Music school

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Graduates of the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg Conservatory include Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergey Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, and George Balanchine. Saint Petersburg Conservatory.jpg
Graduates of the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg Conservatory include Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergey Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, and George Balanchine.

A music school is an educational institution specialized in the study, training, and research of music. Such an institution can also be known as a school of music, music academy, music faculty, college of music, music department (of a larger institution), conservatory, conservatorium or conservatoire. Instruction consists of training in the performance of musical instruments, singing, musical composition, conducting, musicianship, as well as academic and research fields such as musicology, music history and music theory.


Music instruction can be provided within the compulsory general education system, or within specialized children's music schools such as the Purcell School. Elementary-school children can access music instruction also in after-school institutions such as music academies or music schools. In Venezuela El Sistema of youth orchestras provides free after-school instrumental instruction through music schools called núcleos. The term “music school” can also be applied to institutions of higher education under names such as school of music, such as the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University; music academy, like the Sibelius Academy or the Royal Academy of Music, London; music faculty as the Don Wright Faculty of Music of the University of Western Ontario; college of music, characterized by the Royal College of Music and the Berklee College of Music; music department, like the Department of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz; or the term conservatory, exemplified by the Conservatoire de Paris and the New England Conservatory. In other parts of Europe, the equivalents of higher school of music or university of music may be used, such as the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln (Cologne University of Music).


Based around the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Notre Dame School was an important centre of polyphonic music NotreDameDeParis.jpg
Based around the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Notre Dame School was an important centre of polyphonic music

Although music and music education may have been in existence for thousands of years, the earliest history is speculative. [1] Even when history starts to be recorded, music is mentioned more frequently than music education. Within the biblical tradition, Hebrew litany was accompanied with rich music, but the Torah or Pentateuch was silent on the practice and instruction of music in the early life of Israel. However, by I Samuel 10, Alfred Sendrey suggests that we find “a sudden and unexplained upsurge of large choirs and orchestras, consisting of thoroughly organized and trained musical groups, which would be virtually inconceivable without lengthy, methodical preparation.” This has led some scholars to believe that the prophet Samuel was the patriarch of a school which taught not only prophets and holy men, but also sacred-rite musicians. [2]

The schola cantorum (papal choir) in Rome may be the first recorded music school in history, when Gregory the Great (540–604) made permanent an existing guild dating from the 4th century (schola originally referred more to a guild rather than school). The school consisted of monks, secular clergy, and boys. [3] Wells Cathedral School, England founded as a Cathedral School in 909 a.d. to educate choristers, continues today to educate choristers and teaches instrumentalists. However the school appears to have been refounded at least once. [4]

Saint Martial school, 10th to 12th century, was an important school of composition at the Abbey of Saint Martial, Limoges. It is known for the composition of tropes, sequences, and early organum. In this respect, it was an important precursor to the Notre Dame School. [5] It was the Notre Dame school (late 12th and early 13th century) which was the earliest repertory of polyphonic (multipart) music to gain international prestige and circulation. The school was a group of composers and singers working under the patronage of the great Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. [6] First records on Escolania de Montserrat, boys' choir linked to a music school, back to 1307 and still continues the musical education.


The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (National Academy of St Cecilia) is one of the oldest musical institutions in the world, based in Italy. It is based at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, and was founded by the papal bull, Ratione congruit, issued by Sixtus V in 1585, which invoked two saints prominent in Western musical history: Gregory the Great, for whom the Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. It was founded as a "congregation" or "confraternity" – a religious guild, so to speak – and over the centuries, has grown from a forum for local musicians and composers to an internationally acclaimed academy active in music scholarship (with 100 prominent music scholars forming the body of the Accademia) to music education (in its role as a conservatory) to performance (with an active choir and symphony orchestra).

The term conservatory has its origin in 16th-century Renaissance Italy, where orphanages ( conservatori ) were attached to hospitals. The orphans (conservati ‘saved’) were given a musical education there, and the term gradually applied to music schools. [7] [8] These hospitals-conservatories were among the first secular institutions equipped for practical training in music. By the 18th century, Italian conservatories were already playing a major role in the training of artists and composers. [9]

16th-18th centuries

In the city of Naples, a conservatorio was strictly a secular place for teaching and learning specializing in music education. There were already four conservatories in Naples active in the 16th and 18th century:

It is in these very institutions that the so-called Scuola Musicale Napoletana was developed, thanks to the work of musicians and educators like Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725) and Francesco Durante (1684–1755), who was also Pergolesi’s and Paisiello’s teacher.

