10 Best Performing Arts Colleges in the US 2022

10 Best Performing Arts Colleges in the US 2021 | studentmajor.com

For many parents, picking a college for their children is not an easy task. It is all about finding the right community that will be the best match and leads to a manageable cost between tuition and other fees. Students can also get into a good college and university because of their high grades, athletics, extra-curricular activities, and strong letters of recommendation. 

Students looking for a good performing arts university in the US have come to the right place. When reading this post, you will soon start having ideas of which colleges and universities to add to your list. Below we provide you with information on the top 10 best performing arts colleges in the US.

Collegegazette and FlashAcademy.Net have done a great job in listing some of the best performing art colleges in the country. However, I gathered the top 10 Art colleges based on On-Campus & Off-Campus Extracurricular Opportunities and their Notable Alumni.

  1. Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)
  2. New York University (New York, NY)
  3. University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
  4. Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
  5. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
  6. American Musical & Dramatic Academy New York
  7. University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)
  8. Juilliard School (New York, NY)
  9. Columbia University (New York, NY)
  10. Stanford University (STANFORD, CA)

Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

Do you desire to attend the performing arts school with significantly the most talent, the most famous alumni, and the best facilities in America? Then look no further than Northwestern University.

Northwestern’s alumni list boasts of David Schwimmer, Zach Braff, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert, Warren Beatty, Neil Young, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and John Krasinski.

The university has a strong commitment to the arts, and students opt to take courses in everything from music and theatre to painting and sculpture to graphic design. Northwestern offers students a way to connect with the arts through more than 12,000 student performances every year.

The arts programs at Northwestern have helped launch the careers of more than 200 alumni, including Gene Wilder, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Nigel Hawthorne, Alan Alda, and John Mahoney.

Students of Northwestern University frequently connect with the Chicago area performing arts organizations outside of the theatre department through faculty connections, including the Lookingglass Theatre, Goodman Theatre, and Steppenwolf Theatre, among others.

Opportunities are endless for actors at Northwestern.

If you want your degree to come with some real-life experience, choose Northwestern. It offers one of the most diverse programs in the country, including opportunities to study abroad.

New York University (New York, NY)

If you’re into arts (and good schools), then New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts is the school for you. The 2016 National Merit Semifinalist Tisch School of the Arts has some strong alumni, boasting of 22 Academy Awards, 17 Emmys, 12 Tonys, and 4 Grammys. Notable mentions including James Franco, Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, Kristen Bell, and Alfred Molina.

The Tisch School of the Arts is made up of five schools: the Tisch School of the Arts, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Rusk Institute of Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies, and the Steinhardt Department of Drama.

New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has ranked as one of the top-performing arts schools in the U.S. for several decades. The school’s dance, acting, and theatre programs consistently rank among the top in their categories, making it a wise choice for any aspiring performer.

University of North Texas (Denton, TX)

The University of North Texas College of Music, located in Denton, Texas, is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. North Texas University is located in the heart of a booming city, just a short drive from several major metropolitan areas. The surrounding area is filled with natural beauty and a variety of interesting locales.

The College of Music offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music performance, music pedagogy, music education, music history and music theory/composition, and a Bachelor’s degree in the music business. Students benefit from small class sizes, which average between 10 and 20 students in all performance areas. 

The College of Music also offers pre-college and summer programs that allow students to take online lessons, participate in performances, or earn college credit.

The College of Music also provides more than 100 concerts, recitals, lectures, and seminars each year. In addition, the College of Music is affiliated with 17 other colleges across UNT to create five university centers: the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, the Petroleum and Minerals Engineering Center, and the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

Indiana University (IU) is a public research university located in Bloomington, Indiana. Founded in 1820, it is the flagship institution of the Indiana University system and the oldest university in Indiana.

The huge performing arts college, Indiana University, boasts 50 departments and centers, 1,200 faculty members, 12,000 students, 125,000 alumni, and 100,000 annual patrons.

