles and orchestras.  Plus, we love the rural setting that encourages creativity in solitude but there are plenty of opportunities for socialization among the close-knit community. 

Moscow Conservatory

Co-founded in 1866 as the Moscow Imperial Conservatory by the brother of the famous Russian pianist and composer Anton Rubenstein along with Prince Troubetzkov, the Moscow Conservatory in Moscow, Russia has as rich and colorful a history as the city itself. It is one of the two oldest conservatories in Russia.  In its beginning, Tchaikovsky was professor of theory and harmony, and students such as Kabalevsky, Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Sviatislov Richter have studied at this illustrious music school. With around 1,300 students studying in this historic city, the conservatory still produces some of the greatest musicians in the country. The Moscow Conservatory is also known for its prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition, which takes place every four years, awarding titles for the top pianist, singer, cellist and violinist. The Moscow Conservatory offers Bachelor, Master and Specialist degrees.

Manhattan School of Music

The Manhattan School of Music began as a community school in East side New York, bringing high quality musical instruction to the immigrants of New York City. It is now located in West side New York and has continued its mission of excellence. Its founder, philanthropist and pianist Janet Shenck, borrowed the schools motto from Virgil: “Those who excel, thus reach the stars.” The school quickly gained international reputation and within 20 years of its beginning in 1917 offered higher degrees in music.  The school has a 40% acceptance rate and consists of 900 students that have the opportunity to work one on one with around 250 faculty. Manhattan School of Music alumni, including Harry Connick Jr. and Jesse Rosen, have gone on to perform in orchestras and opera companies, teach in prestigious universities and are some of the premier recording artists of the time.

It’s also considered as among the top music schools in the US for musical theater aspirants. Starting in fall 2016, the Manhattan School of Music offered a musical theatre program, which made it one of only two conservatories in the US offering the degree – the other one is the Boston Conservatory. 

Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler

The Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler is located in Berlin, Germany. It has an interesting political history as it was created in 1950 in response to a need for a music school in East Berlin after the establishment of the German Democratic Republic. It is named for Hanns Eisler, an internationally renowned composer and one of the first teachers at the school. As a student of Arnold Schoenberg, Eisler represents the prestigious beginnings of the school which has been carried on by some of the best teachers in the world.  There are around 600 students in the school with over 60% of the students coming from other countries and a 13% acceptance rate. These statistics contribute to its status as among the best music degree colleges to apply in for high-achieving aspiring musicians. The Hochschule für Music presents over 300 musical events annually and has produced composers and professional musicians of the finest quality.

Sibelius Academy

Located in central Helsinki, Finland, Sibelius Academy, is one of the largest and most renowned music academies in Europe. Named for the famous composer, Jean Sibelius, who was born and musically educated in the city of Helsinki, the academy has a history that is rich in great music. The school offers bachelors, masters and also the higher doctorate and licentiate degrees. With an 8% acceptance rate, the school only accepts the best musical applicants. Sibelius has over 1,000 students with 1500 faculty. It has produced many outstanding musicians including the conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo. Sibelius Academy also has an overseas exchange program with another school on our list, the Peabody Institute.

Of the best music education schools in this list, Sibelius Academy stands out as the only music college in Finland. But that’s not all – it’s also an organizer of the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, a well-known competition with high-level competitors. Past winners include Leonidas Kavakos, Viktoria Mullova and Oleg Kagan, all of whom became famous soloists. 

Plus, Sibelius Academy has a Junior Academy that welcomes highly skilled young musicians. Here, the students learn under the guidance of top-level musicians/professors in preparation for university.

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Founded in 1880 in London, England, the Guildhall School of Music and Dramahas one of the most prestigious music programs in the world. The School was ranked #1 for specialist universities in the UK in the Guardian University Guide for two years in a row with a perfect score of 100. With around 800 students and a student to faculty ratio of 7.8 to 1, Guildhall offers Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees. The acceptance rate for the Bachelor of Music program is around 18%.  Guildhall School of Music has produced many great musicians including the flautist, Sir James Galway, Composer, Thomas Ades, George Martin and Fred Astaire. They recently expanded their campus with a brand new concert hall, Milton Court.

Mannes School of Music

Established in 1916, The Mannes School of Music has an amazing faculty whose awards include Pulitzers, Grammys, a MacArthur Genius, a Guggenheim, and an Avery Fisher Prize. Its alumni include the famous pianists Richard Goode and Murray Perahia who both graduated the same year. Located in New York, New York, Mannes School of Music has a 33% acceptance rate. The musicians at Mannes still mirror the desire of its founders, David and Clara Mannes, who looked for students “whose sincere love of music alone prompts them to take up study.”

