Best Music Schools in California in 2024 | All You Need to Know

Whenever music schools are mentioned, we frequently think of well-known institutions on the east coast, like Juilliard, Berklee, Curtis, and New York University. The truth is California houses great and some of the best music schools in the world.

Although the University of Texas, the University of Miami, and Full Sail University, which is close to Orlando, Florida, are just a few of the top schools in the south. The west coast, particularly California, the country’s most populous state, is home to many excellent schools.

Many of these colleges provide in-state tuition discounts to California residents, which might help you and your family save a lot of money. 

Also, California provides some excellent possibilities for obtaining music degrees, whether you already reside there or intend to go there to further your studies.

Read on for our recommendations for the best music schools in California and the most frequently asked questions regarding their music programs.

Are there Music Schools in California?

Best Music Schools in California

There are many music schools in California that offer different degrees in music. They include:

  • University of Southern California (USC) – Thornton School of Music
  • University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – Herb Alpert School of Music
  • California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) – Herb Alpert School of Music
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Stanford University
  • University of California San Diego
  • Azusa Pacific University School of Music
  • California State University, Long Beach – Bob Cole Conservatory of Music
  • University of California at Irvine – Claire Trevor School of the Arts
  • The Colburn School
  • California State University, Northridge
  • University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music
  • Chapman University Hall – Musco Conservatory of Music
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Claremont Graduate University
  • California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • San Jose State University

Ohio is another place to study. Check Out; Best Music Schools in Ohio | All You Need to Know

How Long Does it Take to Get a Degree in Music in California?

A music degree in California usually takes three years to study. However, many universities will offer a sandwich year (a placement in the industry), increasing the course to four years.

How Much Do Music Schools in California Cost?

On average, music schools in California cost about $47,763.

This includes accommodation, feeding, books, and other necessities.

What are the Requirements of Music Schools in California?

The requirements of a music school in California are:

  • Photo ID: Submit a high-resolution scan of your Driver’s License, State ID, or US Passport photo page.
  • Academic Transcript: Submit a transcript from your highest level of education to prove you have graduated from high school (or the equivalent).

International Applicants

  • Photo ID: Submit a high-resolution scan of your Driver’s License, State ID, or US Passport photo page.
  • Academic Transcript: Submit a transcript from your highest level of education to prove you have graduated from high school (or the equivalent).
  • Proof of English Proficiency: Provide a TOEFL (iBT) score of 50 or above, IELTS 5.0 or above, TOEIC 600 or above, CEFR Level B2 or above.

What are the Best Music Schools in California?

Each year, over 3,500 students in California graduate with music degrees from the state’s roughly 50 colleges and universities. While some other schools only graduate a few students in music, the most well-known schools graduate up to several hundred.

Our ranking of the top collegiate music programs in California includes the following, in no particular order:

1. University of Southern California (USC) – Thornton School of Music

USC is one of the more selective universities in the nation and has a solid reputation for music. They emphasize multidisciplinary studies in the arts through their programs, which include writing music for movies and art installations. 

Additionally, the school provides tracks in contemporary music, scholarly research, and classical performance and composition.

In addition to learning portfolio skills to aid in job hunting for musicians, students gain from being close to the film and television industry. They employ a large number of professors as active professionals.

Also, USC provides a variety of graduate programs.

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2. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – Herb Alpert School of Music

Programs in music performance, composition, conducting, music education, musicology, music industry, and global jazz are available through UCLA’s Herb Alpert School. 

While residing and working in Los Angeles, students study jazz, classical, popular, and traditional music genres. 

In addition, the other Herb Alpert-named institution in Los Angeles is located at CalArts.

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3. California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) – Herb Alpert School of Music

Please identify the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts from the one at UCLA. 

Additionally to performance, CalArts, which is located close to Los Angeles, offers a wide range of specialties, including composition and experimental sound, experimental pop music, music technology, voice arts, jazz, world music performance, and instrumental arts. 

In contrast to many other colleges that offer a Bachelor of Music, they offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) (BM or BMus).

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4. San Francisco Conservatory of Music

The San Francisco Conservatory also offers programs in Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM), Historical Performance, Technology and Applied Composition (TAC), Conducting, and Instrumental Studies in addition to undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate study options like the Artist Diploma. 

Also, they take great pleasure in the caliber of their facilities and education and have been around for over a century.

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5. Stanford University

In the center of Northern California’s “Silicon Valley,” which is home to many tech companies, Stanford University is situated 35 miles south of San Francisco and 20 miles north of San Jose. 

The Department of Music at Stanford integrates Instrumental Studies (including Voice) with academic study in Conducting, Performance, Composition, Music Theory, Music History, Ethnomusicology, Cognitive Science, Intermedia, and Computer-based Technologies.

Also, numerous different cultures are represented in the ensembles, including orchestras, jazz and chamber groups, taiko, guzheng, steelpan, and choral groups.

In addition, interdisciplinary studies are prioritized at the institution in conjunction with other programs and centers.

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6. University of California – Berkeley

Students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Music through the Department of Music (College of Letters and Sciences) at the University of California, Berkeley. There is no need for an audition, and referrals are not encouraged. Students are needed to submit a music portfolio, nevertheless.

Also, the undergraduate music program covers themes in harmony, musicianship, history, and culture, as well as advanced performance training. Additionally, students are offered 18th, 19th, and 20th-century music courses.