The company offers 23 undergraduate and 11 graduate degree programs, 19 performance spaces, 70 student organizations, 150 student productions, and 450 concerts.

The university enrolls more than 38,000 students, including over 30,000 undergraduate students, making it the seventh-largest university in the United-States, as of 2014.

The university has 19 academic schools, including Bloomington, IUPUI, Kelley, and Maurer. Six schools offer doctoral degrees, and several schools offer professional degrees. The university has 11 libraries, including the Lilly Library and the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Undergraduates can apply to their various programs here.

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

The University of Southern California (USC) is a top-ranked university with a reputation for academic excellence. It consistently ranks among the best universities in the world. The school has undergraduate programs ranked in the Top 20 in the 2014 Top Colleges by USNews and World Report.

The School Of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is a branch of the USC Cinematic Arts Department, founded in 1930. The school is recognized internationally as one of the premier film schools in the world.

The school offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in film, television, and digital media. It offers several concentrations, including:

  • Film and Media Arts
  • Producing
  • Directing
  • Writing
  • Cinematography
  • Editing
  • Acting
  • Motion Graphics
  • Television Direction
  • Television Writing
  • Producing
  • Documentary Production
  • Interactive Media
  • Social Media
  • Graphic and Interactive Design
  • Interactive Television
  • Animation
  • Game Design and Production
  • Game Programming
  • Game Art and Animation
  • Digital Video Production
  • Game Design
  • Interactive Television
  • Web Cinema
  • Interactive Television
  • Film and Video
  • Game Art
  • Game Design
  • Game Programming
  • Game Art and Animation
  • Game Design
  • Television Writing
  • Television Production
  • Animation
  • Game Design and Production
  • Digital Video Production
  • Television Direction
  • Television Production
  • Web Cinema
  • Digital Cinema
  • Television Direction
  • Web Cinema
  • Web Cinema
  • Game Art and Animation
  • Motion Graphics
  • Game Design
  • Game Programming
  • Game

The University of Southern California (USC), for instance, has notable alumni like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Michael Jackson. It is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

The USC School of Music offers degrees in music performance, music composition, music history, musicology, and music education. The school also boasts several esteemed ensembles, including the USC Thornton Symphony, the USC String Orchestra, the USC Percussion Ensemble, the USC Boulez Ensemble, the USC Chamber Singers, and the USC Opera.

The USC Thornton School of Music offers a Master of Music in Jazz Studies, a Master of Music in Conducting, a Master of Music in Composition, a Master of Music in Jazz Performance, and a Master of Music in Music Business. At the graduate level, the school also offers a Ph.D. in Music.

Among USC’s offerings are 14 music ensembles, 10 choral groups, and seven orchestras. The USC Thornton School of Music also offers students the chance to perform in a variety of renowned venues, including Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

The USC Thornton School of Music has distinguished faculty including artists like Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride, Grammy Award-winning composer/conductor/conductor-librettist Robert Lopez (of “Avenue Q” fame), and Grammy Award-winning classical violinist Joshua Bell.

Check out more on their Art courses here.

American Musical & Dramatic Academy New York

American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) is one of America’s most prestigious colleges for performing arts. Students get the chance to experience college-level academia and culture while learning the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen fields.

American Musical and Dramatic Academy New York (AMDA) is a performing arts conservatory that trains its students in all aspects of the entertainment industry. They offer BA and BFA degrees in Acting, Musical Theatre, and Design & Production.

AMDA offers a variety of arts-related courses, including acting, dance, music, and musical theatre. Students interested in a performing arts conservatory should consider adding AMDA to their list of options!

Students at the conservatory have the opportunity to work with and learn from industry professionals such as Laurence Fishburne, Rita Moreno, Annaleigh Ashford, and Kevin Kline.

College graduates from American Musical & Dramatic Academy go on to careers on Broadway, in film, in television, and in dance. Many AMDA graduates are hired by major companies like Cirque du Soleil, Disney, Disney Imagineering, Cirque du Soleil, and Marvel.

