How to choose a music school – Reputation

This series of posts was inspired by the Open House that Illinois hosted on Tuesday. We invited interested juniors and seniors to come and visit classes, sit in on rehearsals and perform in master classes with our faculty. It was a great opportunity for students to get to know us better and it made me think of a question that I wish people would ask me. How do you choose a music school?

The first topic that I would like to cover is often the most common way to choose a school, even if you don’t realize it. When you first started looking for schools what was the first thing you did? More than likely, you asked a lot of questions of people you trusted.  You asked your band or choir director. You asked your friends. You probably didn’t ask your parents, but they told you what they thought anyway. Even before you asked, you probably already had a list in mind. Why? Because of their reputation.

Some schools have particular name recognition.  Juilliard is a household name associated with the performing arts, even for those you know nothing about music.  Berklee College of Music has a reputation for popular music. University of California – Berkley is known for being confused with the other Berklee, until you learn more about schools of music and find out it’s actually known for research and musicology.  Most students looking for schools already have a good idea of the type of schools they want to look at.

Reputation can be very important and I have no intention of telling you that this should not be a major part of your decision.  I do hope, however, that it will not be the only factor.  Over the next few days, we will also be discussing curriculum options, private instruction, location and school visits. Let me know what you consider important when choosing a college in the comments.


2 comments so far

  1. Michael Clark on

    Reputation is definitely a factor.

    Obviously your job is to sell the University of Illinois. I’d be interested to hear your comparison of Illinois to some of the following universities/conservatories:

    Eastman School of Music
    Indiana University
    Northwestern University
    University of Michigan
    Ithaca College
    University of Missouri Kansas City

    What makes Illinois stand out from a list of the best (i.e. Eastman, Indiana, etc.) and the generally well-regarded (Ithaca College, UMKC)?

  2. danhassler on

    The first part of my answer is going to sound like a cop-out, but it isn’t. I make a point of not comparing the University of Illinois with other schools. I know why I like Illinois and would be happy to share those reasons, but the decision of which school to attend is very personal. There are a lot of different reasons to choose a school.

    Second, all of the schools you listed are excellent schools. Obviously the likes of Eastman and Indiana are better known, usually because of some big name faculty or alumni. I personally know admissions counselors at all of the schools you listed except UMKC (but I do have a friend there!)

    The full answer is that there are a number of very good schools for you to choose from. The question is, which one is good for you? That is why I encourage getting the know the schools at the top of your list by communicating with them and, if possible, visiting.

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