The best music program in the country

January 11, 2007 at 05:30 AM · I dont want to start a war or anything...but can anyone help me decide which music schools (conservatories or music departments of universities) are at the top of the list right now?

It's getting close to the end of my junior year in high school, and I really need some help.

My friend (c/o 06) went to NEC after getting into julliard, curtis, etc, and has told me how wonderful it is there. On the other hand, my other friend went to Yale and is now in the music school (which he raves about)...and then we have my friends in Julliard who always make the same claim: It's julliard...can't beat perlman, midori, chang, shaham, Lin, Ehnes, Dicterow, Rabin, Kennedy, zukerman, ETC ETC ETC ETC!

So i'm wondering which music program really IS the best for violin performance (and yes, I know it has a lot to do with other variables such as faculty, climate, etc, but i just wanted a subjective opinion)

Replies (16)

January 11, 2007 at 05:37 AM · Well right now the CIM faculty looks very good, as does NEC, any New York City conservatory, USC, Indiana, or Curtis.

January 11, 2007 at 05:49 AM · There has been buzz about NEC for a while now, and I personally think the buzz is for real. It really depends what direction you want to go, though.

Yale doesn't have music program for undergrads, but I've met great people (with awesome all around undergrad degrees) who are great musicians still. I think they just continued to practice and take lessons as an academic undergrad.

I'd say, if you find a teacher you like, then go there. Conservatory orchestras can be sour at times, at any given conservatory, because many students'd often times rather practice than sit for 3 hours. CIM has good chamber music, as does NEC. Manhattan has the orchestral playing program. Rice, Peabody, USC, Indiana, Northwestern have the academics to back you when you're penniless and are performing on the streets (joking - I'm sure you'll be fine : )

Obviously levels of playing will be high at all these places - Juilliard, Curtis, Manhattan, Peabody, etc., but if you're focused on your instrument you'll be most beneficial, foremost, with finding a teacher who works well for your development.

January 11, 2007 at 06:17 AM · I agree the orchestras can be a bit bitter sometimes, since many of the musicians (sadly, usually the string players) feel it would be more beneficial to them to be practicing than playing in orchestra. That's going to happen at any music school where a large population of violinists are thinking about chamber music and solo careers, rather than orchestral. I prefer the latter, so I try to pull my weight in orchestra and get people motivated. I go to CIM and I really do love it- great faculty, great chamber music, great teachers, etc. However, I am actually leaving the conservatory scene because I want to be focus more on my individual playing as an orchestral player and not worry as much about constantly having to feel like I'm competing with every person in the building. I'm looking at Rice, Indiana, Temple, and University of Maryland. Rice is exceptionally wonderful because it's a conservatory education within the confines of a university (in some polls, the top university in the country).

I think that any of the conservatories would be great- you'll find ups and downs to each, but if you find the right teacher you can make just about any school work.

January 11, 2007 at 06:27 PM · Seriously, it depends on how well you play, how serious you are about becoming a great great violinist, and what your tastes are.

If you play well, then apply to the most selective schools, Juilliard and Curtis, then probably NEC, CIM and Indiana.

If you are really really serious about playing, then apply to the best studios -- if you can get in. Weilerstein at Juilliard and NEC, Ida and Danch. (and everyone else) at Curtis, M.F. and Paul Biss at NEC, Kang at Yale, Kantor and the Cerones at CIM, all those plus more.

Then there are tastes. Curtis is extremely serious, and so is Juilliard. Plus NYC -- how can you beat the musical opportunities and to listen to great orchestras. Then Curtis, often considered the training ground for Philadelphia Orch. Then CIM, in OHIO, not very liberal yah? AND NEC in the crazy town of Boston -- I mean, if you are really smart and can cross enroll to Harvard or MIT, check them out. It's worth it to broaden your horizons.

I suggest, 2 apply to as many places, see where you get in, and then decide. Don't decide NOW...


January 11, 2007 at 11:28 AM · Vince, either you made a typo or you just dated yourself-the Cerones came over to CIM during my senior year there, 1985-1986 (and now I've dated myself!).

January 11, 2007 at 06:26 PM · HEHE, yeah, typo. AT CIM

I get them mixed up because obviously, Curtis Institute of Music, has the same initials.

Have fun!


September 19, 2008 at 08:40 PM · I remembered seeing this list of auditon winners and schools years ago. I was able to dig it back up, using research techniques developed by grownups to make you wish you'd never heard of Facebook.

Take it for what you think it's worth.



Minnesota Orchestra: no winner


Cincinntai Orchestra: Boris Astafiev (Columbus Sym)

Oregon Symphony: Jason Schooler (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music)

Minnesota Orchestra: Matthew Frischman (Curtis Institute)

Utah Symphony, Asst. Principal: Student of principal won


Los Angeles Philharmonic: David Moore (Houston Sym)

Louisville Orchestra: Kingsley Wood (Peabody Conservatory)

Houston Symphony: Ali Yazdanfar (Peabody, Rice)

New York Philharmonic: David Grossman (Student of principal/Juiliard)

Colorado Symphony: Jonathan Burnstein (Rice U.)

Charleston Symphony, Principal: Charles Barr (Curtis)

National Symphony: Ali Yazdanfar (Houston sym.)

New Mexico Symphony: Kathy Olszowka (Indiana University)

San Antonio Symphony: Zlatan Redzic (I.U.)


Kansas City Symphony, 1-year spot: Ju-Fang Liu (I.U.)

President's Own Marine Band: Eric Sabo (Arizona State U.)

Seattle Symphony: Jonathan Burnstein (Rice, Colorado Sym.)