Mannes’ status as among the best music colleges in USA stems from its adaptability to the changing times, even for its ability to set the trends in the music industry. The current curriculum emphasizes music technology, television and film music composition, and improvisation, which are tied to contemporary music. 

Also, Mannes has two academic divisions – the preparatory division for pre-college training for children and teenagers; and the college division for undergraduate and graduate degrees.

masters in music performance online

Colorado State University

LocationFort Collins, CO

Based in Fort Collins, CSU offers a master of music with a music education specialization. Designed for K-12 teachers and independent music educators, this hybrid program combines an online curriculum with two-week, on-campus sessions.Working professionals benefit from a flexible online curriculum, and on-campus sessions take place over the summer, which allows teachers to continue working full time. This 30-credit curriculum offers courses in theory and research, and in-person sessions provide opportunities for collaboration and hands-on projects.CSU’s online master’s in music program draws from the educational philosophy of Hungarian music educator Zoltán Kodály. Upon completion of this program, students also obtain the national Kodály music teaching certification.

Azusa Pacific University

LocationAzusa, CA

The master of arts in music entrepreneurship from APU — located in Orange County, California — is a hybrid program led by experienced music industry professionals. Working musicians benefit from the program’s low-residency format, which requires limited on-campus sessions. Participants can graduate in two years. Students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the music business and focus on maximizing revenue in the age of digital streaming. This 32-credit program prepares graduates to work as independent musicians, music industry producers, artist managers, music marketing representatives, and tour coordinators.To apply, prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit a letter of intent, two recommendations, and official transcripts.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

LocationNew Brunswick, NJ

The online master of music in music education at Rutgers caters to K-12 music teachers. Online learners explore the relationship between music education and theory through courses like model composition and tonal analysis, behavioral approaches to music learning, and cognitive approaches to music learning.This 30-credit curriculum includes six foundation credits, 12 core credits, nine elective credits, and a three-credit capstone course. The capstone project requires students to compose a full research report and present their findings in an online forum.Prospective students must hold an undergraduate degree in music or music education from an accredited college. Additional requirements include one year of teaching experience and a 5-10-page academic paper on music education, history, or theory.

Stephen F. Austin State University

LocationNacogdoches, TX

Based in Nacogdoches, Texas, SFA offers an online master of music with four tracks: performance, conducting, music education, and theory-composition. Each track comprises 36 credits and helps students develop the competencies and critical thinking skills required for professional careers in music.The program further divides tracks into concentrations. While students can complete many core classes completely online, some concentrations require on-campus sessions. However, the elementary/general and instrumental concentrations in the music education track and the theory-compostion track can be completed entirely online.All applicants to SFA’s School of Music must complete an audition. Upon acceptance to the program, each student is tested in music theory and history to determine their proficiency and placement. GRE scores are not required.

University of Nebraska Kearney

LocationKearney, NE

The online master of education in music education offered by UNK teaches students advanced theory, research, and techniques related to education and musical performance. Distance students enjoy access to library services, technology support services, and a variety of online learning tutorials. This 36-credit program allows students to explore subjects like choral literature, the history of classical music, and music analysis. Graduates of this program can pursue careers as music teachers, band directors, choral directors, composers, and instrument tutors.To apply, students must hold a bachelor’s degree in music and a minimum 3.0 GPA. They should also submit a 300-500-word essay detailing their personal philosophy of teaching.

Eastern Illinois University

LocationCharleston, IL

Offering an online master of arts in music with a music education concentration, EIU charges a flat online tuition rate to all learners. Designed for working music educators, this program allows teachers to apply their learning directly to the classroom as they work through the curriculum.Though students complete most courses online, the program requires a one-week summer residency. To fulfill this residency, students travel to the school’s campus in Charleston where they complete a variety of project-based workshops and courses.This program culminates in a three-credit capstone project in which students deliver a 1,000-1,500-word oral examination on topics such as performance practice, pedagogy, or interpretive approaches to music. Each student pairs with an advisor who is responsible for approving and guiding the final project.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

LocationDurant, OK

SOSU — located in Durant — hosts an online master of music education. Designed to allow teachers to continue working while earning their degree, students can complete the program in four semesters and one additional summer session at SOSU’s main campus.This degree provides students with the opportunity to develop skills and qualities needed to become an effective leader. Graduates of this master’s in music education program often enter careers in teaching and administrative roles. Out-of-state distance learners pay the same tuition rate as in-state students. Graduate admission requirements include official transcripts and documentation of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college.

contemporary music masters degree

The Master of Music degree in contemporary performance (production concentration) offers advanced studies to instrumentalists and vocalists who demonstrate excellent musical proficiency and a desire to develop their individual artistry and performance career regardless of style or instrument. Through the program, advanced musicians have the opportunity to develop their artistry in a wide array of performance and recorded projects.

