Originally Posted: May 30, 2011
Last Updated: Aug 8, 2011
If you are a music-lover and cannot see yourself studying anything but notes on a page, you may want to look into conservatories.
Conservatories are schools that are dedicated to the study of music, whether you study performance, business, music education, or any other subject pertaining to music. Many conservatories even branch out their subject matter to include all the fine arts, such as the Boston Conservatory, which features programs in music, theater, and dance.
Though conservatories are a great place for the aspiring actor or musician, competition tends to run high in admission, and the process is a bit more intensive than your run-of-the-mill college. Not only do conservatories want you to fill out all the usual paperwork, but they also ask for artistic résumés and for you to audition for the program in which you intend to enroll. So you must have the experience and talent to gain admission to these schools. The good news? Eight conservatories and music schools have their equivalent of the Common Application: the Unified Application for Music and Performing Arts Schools. It’s a time saver if the schools on its list are ones you are interested in.
If you’re a liberal arts–type of person, conservatories may not be the right path for you. Because the focus is completely on the arts and performance, most conservatories do not offer courses in a broad range of subjects (you most likely won’t find Physics 101). So you need to be entirely sure that music is your definite career path before enrolling at a conservatory. However, if you know that you want to study music, but possibly take other subjects for fun or to learn something different, many conservatories have agreements with larger universities so their students can take classes there.
Conservatories will not have the typical “college scene” with the big football game or frat houses, but they do offer a campus that is focused solely on the arts. The teachers at conservatories have been in the business and know their stuff. (The New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts, has faculty and alumni that make up almost half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.) You will also have access to some of the best facilities in which to practice and some great spaces to perform and show off your skills.
If you’re looking for the big campus feel, you can check out large universities that have a conservatory as a part of their campus, such as the Peabody Institute of The John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Although these schools may give you the best of both worlds, remember that you’ll be balancing general education requirements with the commitment needed to excel in a conservatory. One night you may be practicing on your cello and the next studying for an anatomy final.
Whether you plan to be the next Beethoven or just want to study music, it’s worth checking out conservatories. They may just be the right fit.