The 16 Best Performing Arts Colleges in the US

How Is "Performing Arts College" Defined for This List?

A performing arts college, also known as a conservatory or performing arts institution, is an educational institution that specializes in providing comprehensive training and education in various performing arts disciplines. These disciplines typically include music, dance, theater, and sometimes film or other related fields.

Performing arts colleges offer programs and degrees that focus on developing students' artistic abilities and technical skills in their chosen performing arts discipline. The curriculum is designed to provide intensive training and education, often combining practical performance experiences with theoretical studies.

Key features of performing arts colleges include:

1. Specialized Curriculum: Performing arts colleges offer specialized programs tailored to specific disciplines, such as music performance, dance, acting, or musical theater. The curriculum focuses on developing technical proficiency, artistic expression, and performance skills in the chosen discipline.

2. Performance Opportunities: Students at performing arts colleges have numerous opportunities to showcase their talents through performances, recitals, concerts, theater productions, and other public events. These performances provide valuable real-world experience and help students refine their skills and build a professional portfolio.

3. Experienced Faculty: Performing arts colleges have faculty members who are accomplished professionals in their respective fields. They bring their expertise and industry experience to the classroom, providing students with mentorship, guidance, and practical knowledge.

4. Rigorous Training: The training at performing arts colleges is rigorous and demanding, emphasizing discipline, dedication, and hard work. Students are expected to devote significant time and effort to their craft, often engaging in intensive practice, rehearsals, and performances.

5. Collaboration and Networking: Performing arts colleges foster an environment of collaboration and teamwork, as students frequently work together on projects and performances. This collaborative atmosphere encourages students to develop interpersonal skills, build professional relationships, and form connections within the performing arts industry.

6. Industry Connections: Many performing arts colleges have established connections and partnerships with industry professionals, performance companies, and organizations. These connections can lead to internships, auditions, and networking opportunities, providing students with exposure to the professional performing arts world.

It's important to note that each performing arts college may have its own unique approach, focus, and strengths. Some colleges may specialize in a specific discipline or genre, while others may offer a more diverse range of performing arts programs. Prospective students should research and consider factors such as faculty expertise, curriculum, performance opportunities, facilities, and alumni success when choosing a performing arts college that aligns with their goals and aspirations.

In conclusion, a performing arts college is an institution that offers specialized training and education in various performing arts disciplines. It provides students with intensive instruction, performance opportunities, experienced faculty, and industry connections to help them develop their artistic abilities and pursue a career in the performing arts.

How Did I Decide on These Top Performing Arts Colleges?

The selection of top performing arts colleges is based on a careful evaluation of several key factors and considerations. Here's an overview of the process involved in deciding on these top performing arts colleges:

1. Research and Expertise: The selection process begins with extensive research to identify performing arts colleges known for their excellence in providing comprehensive training and education in the performing arts. This research involves consulting industry professionals, educators, alumni, and students, as well as reviewing reputable rankings, accreditation agencies, and industry publications.

2. Reputation and Prestige: Consideration is given to the reputation and prestige of the performing arts colleges. Institutions with a long-standing history of producing successful graduates, strong alumni networks, and recognition within the performing arts industry are given priority. Accolades and rankings from reputable sources, such as industry publications and organizations, also contribute to the evaluation.

3. Curriculum and Faculty: The curriculum and faculty play a crucial role in the quality of education provided by performing arts colleges. The evaluation includes an assessment of the curriculum's comprehensiveness, balance between theory and practical training, integration of performance opportunities, and the expertise and qualifications of the faculty members. The qualifications and professional backgrounds of the faculty, as well as their ongoing contributions to the performing arts field, are considered.

4. Performance Opportunities: The availability and quality of performance opportunities for students are key factors in evaluating performing arts colleges. Institutions that offer a diverse range of performances, collaborations with professional organizations, and connections to the industry are prioritized. The opportunity for students to gain real-world experience through performances, internships, and industry showcases is highly valued.

