In today’s world of American Idol and The Voice, it’s easy to think that all you need to succeed is a little bit of natural talent and charisma. The truth is, many of these amazing singers have been studying and practicing for most of their lives. Pursuing a career in music requires more than waiting for your “big break”: it takes dedication, focus, intense practice, and a strong education.
If you’re entertaining the thought of pursuing a career as a vocalist, you’ve probably been studying with a qualified teacher for several years. As you approach college age, there are many amazing singing colleges out there where you’ll have the ability to study with and learn from some of the best vocalists in the world. Let’s look at a few of the top singing schools, what musical styles they offer, and how to get into them as you prepare to continue your studies:
1. Berklee College of Music – Boston, MA
Berklee is one of the oldest music colleges in the U.S. They offer a special Performance program where class size averages 11 students, and also encourage students to take part in one (or several) of the 700 performances each year. Along with various concerts and performances, the school also offers student-run programs that focus on the business side of the industry. Berklee has a long history of producing cutting-edge vocalists in popular music and jazz scene. Past alumni include Grammy winners John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge, Paula Cole, and Esperanza Spalding, to name just a few! Admission to Berklee requires students to submit an audition tape, or arrange an audition in person.
2. University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music – Cincinnati, Ohio
If opera is more your style, this school is a great option. You’ll take weekly lessons to prepare for performances in one of six full-length operas they produce each year. They also offer an opera project designed for undergraduate students so they can receive the same opportunities without having to compete with the graduate students. CCM also offers an artist diploma in opera coaching. Alumni have starred in many Broadway shows including “Rent”, “Wicked” and “In The Heights”. Admission is by audition.
3. Manhattan School of Music – New York, NY
Located on the Upper West Side of New York, MSM is one of the top all-around schools for vocalists in the U.S. Its Center for Music Entrepreneurship offers a variety of programs, projects, and internships designed to help students promote their talent and build their careers. They work to prepare students for life as a musician through events and career workshop, while offering hundreds of opportunities for performances, ranging from jazz concerts to fully-staged operas.
4. Temple University – Philadelphia, PA
Even with a student body of 27,000, most classes at Temple have no more than 20 students. Vocal performance students working on their BA at Boyer School of Music and Dance attend weekly studio voice classes and participate in ensembles. Temple’s Concert Choir and Chorale performs a wide range of chamber music. Alumni include singer-songwriter Susan Werner and Aaron Weiss of the band mewithoutYou.
5. The Juilliard School – New York, NY
Juilliard is the most notable performing arts school in the country, and the vocal program is staffed by one of the most prestigious faculties in the world. With a heavy focus on opera studies, each student has the opportunity to perform in at least one opera per year. But be warned: Juilliard has one of the most challenging audition processes in the world. You must be intellectually curious, physically adept, and emotionally fearless, not to mention a superb vocalist and highly competent musician. Juilliard produces performers who go on to become industry leaders; Renée Fleming, Leontyne Price, and Tony-winning performer Audra McDonald are just a few notable alumni.
There are many singing schools across the country, but these are a few of the best! Many colleges and universities also offer music programs for their students to participate in as non-major study, or extracurricular programs for students interesting in continuing their vocal studies. The best approach is to talk with your voice teacher and do some research online. There are singing colleges that offer study in all genres of music, from chamber music and opera, to pop, blues, jazz, and show tunes. Whether it’s recording, performing, or writing music, there’s a school out there for you!
Photo by Ed Uthman