18th-19th centuries

It was the example set in Naples, where admission was by competitive examination and tuition was free, that was then copied, with modifications, in many European cities, including Paris (1795), Bologna (1804), Milan (1807), Florence and Prague (1811), Warsaw and Vienna (1821), London (1822), the Hague (1826), and Liege (1827). The second half of the 19th century saw the network expanding to the Americas, Rio de Janeiro (1847), Boston (1853), Baltimore and Chicago (1868), Havana (1885), and Buenos Aires (1893). Establishments for advanced training in music were organized in the 1940s in several Asian and African countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, and Kenya. [9]

To this extent, projects like El Sistema are more in line with the tradition set in Italy (where tuition at conservatories remains still free) than in an English-speaking country, where students have a very selective access to bursaries (see the Royal Academy of Music or the Royal College of Music in the UK).

Primary and secondary education

Specialist music schools

Musikgymnasium Schloss Belvedere is a specialist music school in Germany Musikgymnasium Schloss Belvedere (Hauptansicht).jpg
Musikgymnasium Schloss Belvedere is a specialist music school in Germany

Specialist music schools exist in many countries and whose purpose is to identify, and assist, children with exceptional potential, to benefit from world-class specialist training as part of a broad and balanced education, which will enable them, if they choose, to proceed towards self-sustaining careers in music. [11] These schools may be formally [12] or informally attached to a conservatory. Entry is typically between the ages of ages 8 and 18 and admission is through competitive audition. Schools may be public or independent; where schools are independent, pupils may be in receipt of governmental [13] or private scholarships. Typically as students progress through the school the time spent on music increases and on academic subjects decrease. These schools usually teach only instrumentalists but may also include choristers.

Some schools (like conservatories) are broader and may cover the performing arts: music, drama, dance. [14]

Music schools within schools

Many music schools are located within existing schools. The pattern is quite diverse and may include:

Specialist music units in Scotland, where students are drawn from an area wider than the host schools catchment. Students will receive specialist music tuition within the music school but are fully integrated within the host school for other lessons. Entry to the specialist music unit or school is by competitive audition, which also effectively gives entry to the host school. [15]

Many public or independent schools contain music departments, some of which achieve high standards. These are sometimes referred to as Music schools. Music Colleges in England are schools that get additional private and governmental money to specialise in music. Entry is to the host school and musical ability is not an admission requirement. [16] Schools which perform highly may specialise in an additional area for example sports or technology.

300 children attend the Royal College of Music's Junior Department Royal College of Music - April 2007.jpg
300 children attend the Royal College of Music's Junior Department

Music schools also frequently operate from church facilities. [17]

Pre-college divisions

Many conservatories or other tertiary-level institutions have pre-college divisions or junior departments for children of school age. [18] Typically the curriculum includes individual lesson(s), orchestra, chamber music, theory, musicianship, composition and music technology. Classes are usually held on a Saturday and children attend normal schools during the week.

Music schools outwith the general education system

Non-governmental [19] or private [20] schools of music offer music education outside the general education system for students aged 4 to 20+ years. In general, students attend these schools weekend or evening. These schools are typically provided by individuals, charitable or commercial organizations.

Tertiary education


Jacobs School of Music, part of Indiana University, has more than 1,600 students JacobsSchoolofMusic.jpg
Jacobs School of Music, part of Indiana University, has more than 1,600 students

A conservatory of music may also be known in English as conservatoire (chiefly in the UK [21] ), conservatorium (in Australia [22] [23] ), academy or college. Some schools or conservatories are exclusively focused on music. [24] Others have a wider focus, for example covering music, drama and dance. [25] Conservatories are suitable for students who wish to develop their performance, conducting, or composition to a professional standard. Typically, they offer a high percentage of practical training combined with academic study and professional development for those considering a career in the creative arts. Individual teaching is the strength of most components.

