There’s nothing so moving as settling back into the plush seats of an elegant concert hall, closing your eyes, and drinking in “the rhythmic strains of the haunting refrain, the rippling rhythm of the woodwinds as it rolls around and around,” as Elmer Fudd so eloquently put it.
Any real musician who’s willing to be honest should admit that even the best music can be stunted by the less-than-stellar acoustics of a poorly designed stage. On the other hand, even mediocre musicians can be made to sound marvelous in the right setting. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the best musicians plant their music stands at colleges that offer the most perfectly designed music halls? Schools like Juilliard, Johns Hopkins’ Peabody Institute, Yale’s Music School, and the Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music are spot-on examples of music programs that offer their students the very best acoustic chambers to make perfect technique sound truly prodigious.
No musical prodigy would judge a score of music by the appearance of the cover. On the other hand, the appearance of a music building is a great indicator of the quality of a school’s music program as a whole. Music is an art, and it’s only right that the auditory experience should be as enjoyable to the eyes as it is to the ears. Without further ado, here are fifty of the most splendid music buildings the United States has to offer.
50.) State University of New York at Stony Brook (Music Department), Staller Center
Modern architecture meets a gorgeous green outside the Staller Center at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Here, regular live music, dance, theatre, and fine arts exhibitions take center stage in the rich and varied schedule.
This main art building of SUNY Stony Brook is divided into one music and art section and another theater, media, and dance section. With three black-box theaters, a 1,000-seat performance stage with a 40-foot movie screen, a recital hall and a 5,000-square foot gallery, the Staller Center is a popular site for both in-house student and faculty performances as well as world-renowned shows and performances.
49.) Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, McAlister Hall
The home of Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music, McAlister Hall is a regal, four-columned classic building that naturally draws the eyes heavenward with the air of a church building. At Wheaton, alumni like Billy Graham, Jim Elliot, David Clydesdale, and John Piper have gone on to engage the world from an evangelical perspective.
According to its website, Wheaton’s Conservatory of Music approaches the “making of music as an act of worship and service, [which] calls for excellence as the norm of stewardship, and relates all of human creativity to the Creatorhood of God.” By providing an associated Community School for the Arts that serves the surrounding Wheaton area, the Conservatory’s noble goals can be met practically by serving those within their community first.
48.) University of Cincinnati (College-Conservatory of Music), Memorial Hall
This stately, towering edifice is home to the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), which has ranked sixth nationally for graduate music programs according to the U.S. News and World Report. Once a girls’ dormitory, Memorial Hall was renovated into a fully outfitted practice and studio facility.
What makes the CCM so attractive to accomplished young musicians? For one thing, the CCM has been designated as an All-Steinway School, with its 165 new Steinway pianos – which was the largest institutional unit purchase in Steinway history. Aside from the beautiful instruments, the conservatory also has original fireplaces and mantels, intricate gargoyles. Students are also privy to intimate Chamber music rehearsal rooms, reed making rooms, a Center for Computer Music, and beautiful sculptures illustrating various female achievements.
47.) Old Dominion University Music Department, Wilson G. Chandler Recital Hall
At Old Dominion University, music students get a recital hall specifically made for the music program. They also get a chance to form lasting relationships with one another and with their instructors in what resembles a close-knit family of colleagues. The Wilson G. Chandler Recital Hall is an intimate, state of the art performance space.
The main objectives of the Norfolk College is to equip modern students with the skills they need to become expert educators, composers, music theorists, and musical historians while building students’ grasp of musical technology and computer literacy in the field of music. With an intimate enrollment of only around 200, students can enjoy individualized instruction that isn’t possible at larger, more heavily populated institutions.
46.) Mercer University (Townsend School of Music), Allan and Rosemary McCorkle Music Building
Classical yet modern and immaculately landscaped, the Townsend School of Music opened on July 1, 2006. Like a musical Mount Rushmore or Stone Mountain, the facade of the building is decorated with small friezes of some of history’s greatest composers: Johann Sebastian Bach, Aaron Copeland, Charles Ives, Lowell Mason, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Ludwig van Beethoven, Igor Stravinsky, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Nadia Boulanger.
The $7 million, state-of-the-art facility offers two acoustically perfect rehearsal rooms complete with recording capability, a computer lab, 16 classrooms, and a gorgeous, cozy 200-seat recital hall. Along with the rest of prestigious Mercer University, it’s a place where education is administered with ethics, excellence, and enthusiasm.
45.) University of South Carolina (Music Department), School of Music Building
Another school that encourages non-music majors to join in the fun of ensembles and group performances, The University of South Carolina School of Music goes above and beyond in so many ways. From the meticulously groomed, private, rose-covered courtyards that can double as romantic rehearsal spaces to the rich and varied curricula, USC’s School of Music is stellar.
The visually appealing building curves around, its large windows reflecting the sky and the rest of the gracious Southern campus. Inside, students are presented with the opportunity to master just about every conceivable band and orchestral instrument. The building offers a beautiful recital hall, a valuable music library, a recording studio, and over a hundred acoustically optimized performance and practice spaces.
