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10 Best Jazz Schools in the US

Best Jazz Schools in the US: Jazz is a distinctively American style of music, and there are many top jazz schools throughout the nation.

Many of the top-ranked programs are dispersed across the nation and have been in operation for many years. They provide a variety of degrees in all facets of jazz.

Students have several opportunities to participate in campus ensembles as well as at venues close to their schools, and these programs are run by staff that includes some of the most well-known jazz performers in the world.

With the expansion of jazz programs, more colleges are now offering master’s and doctoral programs in the subject. Depending on the institution, students can pursue degrees in jazz composition, vocal and instrumental performance, or both.

However, contemporary music education goes beyond preparing students to perform. Programs now stress the value of offering students a foundation in subjects like business while training them for all facets of a profession.

In order to allow students to pursue their passion for jazz music while also obtaining a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts or another discipline, many universities now offer dual-degree programs.

We’ll examine ten of the best jazz schools in the US in more detail below, including everything from their degree offerings to their applications and audition procedures.

What is Jazz Music?

Jazz music is an American musical genre that uses syncopated rhythms, improvisation, and polyphonic ensemble music. Jazz music has evolved from various musical genres. Jazz musicians portray improvisation by embellishing the melodies, modifying the rhythm of the melody lines, and creating solos as they play. Jazz music definition must also include the utilization of rhythmic urgency. The rapid, swift, and/or improvisational usage of rhythms in different syncopations (displaced and/or accentuated) is referred to as rhythmic urgency.

Characteristics of Jazz Music

Depending on the type, jazz can have a variety of qualities. Jazz music is known for its use of improvisation, syncopation, irregular beats, solos, and call-and-response methods, to name a few.

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Best Jazz Schools in the US

1. Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Oberlin, OH)

Best Jazz Schools in the US
Best Jazz Schools in the US

The College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music, the latter of which first opened its doors in 1865, are the only two sections that make up Oberlin College. With only 540 students, the conservatory maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1. They have a choice of 42 private study options, including jazz performance and composition, and they can join more than 30 student ensembles.

Additionally, Oberlin provides a dual degree program that allows music majors to acquire both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of music. This enables individuals to obtain a degree in a variety of subjects, including history, law, and jazz performance.

To be accepted into the conservatory, applicants must prepare for an audition, which they may undertake in person or by recording. Additionally, they are required to submit two letters of recommendation from music instructors or other individuals who can speak to the applicant’s musical ability and background.

2. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

College of Music at the University of North Texas
College of Music at the University of North Texas

At Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, students have a choice of 22 subjects, including jazz studies, where they can learn about the history, composition, and other aspects of jazz music in addition to how to perform it.

While the graduate program provides both a master’s degree and a doctorate in music, undergraduates can receive either a bachelor of music in jazz studies or a bachelor of science in music and another subject area with a jazz emphasis.

The music school offers a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles, including five jazz-focused ones, such as the All-Campus Jazz Ensemble, which is accessible to all students on campus, including those not majoring in music.

The university requires prospective students to participate in a live audition and interview. Before proceeding to the audition round, candidates might also be required to submit a pre-screening tape of their performance, depending on the instrument they are playing.

3. University of North Texas College of Music (Denton, TX)

The jazz department in the College of Music at the University of North Texas, which conferred the first jazz studies degree in history, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. The university has gained notoriety in part thanks to its Grammy-nominated One O’Clock Lab Band since it formed its first laboratory band in 1946.

The school now houses a number of academic departments, including jazz studies, where students can concentrate on singing, composition, or various instruments.

UNT offers two graduate degrees in addition to the bachelor of music in jazz studies. Students can choose between the jazz performing track and the jazz composition track in the master of music in jazz studies program. Jazz is an option for students earning a doctorate in performing.

All applicants must submit a pre-screening audition video, and those who advance to the next phase must take an on-site aural skills and jazz theory test.

4. The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music (New York, NY)

The jazz program at The New School was established in 1986 with the intention of having working musicians instruct upcoming performers.

In jazz and contemporary music, students might pursue a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a vocal or instrumental emphasis. Alternatively, they can enroll in the dual-degree track, a five-year program that allows them to obtain both a BFA and a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts.

There are other possibilities for graduate study, including a five-year program that leads to the BFA and subsequently the MA in arts administration and entrepreneurship.

The master of arts in arts management and the master of music in performer-composer are two additional graduate programs offered by The New School that span various departments within the College of Performing Arts.

The school hosts the largest music internship program in the city, allowing students the opportunity to work with prominent musicians and perform at various venues throughout New York.

5. Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)

Numerous degree options, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, are offered by Berklee College of Music, not only at its main campus in Boston but also online and at a number of Berklee satellite campuses located all over the world.