Students have the opportunity to perform, conduct or have their music played on a regular basis, both informally and in public. This may be solo or as part of an orchestra, ensemble or band. Typically, conservatories focus on Western classical music. However, some schools focus on traditional instruments, such as Chinese instruments. [26] Others may have departments for traditional music which includes both traditional and classical instruments, for example bagpipes alongside the fiddle. [27] Alternatively, students can focus on jazz, world music or pop music. [28]

The time required to complete music degrees is generally not much different from degrees in other fields, i.e. 3–4 years for a Bachelor of Music degree, 1–2 years for a Master of Music degree, and 3–5 years for a Doctor of Musical Arts or Doctor of Music Degree. A PhD degree can be gained for areas such as musicology, music theory, music composition, music education, or music therapy. Some schools may offer a non-academic degree that is solely performance based, such as the (United States) A.D. or Artist Diploma; this may be offered at the undergraduate and/or graduate level.

University schools of music

The Oberlin Conservatory of Music shares its campus with Oberlin College. The Kohl Building.jpeg
The Oberlin Conservatory of Music shares its campus with Oberlin College.

University music departments originally placed more emphasis on academic study of music, rather than performance. However, today, the division may not be so rigid, with many often placing greater emphasis on performance now than they did in the past. The specific balance of vocational training and academic study varies from one institution to another, and from one country to another. Some countries separately define their institutions between university status and vocational university status, whilst other countries do not define such a rigid division. In addition to offering degrees similar to those offered at conservatories, some universities offer non-professional music-related degrees such as a Bachelor of Arts in Music or a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education. A number of previously independent conservatories have become affiliated to universities [29]

See also

Country-specific pages:


National and international organisations:


Related Research Articles

Royal College of Music College in Kensington and Chelsea, UK

The Royal College of Music is a conservatoire established by royal charter in 1882, located in South Kensington, London, UK. It offers training from the undergraduate to the doctoral level in all aspects of Western Music including performance, composition, conducting, music theory and history. The RCM also undertakes research, with particular strengths in performance practice and performance science. The college was named the top institution for Performing Arts in both the United Kingdom and Europe in the 2018 QS World University Rankings. It was also ranked second across all Performing Arts institutions worldwide. The college is one of the four conservatories of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and a member of Conservatoires UK. Its buildings are directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall on Prince Consort Road, next to Imperial College and among the museums and cultural centres of Albertopolis.

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School Specialized high school in New York City

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts is a high school specializing in teaching visual arts and performing arts, located near Lincoln Center in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City, in the U.S. state of New York. Located at 100 Amsterdam Avenue between West 64th and 65th Streets, the school is operated by the New York City Department of Education, and resulted from the merger of the High School of Music & Art and the School of Performing Arts. The school has a dual mission of arts and academics, preparing students for a career in the arts or conservatory study as well as a pursuit of higher education.

Royal Conservatory of The Hague conservatory in The Hague

The Royal Conservatoire is a conservatoire in The Hague, providing higher education in music and dance. The conservatoire was founded by King William I in 1826, making it the oldest conservatoire in the Netherlands.

Doctor of Musical Arts doctoral academic degree in music

The Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) is a doctoral academic degree in music. The DMA combines advanced studies in an applied area of specialization with graduate-level academic study in subjects such as music history, music theory, or music pedagogy. The DMA degree usually takes about three to four years of full-time study to complete, preparing students to be professional performers, conductors, and composers. As a terminal degree, the DMA qualifies its recipient to work in university, college, and conservatory teaching/research positions. Students seeking doctoral training in musicology or music theory typically enter a PhD program, rather than a DMA program.

New England Conservatory of Music oldest independent school of music in the United States

The New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) is a private music school in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the oldest independent music conservatory in the United States. The conservatory is located on Huntington Avenue of the Arts near Boston Symphony Hall and is home to 750 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies along with 1400 more in its Preparatory School as well as the School of Continuing Education. At the collegiate level, NEC offers the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Doctor of Musical Arts, as well as the Undergraduate, Graduate, and Artist Diplomas. Also offered are five-year joint double-degree programs with Harvard University and Tufts University.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland conservatoire of music, drama, and dance in the centre of Glasgow, Scotland

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, formerly the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, is a conservatoire of dance, drama, music, production and film in the centre of Glasgow, Scotland. It is a member of the Federation of Drama Schools.

Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" conservatory in Berlin

The Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin, Germany, is one of the leading music conservatories in Europe. It was established in East Berlin in 1950 as the Deutsche Hochschule für Musik because the older Hochschule für Musik Berlin was in West Berlin. After the death of one of its first professors, composer Hanns Eisler, the school was renamed in his honor in 1964. After a renovation in 2005 the conservatory is located in both Berlin's famed Gendarmenmarkt and the Neuer Marstall.

Westminster Choir College

Westminster Choir College is a residential conservatory of music located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. Westminster Choir College educates students at the undergraduate and graduate levels for musical careers in music education, voice performance, piano performance, organ performance, pedagogy, music theory and composition, conducting, sacred music, and arts management; professional training in musical skills with an emphasis on performance is complemented by studies in the liberal arts. All students study with Westminster's voice faculty, the largest voice faculty in the world. The school's proximity to New York City and Philadelphia provides students with easy access to the musical resources of both cities.

Boston Conservatory at Berklee performing arts conservatory located in the Fenway-Kenmore region of Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston Conservatory at Berklee is a performing arts conservatory associated with the Berklee College of Music and located in Boston, Massachusetts. It grants undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, dance and theater.

Maastricht Academy of Music music school

The Maastricht Academy of Music, Dutch: Conservatorium Maastricht, located in the city of Maastricht, is one of nine music academies in the Netherlands. The academy is a faculty of the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences for the Bachelor programme and the "Zuid Nederlandse Hogeschool voor Muziek" for the Master programme, in co-operation with the Fontys Academy of Music of the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. The academy provides advanced vocational training.

Elder Conservatorium of Music Australian conservatory

The Elder Conservatorium of Music, also known as "The Con", is Australia's senior academy of music and is located in the centre of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. It is named in honour of its benefactor, Sir Thomas Elder. Dating in its earliest form from 1883, it has a distinguished history in the intensive professional training for musical performance, musical composition, research in all fields of music, and comprehensive music education. The Elder Conservatorium of Music and its forerunners have been integral parts of the University of Adelaide since the early 1880s.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire music school in England, United Kingdom

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is a music school, drama school and concert venue in Birmingham, England. It provides professional education in music, acting and related disciplines up to postgraduate level, and is a centre for scholarly research and doctorate-level study in areas such as performance practice, composition, musicology and music history. It is the only one of the nine conservatoires in the United Kingdom that is also a faculty of a university, in this case Birmingham City University. It is a member of the Federation of Drama Schools.

The Schulich School of Music is one of the constituent faculties of McGill University in Montréal, Canada. The faculty was named after benefactor Seymour Schulich.

The University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music offers students an integrated music education based on best international contemporary arts practice.

UWA Conservatorium of Music music school of the University of Western Australia

The UWA Conservatorium of Music is part of the Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education at the University of Western Australia. It is located at the North-East corner of the Crawley campus and teaches predominately Classical music, with focus in the undergraduate curriculum on performance, as well as overall strength in musicology, composition and ethnomusicology. In 2016, UWA entered the top 100 "Performing Arts" institutions in the world, and in 2017 and 2018 the School improved its ranking to enter the top 50 in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings. The Conservatorium is also well regarded in research. Under the research code "19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing", the Conservatorium was rated as "4 - Above World Standard" by the Australian Research Council in 2018. Previously, the name of the organisation has been the UWA Department of Music, and the UWA School of Music.

Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber education organization in Dresden, Germany

The "Carl Maria von Weber" College of Music is a college of music in Dresden, Germany.

Music schools in Scotland

Music schools in Scotland are available at several levels. Formal music education begins at 4½ years and can progress as high as postgraduate studies. Education in Scotland is a responsibility of the Scottish Government. Music is regarded as being an integral part of the culture of Scotland.

Codarts school in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Codarts University for the Arts is a Dutch vocational university in Rotterdam that teaches music, dance and circus. It was established in its present location in 2000.

Bydgoszcz Music Academy - "Feliks Nowowiejski" The Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz

The Bydgoszcz Academy of Music is a Polish state music university located in downtown Bydgoszcz. Its origins date back to 1974, as Branch of the High School of Music in Lodz till 1979. From 1979 to 1981, it was established as Bydgoszcz State Higher School of Music, comprising for four departments. Since 1981, it is called Academy of Music - "Feliks Nowowiejski".


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