AMDA offers more than 100 courses, including dance, theatre, music, and acting. There are over 50 majors to choose from.

AMDA’s 25-acre campus is located in midtown Manhattan. Students can expect to participate in numerous performances, from Broadway-style shows to concerts, while living on campus.

AMDA alumni are some of the most successful in their field. Actor/singers including Lea Michele, Zendaya, and Alyson Stoner, as well as Broadway performers like Matthew Morrison, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Audra McDonald, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kerry Washington, Geoffrey Owens, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are also notable alumni of the school.

AMDA’s music program focuses on six areas: composition and arranging, music technology, music history, performance, music theory, and vocal pedagogy. The acting program emphasizes character development, voice training, improvisation, stage combat, and Shakespeare.

University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)

The University of Cincinnati is a top-ranked school founded in 1841 known for its excellent graduate programs in Business, Education, and Law. The university has 11 colleges and schools, offering over 130-degree programs.

The University of Cincinnati is nationally known for its programs in art and design and architecture, which are housed within the University of Cincinnati College of Fine Arts.

In 2014, Art in America Magazine named the University of Cincinnati one of the top 25 “Hottest Schools” for art and design. The school is also home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and its seven music schools offer extensive degree programs.

Cincinnati is also home to nearly 150 art galleries and museums, including the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati History Museum, and the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Science.

The Jones International Center for Contemporary Art (Cincy ICCA) gives students opportunities to work with renowned artists from around the world. Recent City ICCA artists have included Bill Viola, Chris Burden, Heman Chong, William Kentridge, and Anish Kapoor.

The UC is home to more than 200 student organizations that include social, religious, cultural, political, international, academic, and professional groups.

The university’s sports teams, the Golden Bears, compete in NCAA Division I in 19 sports, including basketball, soccer, and volleyball.

Notable alumni include NFL running back Rudi Johnson, who was drafted in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Neil LaBute.

The University of Cincinnati offers undergraduate programs in 19 disciplines, including music, dance, and theatre. The college’s Conservatory of Music is well-known for nurturing performers and attracting top faculty, many of whom perform with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The school also regularly hosts concerts featuring alumni.

The Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra also are affiliated with the school. Additionally, the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music offers graduate programs in 22 disciplines.

In addition to its distinguished performing arts offerings, the University of Cincinnati offers more than 450 undergraduate programs and 80 graduate programs. Other programs include urban planning, environmental studies, nursing, art, education, and social work.

The college’s programs rank among the best in the nation, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked its undergraduate programs in the top 10 nationally for 16 straight years.

The school has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1890 and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Some other rankings and awards the program has received include the “2012 Military Friendly Schools designation by Victory Media” and the “2014 Best Colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.”

The 2014 Best Colleges in the Midwest ranked Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music in the top 20 among master’s-level programs. The 2014 Best Colleges in the Midwest also ranked the school’s Conservatory of Music among the top 20 among master’s level programs.

The college also has several notable alumni. Musicians who have studied at the University of Cincinnati include violinist Joshua Bell, conductor Gustavo Dudamel, and conductor Louis Langrée.

Juilliard School (New York, NY)

The Juilliard School in New York City is widely considered one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world. In fact, in recent years, Juilliard has twice been ranked first among performing arts schools by US News & World Report.

A performing arts school that has the prestige of an institution like Juilliard comes with high expectations. This is well-founded, as the school is widely considered one of the best performing arts schools in the world.

The school offers students the chance to study at one of the world’s oldest conservatories, and student life at the Juilliard School includes frequent live performances, guest lectures, and access to the Juilliard Museum, which features the largest collection of musical instruments in the world. Students can also participate in Juilliard’s various student organizations, including clubs, bands, and choirs.

The Juilliard School offers several undergraduate programs, including music, dance, and theatre, as well as several master’s degree programs for performers. Each program typically requires students to take several core courses (such as dance technique, music theory, and opera history) and audition for admission.

The school also offers several programs specifically geared toward educating young professionals. The Juilliard School for Music & Dance’s Professional Division, for instance, offers master’s degree programs for music, dance, and theatre professionals.