5. Facilities and Resources: The evaluation includes an assessment of the facilities, resources, and technology available to students. State-of-the-art theaters, dance studios, music recording studios, rehearsal spaces, and specialized equipment enhance the learning experience and contribute to the overall quality of education. Access to libraries, archives, performance libraries, and industry-specific resources are also taken into account.

6. Alumni Success and Industry Connections: The success of alumni in the performing arts industry serves as an indicator of a performing arts college's effectiveness in preparing students for professional careers. The evaluation considers the achievements of alumni in various performing arts fields, including their presence in notable productions, awards and recognition received, and their contributions to the industry. The strength of a college's industry connections, including partnerships, collaborations, and networking opportunities, is also taken into account.

7. Student Feedback: Feedback from current students and alumni provides valuable insights into the student experience and the effectiveness of the programs offered. Their perspectives on the quality of education, faculty support, performance opportunities, and career development resources contribute to the evaluation.

It's important to note that the selection of top performing arts colleges is subjective and may vary based on individual preferences and goals. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct their own research, visit campuses, attend performances, and connect with current students and alumni to make informed decisions that align with their aspirations and artistic interests.

Best Performing Arts Colleges: Tier 1

Below are some of the top-tier performing arts colleges known for their exceptional programs and renowned faculty. Please note that the selection is subjective and based on industry reputation, rankings, and overall recognition:

1. Juilliard School - Located in New York City, Juilliard is widely regarded as one of the world's leading performing arts conservatories. It offers programs in dance, drama, and music, and its alumni have achieved great success in their respective fields. Website:

2. Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) - Based in London, RADA is known for its rigorous training in acting and theater production. It has produced numerous award-winning actors and provides a vibrant creative environment. Website:

3. Royal College of Music (RCM) - RCM, located in London, is a prestigious institution dedicated to training exceptional musicians. It offers a range of programs and has a strong focus on performance, composition, and research. Website:

4. Royal Ballet School - As one of the most renowned ballet schools in the world, the Royal Ballet School in London provides intensive training for aspiring ballet dancers. It has nurtured some of the most celebrated ballet performers. Website:

5. Berklee College of Music - Situated in Boston, Berklee College of Music is renowned for its contemporary music programs. It offers degrees in various musical genres, including jazz, rock, pop, and electronic music. Website:

6. Curtis Institute of Music - Located in Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music is an exclusive conservatory that provides tuition-free education to a small number of highly talented musicians. It focuses on instrumental and vocal training. Website:

7. Tisch School of the Arts, New York University - Tisch offers a comprehensive range of programs in various performing arts disciplines, including drama, dance, film, and music. It is located in the heart of New York City, offering students access to a vibrant arts scene. Website:

8. Guildhall School of Music and Drama - Based in London, Guildhall School offers programs in music, acting, and technical theatre. It has a reputation for producing highly skilled and versatile performing artists. Website:

These institutions are considered top-tier in the performing arts field and provide exceptional training and resources for aspiring performers. It's important to thoroughly research each institution's programs, admission requirements, and specific offerings to determine which aligns best with your artistic goals and aspirations.

Best Performing Arts Colleges: Tier 2

Here are some notable performing arts colleges in the Tier 2 category, known for their strong programs and contributions to the performing arts industry:

1. California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) - Located in Valencia, California, CalArts offers programs in dance, film/video, music, theater, and visual arts. The school emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration and experimentation. Website:

2. London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) - LAMDA is a renowned drama school in London, offering programs in acting, directing, stage management, and technical theatre. It has a rich history and strong connections within the theater industry. Website:

3. Boston Conservatory at Berklee - Part of Berklee College of Music, the Boston Conservatory offers programs in music, dance, and theater. It focuses on providing rigorous training and artistic development. Website:

4. Carnegie Mellon School of Drama - Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this school offers a highly regarded drama program with an emphasis on both artistic and technical aspects of theater. Website:

5. Central School of Ballet - Based in London, the Central School of Ballet provides professional ballet training with a strong emphasis on technique, artistry, and performance. Website:

6. Mannes School of Music at The New School - Mannes offers programs in classical music performance, composition, and conducting. It is known for its distinguished faculty and collaborative environment. Website:

7. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) - UNCSA offers programs in dance, drama, filmmaking, music, and design & production. It is known for its strong faculty and focus on practical training. Website:

8. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music - Jacobs School of Music provides comprehensive programs in music performance, composition, conducting, and music education. It has a strong reputation for its faculty and performance opportunities. Website:

These institutions in the Tier 2 category offer excellent training and opportunities for students in the performing arts. While they may not have the same level of global recognition as Tier 1 schools, they are respected within the industry and have produced successful graduates. Prospective students should explore each institution's specific programs, faculty expertise, and career support to determine the best fit for their artistic goals and aspirations.

Which of the Top Performing Arts Colleges Is Best for You?

Choosing the best performing arts college for you is a highly personal decision that depends on your individual goals, interests, and preferences. Here are some factors to consider when determining which top performing arts college is the best fit for you:

1. Program Offerings: Assess the specific programs and disciplines offered by each college. Consider whether they align with your artistic interests and career aspirations. Look for colleges that offer a diverse range of programs, such as music, dance, theater, film, and visual arts, to ensure you have options for interdisciplinary exploration.

2. Faculty and Mentors: Investigate the faculty members at each college and their expertise in your chosen discipline. Research their backgrounds, industry experience, and artistic achievements. Having access to experienced and accomplished mentors can significantly impact your artistic development and career prospects.

3. Curriculum and Approach: Look into the curriculum and teaching methods employed by each college. Consider whether they align with your learning style and artistic goals. Some programs may focus on classical training, while others emphasize contemporary or experimental approaches. Determine which educational approach resonates with you the most.

4. Performance Opportunities: Evaluate the performance opportunities offered by each college. Consider whether they provide ample chances for you to showcase your talent and gain practical experience. Look for opportunities to perform in productions, recitals, concerts, exhibitions, or film projects, as these experiences can be invaluable in your artistic growth.

5. Facilities and Resources: Explore the facilities and resources available at each college. Consider the quality of rehearsal spaces, studios, performance venues, practice rooms, equipment, libraries, and other artistic resources. Adequate facilities and resources can enhance your learning experience and help you reach your full potential.

6. Alumni Success: Research the success of alumni from each college. Look for graduates who have achieved notable careers in your desired field. Consider the alumni network and industry connections that each college offers, as they can provide valuable opportunities for internships, job placements, and networking.

7. Campus Culture and Environment: Visit or research the campus culture and environment of each college. Consider the atmosphere, student community, extracurricular activities, and overall fit with your personal preferences. Determine whether the college's environment fosters creativity, collaboration, and personal growth.

8. Financial Considerations: Evaluate the financial aspects of attending each college, including tuition, scholarships, financial aid opportunities, and cost of living. Consider whether the college offers scholarships or financial assistance specifically for performing arts students.

It is crucial to visit campuses, attend open houses, talk to current students and faculty, and consider factors that are important to you personally. Ultimately, the best performing arts college for you is one that aligns with your artistic aspirations, provides a supportive and enriching learning environment, and offers opportunities for growth and professional development in your chosen field.


In conclusion, choosing the best performing arts college requires careful consideration of various factors, including program offerings, faculty, curriculum, performance opportunities, facilities, alumni success, campus culture, and financial considerations. By thoroughly researching and assessing these aspects, you can make an informed decision and find the performing arts college that aligns with your artistic goals, fosters your growth and development, and sets you on the path to a successful career in the performing arts. Remember to visit campuses, attend events, and engage with the college community to get a firsthand experience and ensure the college is the right fit for you.