Buffalo Philharmonic: Edmond Gnekow (I.U.)

Tulsa Phil, principal: Dan Johnson (Iowa?)

Dallas Symphony, principal: no winner?

Columbus Symphony: Jena Huebner (Peabody)

Houston Symphony: Burke Shaw

Cleveland Orchestra: Charles Carleton (Juilliard/Curtis)

San Francisco Sym., principal: Ali Yazdanfar (not retained?@#$!)


Metropolitan Opera Orchestra: Kingsley Wood (Peabody, Louisville Orchestra)

Alabama Symphony: Long Luo (Juilliard)

Oregon Symphony: no winner (for 2 spots!)

Florida Philharmonic, principal: Shigeru Ishikawa (member of section )

Louisville Orchestra: Karl Olsen (I.U.)

Cleveland orchestra: Eric Harris (principal St Louis) won, then left for SanFran;

runner up Charles Barr (Curtis) got in.

Montreal Sym., principal: Ali Yazdanfar (now going back to National)


Charleston Symphony, principal: Scott Pingle (Manhattan)

National Symphony: cancelled; they welcome Ali Yazdanfar back

Baltimore Symphony: Mark Huang (Nashville Symphony)

Oregon Symphony: Paul DeNola (I.U., U.S.C.)

San Francisco Sym., principal: Eric Harris (not retained?!@#!?)


Indianapolis Sym., principal: Ju-Fang Liu (I.U.)

Boston Symphony: Ben Levy (Rice U., New England Conservatory)

Calgary Philharmonic: Jeff White (I.U.)

Grant Park Orchestra: Andy Anderson (I.U.)

Nashville Symphony, principal: Joel Reist (member of section)

resulting section spot was offered to runner-up, Ryan Kamm (I.U., Boston)

Louisianna Philharmonic: Colin Corner (I.U.)

Naples Philharmonic: Matt Medlock (Boston, Rice)

New York Philharmonic: Satoshi Okamoto (San Antonio, Juilliard; student of principal)

Louisville Orchestra, principal: CANCELLED!@#$!

San Francisco Sym., principal: Hired noone again!@#$??

San Diego, Principal and Asst.Principal: Jeremy Kurtz, principal(Curtis, Rice), Susan Wulff, Asst. (member of section)

September 19, 2008 at 08:37 PM · Ask your self a question: Why does everyone want to go to Julliard or Curtis?...

If admissions acceptance has to be kept so low, it's obviously for a reason. If it was me, I would no doubt choose these schools, there's a reason so many great violinists come out of them.

September 19, 2008 at 09:13 PM · Hey Jim, does that list indicate then that few to none of the people who were awarded with those principal positions came from within the existing ranks? Is that because players already within the sections don't apply, is there some culture or etiquette about that? I, in my naivete, assumed that the middle firsts would move up to be top first.

September 19, 2008 at 09:49 PM · Sharelle, all I have is right there. Other than they might be bass players, but not sure.

The last one, principal of San Diego, his birthplace googles up as Harlan, Ky. That was a bad place. It was called "bloody Harlan." Mine unionizing and strikes and so on.

September 20, 2008 at 12:59 AM · Go to the websites of leading symphonies and chamber orchestras. Read the profiles of the musicians. You will see certain schools mentioned again and again (but not always). Where did the concertmasters, principal second violinists, and other chaired players study?

The same with leading soloists. Where did Hilary Hahn go to school?

September 23, 2008 at 05:24 AM · That list seems a bit dated! Here's some of the newer appointments that I remember (all friends or friends of friends), and just for fun, everyone on the list is straight out of music school...


Boston Symphony: Julianne Lee (Curtis/NEC)

New York Philharmonic: Mei Ching Huang (Peabody/Juilliard)

San Diego Symphony: Kate Hatmaker (Carnegie Mellon)

Spokane Symphony, concertmaster: William Harvey (Indiana/Juilliard)


Detroit Symphony: Sarah Crocker (Cleveland/Juilliard)

Oregon Symphony, concertmaster: Jun Iwasaki (Cleveland)

Louisiana Philharmonic, concertmaster: Ariana Kim (SFCM/Juilliard)


Cleveland Orchestra, assoc concertmaster: Amy Lee (Curtis/Juilliard)

Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, concertmaster: Andrew Wan (Juilliard)

Philadelphia Orchestra: Noah Geller (Juilliard) (2

St. Louis Symphony, asst concertmaster: Erin Schreiber (Curtis)

September 23, 2008 at 05:57 AM · If you can get in it would be hard to beat Curtis. I have several friends that went there and they were really good. The added benefit, as far as I know, is that it is free. The concert master of my high school orchestra is the concert master of Pittsburgh, He did well with Indiana University. I think you need to go see places and decide for yourself. You must be a fine player to have such wonderful choices!


September 25, 2008 at 05:31 AM · Just wanted to say as far as that first list goes--lots of those folks are bass players? Doesn't really answer the violin question.

For violin, you cannot go wrong with Curtis. Otherwise, you want to think about who you want to study with, not just the school! Each school might have better or worse teachers.

September 25, 2008 at 06:41 AM · Hannah, yes they're bass players, but it's the best list I could come up with! Gives some idea about the various programs though, maybe. I was surprised how many came from I.U. It's had a great reputation for a long time, but still there are a lot from there.

September 25, 2008 at 07:57 AM · Curtis, Juilliard, NEC, Cleveland


CNSM, Hans Eisler (sp??), Munich, Cologne, RAM, RCM

Besides the teacher you are looking for I think it's also important that the school is competitive so you can also learn from your fellow students.

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