 However, with concentrations in composition, ethnomusicology, and history and literature, Berkeley provides a combined MA/Ph.D. degree. Foreign language proficiency, a test, and a dissertation are prerequisites.

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7. University of California – Davis

The University of California at Davis also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Music, specializing in history and theory, composition, ethnomusicology, or performance. 

Furthermore, undergraduates must pass a placement test mandated by the Department of Music before starting sequential courses in fundamental theory, keyboarding, and musicianship.

Every music major must complete a senior project, a composition, a presentation, a recital, or a research task. 

Also, the chance to study a major composer’s work, such as Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, is unique to the curriculum. Additionally, students have the option of taking part in internships or traveling.

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8. University of California San Diego

At UCSD, music majors can select a course track that focuses on composition, performance, jazz, technology, and literature and try out for ensembles. 

The Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Computer Music and Music Technology (ICAM) major and the Music Humanities degree are available.

Consequently, students might choose to major in composition, education, jazz, or professional studies when pursuing a Bachelor of Music. 

Also, attendance at juried performances, ensemble work, and recital attendance are all general degree requirements. Students must pass the junior-level examination before they can enroll in upper-division classes.

A thesis or lecture recital may be required for the research-based Master of Arts programs. Advanced instruction in composition, conducting, jazz or performance is available to graduate students in the Master of Music programs.

Additionally, reputable graduate programs are available.

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9. Azusa Pacific University School of Music

Students who major in Commercial Music, Composition, Music Education, Music and Worship, or Performance near Los Angeles receive a Bachelor of Music (B.M.). 

Additionally, students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree focusing on either music theory or performance while also giving performances and composing music for vocal and instrumental ensembles.

Also, the institution claims that its community is firmly rooted in the Christian religion and offers master’s degrees.

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10. California State University, Long Beach – Bob Cole Conservatory of Music

Cole Conservatory students studied jazz, choral conducting, instrumental and vocal music, opera, and musical theater.

Award-winning ensembles, choral and chamber groups and an orchestra may be found at Cole.

Also, many alumni pursue graduate degrees at prestigious universities, release critically acclaimed albums, or perform and tour internationally alongside well-known popular acts. 

Additionally, major cultural attractions and career prospects are available to students in the greater Los Angeles area.

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11. The University of California at Irvine – Claire Trevor School of the Arts

The UCI Claire Trevor School is home to the departments of dance, drama, art, research, and innovation, in addition to the music department. 

However, with performing groups ranging from small ensembles and chamber groups to a full orchestra and a large chorus, the Music area heavily emphasizes jazz and classical music.

They are a renowned research center acknowledged as the center for the academic study of Clara Schumann’s life and works.

Also, alumni routinely do well in competitions and have jazz festivals and several musical events.

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12. California State University, Northridge

CSUN’s Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication is home to the music department. They provide degrees in music in both the Bachelor of Music (B.M.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.

However, students can major in Jazz Studies, Vocal Arts, Commercial Writing, Composition, Music Therapy, Music Industry Studies, Music Education, and other instrumental studies, including Guitar, Strings, Woodwinds, or Brass. 

Also, students can mix music with other areas of interest related to their career goals thanks to the breadth of studies emphasis.

The San Fernando Valley area of the City of Los Angeles includes Northridge.

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What are the Music Schools in Los Angeles, California?

Los Angeles is one of the popular cities in California. It is also home to some of the music schools in California. They include:

  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Angeles Academy of Music
  • Colburn School
  • Cornerstone Music Conservatory
  • IO Music Academy

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What are the Music High Schools in California?

High schools that offer music as a subject can also be found in California. Some of them are:

  • LACHSA (Los Angeles County High School for the Arts)
  • Idyllwild Arts Academy
  • Oakland School For the Arts

What are the Music Therapy Schools in California?

Music therapy schools are those that provide music and instrument instruction to students who may be struggling. Some of them reside in California, including: 

  • California State University-Northridge
  • Bay Area Music Therapy
  • Music Therapy Services of Orange Co
  • McKee Music Therapy Services LLC

What are the Music Production Schools in California?

Looking to advance your career in music and audio production? If yes, you might want to think about enrolling in one of the following music production schools in California to pursue a graduate-level music & audio production degree:

  • University of Southern California
  • University of California-Los Angeles
  • California State University-Long Beach
  • California State University-Fullerton

What are the Music Education Schools in California?

Music educators who go on to teach music in classrooms are created with the assistance of schools that specialize in the field. There are a couple of them in California and they include:

  • University of California-Los Angeles
  • Pepperdine University
  • Chapman University
  • San Diego State University


You can focus on which schools in California have the best music programs now that you have an idea of which would work best for you. If you can visit their campuses and websites. To find out what options may be available for alumni, look at the list of well-known grads.

To discover more about each location, interact with the employees, students, and instructors and pose questions to them. Think about a school’s potential strengths and whether you would feel at ease studying there. 

As you do this, expand your network, and you will be well on your way to locating the ideal institution where you may study music and develop as a musician.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Getting a Music Degree Hard in California?

Earning a music degree is difficult and takes time and hard work. This doesn’t mean it’s not achievable.

Does UCLA Have a Music Program?

UCLA has been offering certificates and degrees in music since its founding in 1919

How Much Money Does a Musician Make?

The average working musician earns USD 35,300 gross revenue annually from their music career

Do SAT Scores Matter for Music Schools in California?

No. Some schools specify they are test-optional


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