Students work with master musicians in a variety of genres such as flamenco, salsa, rock, Afro-Cuban, jazz, electronic music, and more. Through applied lessons, ensembles, master classes, and course work, students deepen their understanding of the harmonic and stylistic practices associated with their chosen area of performance.

Students also learn to master the technological and entrepreneurial skills that are essential for the contemporary performer. Through the study of music business and recorded production, students develop strategies for producing and marketing their performance projects. Students’ projects may take a variety of forms: a recording project, a concert, a lecture/demonstration, a grant proposal, a website marketing plan, or another option of students’ devising. This program is distinctly contemporary in its content and approach, and embraces the principal musical movements of our time.

Culminating Experience

The culminating experience is the final project that students present at the end of the program and is related to their career direction. Through the culminating experience, students make a creative contribution to and/or define and solve a problem that exists in the profession. Working in close consultation with their advisor, the performer’s culminating experience will fall into one of three categories—a creative work, a practical project, or a research project—and may take a variety of forms such as a recording project, a concert, a lecture/demonstration, a grant proposal, a website marketing plan, a video lesson series, or another option of students’ devising. All projects include supporting materials that may take a variety of forms: a student might build a website to promote a recording, for example, or draft a grant proposal for a public performance of their music, using a recording project to supplement the grant proposal application. Students are required to meet with their advisors on a regular basis to assess their progress. The final project must be defended before a faculty committee chaired by the student’s advisor.Entrance Requirements

We are looking for highly skilled and creative instrumentalists and vocalists from all styles of contemporary music who wish to develop their performance career further while also immersing themselves in the recorded production process and experience.

Ideal candidates will:

  • enter the program with a very advanced level of instrumental or vocal technique and musical skill;
  • desire to expand their experience through further exploration of familiar and new styles including fusions of genres;
  • be deeply motivated to learn and apply strategies for recorded music production (including the preproduction, recording, and mixing processes) to their craft, with a focus on artistic identity and intent; and
  • demonstrate a strong interest in learning and applying new performance technology, electroacoustic instruments, and video into their live and recorded performances.

Learning Outcomes

When students complete the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration), they’ll have the ability to:

  • synthesize the harmonic and stylistic practices associated with their chosen area of performance;
  • synthesize the skills required of performers in a variety of contemporary music settings;
  • perform music in contemporary musical styles;
  • create and improvise music;
  • develop strategies for producing and marketing their performance projects;
  • synthesize their artistic identity, vision, and intent in performance work; and
  • apply technology to recording and distributing music.
  • Program Faculty

Curriculum and Courses

Semester 1

  • PS-522: Production Concepts for the Contemporary Performer (3 credits/5 ECTS) 
  • PS-619: Masters Performance Forum: Production (3 credits/6 ECTS) 
  • PIMM-550: Private Instruction 1 (3 credits/2 ECTS) 
  • ENDS-550: Contemporary Studio Ensemble (1 credit/4 ECTS) 
  • GS-500: Master’s Advising (0 credits/0 ECTS) 
  • 1 elective  

Semester 2

  • PS-532: The Artist as a Startup (3 credits/5 ECTS) 
  • PS-622: Masters Advanced Performance Forum: Production (3 credits/6 ECTS) 
  • PS-624: Applied Advanced Production Projects (3 credits/5 ECTS) 
  • PIMM-600: Private Instruction 2 (3 credits/2 ECTS) 
  • ENDS-550: Contemporary Studio Ensemble (1 credit/4 ECTS)
  • GS-500: Master’s Advising (0 credits/0 ECTS) 
  • GS-503: Graduate Professional Development Seminar (1 credits/2 ECTS) 
  • 1 elective  
  • 1 optional elective

Semester 3

  • PS-695: Culminating Experience in Contemporary Performance/Thesis (6 credits/6 ECTS) 
  • PIMM-650: Private Instruction 3 (3 credits/2 ECTS) 
  • ENDS-550: Contemporary Studio Ensemble (1 credit/4 ECTS)
  • GS-500: Master’s Advising (0 credits/0 ECTS) 

Semester 4 (optional)

  • GS-595: Graduate Internship (1 credit/2 ECTS) 
  • AR-511: Contemporary Arranging (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • ET-511: Contemporary Ear Training (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • HR-511: Contemporary Harmony (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • MTI-543: Studio Video Music Production (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • MTI-613: Electronic Dance Music Composition (3 credits/5 ECTS) 
  • PS-621: Topics in Improvisation (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • PS-631: Performance Pedagogy (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • PS-635: Cross-Cultural Rhythm Studies for Musicians (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • SW-565: Lyric Writing (3 credits/5 ECTS)
  • GS-627: The Composing Performer (3 credits/5 ECTS)
Optional Elective
  • GS-510: Principles of Music Research (3 credits/6 ECTS)

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