The bachelor of music in jazz composition is one of the degrees available, and students who pursue it learn about jazz’s history, go to live performances, and develop their musical composition skills.

Undergraduates can minor in popular music theory and jazz theory. At the graduate level, Berklee’s Boston campus provides a master of music with a concentration on global jazz, where students are taught through a unique performance curriculum called the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.

The coed vocal jazz ensemble Point of Departure is one of many student groups and organizations at Berklee that focus on music and performance.

6. University of Miami Frost School of Music (Coral Gables, FL)

The Frost School of Music’s Department of Studio Music & Jazz offers a wide range of jazz degrees.

A bachelor’s degree in vocal or instrumental studio jazz is possible for students who enroll in performance programs as well as more advanced courses in composition and improvisation.

There are numerous graduate school options, including doctoral and master’s degrees in jazz vocal and instrumental performance. Jazz pedagogy and studio jazz writing are two other master’s degrees.

Jazz students have a choice of 13 ensembles outside of the classroom, allowing them the opportunity to perform various jazz genres in both large and small groups.

Students appear to be well-prepared for life after Miami thanks to the experience. According to Frost, 91.3% of graduates find a full-time work or continue on to graduate school within six months of graduation.

7. New England Conservatory of Music (Boston, MA)

The jazz program at the New England Conservatory has been preparing musicians for almost 50 years and was the first fully certified program of its sort at the conservatory level.

Jazz composition or jazz performance are the two bachelor of music degrees available to undergraduates interested in the genre.

Through double majors, individuals can also receive a degree in music theory, composition, music history, or they can add a second performance discipline. The conservatory also offers graduate credentials in jazz composition and performing along with doctoral and master of music degrees.

The conservatory’s faculty includes renowned performers who mentor students in private lessons as part of the school’s distinctive approach to teaching. The conservatory emphasizes small ensembles when it comes to performance, with teachers directing 27 student groups that play a variety of jazz genres.

8. Manhattan School of Music (New York, NY)

The Manhattan School of Music’s jazz program provides doctoral degrees in jazz arts advancement in addition to music bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Within the jazz department, undergraduates can major in a variety of instruments, although vocal studies are only available at the master’s and doctoral levels. The university also grants a master’s in jazz composing.

Jazz students must engage in ensembles, which comprise three different orchestras and a big band, and each season, guest performers are added to the groups. Regularly, guest artists hold master courses where students can perform and receive comments.

The specific requirements for prescreening depend on the instrument the applicant plays and/or the specific program he or she wants to pursue. The school does this for both its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Those that advance in the admissions process after the prescreening go through an audition.

9. The Juilliard School (New York, NY)

Students at the Julliard School receive instruction from renowned jazz musicians.

Students take a variety of other programs in addition to private sessions where they hone their performing skills in order to best prepare them for careers in the music industry as well as other fields. This implies that in addition to the liberal arts, undergraduate courses also cover history and music theory.

Another important aspect of the Julliard experience is entrepreneurship. For students to learn skills like public speaking, the school’s Alan D. Marks Center for Career Services and Entrepreneurship offers a variety of courses and panel discussions.

In addition to the different campus ensembles they will perform in, the career center can assist in getting them set up with freelancing work to develop experience. Ensembles perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center as well as other venues in and around New York City, including the Julliard facilities.

10. University of Southern California Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles, CA)

One of the earliest in the nation, the University of Southern California’s jazz studies program has seen alumni and faculty members nominated for significant honors like the Grammys.

Jazz musicians can pursue graduate degrees, certifications, and diplomas in addition to undergraduate degrees in the field.

Jazz studies are another minor offered at USC. Along with the university’s standard general education courses, undergraduates can anticipate taking basic coursework in subjects like music theory and auditory skills. They must also complete a capstone project, which can be a recital, in order to graduate.

Five jazz-related organizations, including two jazz orchestras, are available through the music school. Additionally, students can join the USC CreSCendo Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the Afro-Latin American Jazz Ensemble, and the Jazz Honors Combo.

Best Jazz Schools in the US
Best Jazz Schools in the US

Frequently Asked Questions

Is jazz a major in college?

A concentration in jazz studies provides in-depth study of jazz improvisation, jazz arranging and composition, jazz theory and pedagogy, applied jazz music classes, and performing possibilities in big bands and jazz combos.

Is jazz still a favorite in America?

Jazz music is still played and appreciated today all over the world, but according to recent sales data, it has surpassed classical music as one of the least popular genres in the US.

Is Jazz African or American?

Jazz is an American musical genre that was created by Black people and heavily influenced by both the intricate rhythms of Africa and the European harmonic structure. It is frequently improvised.

Which Racial Group like Jazz the most?

Jazz continues to draw listeners of all races, but it has a particularly strong following in the black community. Only a third (32%) of white people say they enjoy jazz, compared to more than half (54%) of adult African Americans.



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