In addition to its educational offerings, Juilliard is also known for its extensive campus facilities. Students have access to several performance spaces, including the 500-seat George Balanchine Theatre, the Bruno Walter Auditorium, and the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre. Students also have access to Juilliard’s rooftop swimming pool, fitness center, and student lounge.

This comprehensive 200-plus-year history has given Juilliard alumni a huge array of opportunities. Some notable alumni include actors Kevin Spacey, Robert De Niro, Hugh Jackman, and Taylor Swift, as well as actress and singer Whoopi Goldberg, actress Helen Hunt, musician Dave Koz, and music producer Quincy Jones.

If you like them, you can start your admission process here.

Columbia University (New York, NY)

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university, founded in 1754. 

Columbia University has 10 schools: Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia Business School, Barnard College, CUHK (Hong Kong), Fu Jen Catholic University (Taiwan), the School of General Studies, and The Skirball Institute.

In addition to its main campus in New York City, the university maintains campuses in Hong Kong, Paris, and Qatar. The university is affiliated with many local hospitals and medical centers, as well as numerous scientific research centers.

The school is well-known for its School of the Arts, which offers students access to some of the most prestigious performing arts programs in the country.

Some of the notable performing arts programs at the school include the Columbia-Juilliard partnership, the Columbia-Radcliffe program, and the Columbia-Princeton program.

In addition to these programs, the school also offers some programs dedicated to the study of lesser-known arts, such as puppetry, film, and architecture.

The performing arts departments are notable for their alumni base including Broadway stars: Julie Andrews, Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth, and actors: Michael C. Hall, Jeremy Irons, renowned photographers Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The school is popular for offering students access to some of the top artists in the country. These include the annual Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus, composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy-winning composer Leonard Bernstein.

The school’s performing arts program is also well known for its student productions, including shows ranging from major Broadway hits to student-written original works.

Learn more on their Admission here.

Stanford University (STANFORD, CA)

Stanford University, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Founded in 1885, Stanford is located in Palo Alto, CA.

Stanford University is widely considered a top university in the United States. Among its many accomplishments, it has produced several Nobel Prize winners, American presidents, and billionaires.

Its extensive undergraduate programs include engineering, business, humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Its graduate and professional programs include law, medicine, management, science, education, architecture, and public policy.

The Stanford University campus, located in Silicon Valley, CA, is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. Stanford has 45 main academic buildings, 17 residence halls, 11 libraries, 5 museums, 7 theatres, 6 athletic facilities, and 15 tennis courts.

Stanford University also offers numerous extracurricular activities. Stanford’s 6,000-plus student organizations include more than 70 fraternities and sororities, 86 men’s sports teams and 125 women’s sports teams.

In addition to its 18 varsity teams, Stanford’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) sponsors 71 club and intramural sports. Stanford’s varsity teams compete in 21 intercollegiate sports, including football, basketball, soccer, swimming, diving, gymnastics, tennis, track and field, volleyball, golf, and baseball.

Notable Alumni of Stanford University are:

  • Steve Ballmer – former CEO and President of Microsoft.
  • Larry Ellison – Executive Chairman of Oracle.


Yale University (NEW HAVEN, CT)

Carnegie Mellon University (PITTSBURGH, PA)

University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA)

Duke University (DURHAM, NC)

Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle, WA)

Boston Conservatory at Berklee (Boston, MA)


At performing arts colleges, you don’t only study acting, singing and dancing. You also benefit from an arts education, which prepares you for a lifetime of success in diverse fields such as architecture, engineering, art, and law.

At a performing arts college, you’ll develop relevant skills you need to perform on stage, in films, on TV, on radio, and in opera. You will also learn the business skills you need to become a sought-after performer, producer, director, and composer.

Find a performing arts college that aligns with your goals. Some students choose a school with big-name actors, while others go with a more intimate setting. Some students plan to work in the entertainment industry once they graduate, and others choose to focus their careers on teaching.

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