44.) California State University, Fresno (Department of Music), Music Building
Sprawling and spacious, the Music Building at California State University at Fresno provides extensive training in a multitude of musical disciplines. Here, the student can become equipped for a successful career as a performer, a composer, or a studio teacher. Graduate courses are also available for those seeking advanced degrees, as well as music teaching credentials for those who want to teach.
Here, non-music majors aren’t treated as non-initiates into a prestigious music club. Instead, they are invited to join the fun! With a 320-seat concert hall, a 200-seat recital hall, a 220-seat rehearsal hall, and more than thirty practice rooms the Fresno music building has it all. The expansiveness continues with classrooms, a dance studio, student lounge, and 700 student lockers, Students are also engaged by the student-friendly atmosphere of this building, along with the recording studios, computer labs, tracker-action organ. Oh and don’t forget the MIDI and electronic music labs – whew! – the Fresno State Music Building is something to write home about.
43.) Cornish College of the Arts, Kerry Hall
Although the Cornish College of the Arts is located neatly in Seattle, Washington, the beautiful Kerry Hall looks like something from a romantic southeastern villa. The artistic arched doorways and attractive mature trees bear mute witness to the fact that the Cornish College of the Arts is the oldest music conservatory on the entire west coast. That’s quite a statement.
The fully accredited institution offers students a Bachelor of Music degree as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design, Dance, Theater, Performance Production, and Fine Arts. The Cornish College of the Arts is one of only three fully accredited U.S. colleges that trains both visual and performing artists. Kerry Hall also ranks on the National Register of Historic Places.
42.) University of North Florida Department of Music, Fine Arts Center
Modern and symmetrical, the University of North Florida’s Fine Arts Center is the home to seven programs of study. One of the most notable of these is the jazz studies program. The program, established in 1983 by Rich Matteson, a prodigious jazz euphonium player. The University’s various jazz ensembles have been recognized internationally, with showcase features appearing in Down Beat Magazine, Cadence, and the Jazz Times.
The Fine Arts Center, a $22 million dollar facility, opened in 2001. It is comprised of a 1,400 seat performance hall, and 200 seat recital hall, 44 individual practice rooms, and four rehearsal spaces. The expansive music building hosts several impressive performances every year by acts from across the United States and overseas.
41.) Butler University (Jordan College of the Arts), Lilly Hall
A retro example of form and equilibrium, Butler University’s Jordan College of the Arts offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Music Education, Music Composition, to name a few.
Such a focused, length-and-breadth comprehensive approach could almost be guessed by a single glance at Lilly Hall, the building housing all the genius. With plenty of natural sunlight and solid, thick lines, the very walls speak of quality and clarity. Students who make Butler’s Jordan College of the Arts their choice have plenty of variation of studies to enjoy in a well-designed, formal setting.
40.) State University of New York at Potsdam, Crane School of Music
Solid yet optimistic, the Potsdam, New York Crane School of Music provides top-notch instruction for over 600 undergraduate students and 30 graduate students. The music school is made up of four different buildings, which are ingeniously connected underground, serving over 70 faculty members.
With stylish, well-lit facilities including a concert hall, a music theater, and lecture and recital hall, and two expansive classroom halls, the import that the State University of New York at Potsdam places on musical instruction is quickly evident. The Crane School of Music also offers an extensive library with volumes upon volumes of literature, scores, and musical recordings, as well as a MIDI Computer Lab.
39.) Rice University (Shepherd School of Music) – Alice Pratt Brown Hall
Row after row of neat, brown columns alternating with pairs of gleaming windows provides Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music with an overwhelmingly measured, orderly atmosphere before you ever set foot inside the building. Once inside, the structured mood is validated again in the concert hall with its high, squared lines and neat rows of acoustic elements in the walls and ceiling. Designed by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, the two wings of the complex are connected by a beautiful garden area.
The Shepherd School of Music offers exceptional musical instruction, particularly in orchestral, chamber, and opera music specializations. Not only does the vast music school feature the spacious 1,000-seat concert hall, there’s also the 250-seat Duncan Recital Hall. Shepherd is also home to an opera studio, the Edythe Bates Old Grand Organ and Recital Hall, 65 practice rooms, 54 teaching areas, and seven classrooms as well as rehearsal and ensemble spaces.
38. Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, The Historic Building
Like a modern, pristine replica of classic Spanish mission architecture, the sand-colored walls contrast nicely with the thick, white trim on the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. Located in San Juan’s notable Miramar section, this public institution has landed a spot on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
Although it was renovated from 2001-2008, the school – once known as “Miramar’s Old Refuge for Girls – focuses on developing musicians’ skills in composition and interpretation, as well as music instruction. The school hosts many international students, faculty, and visiting performers, which gives the school a unique, multicultural feel.
37. Colburn School of Performing Arts, Zipper Concert Hall
The Colburn School may be known for providing its students with world-class music, dance, and drama instruction, but the building itself is a study in geometric precision. Backdropped by boxy skyscrapers, the diagonal lines, and dramatic lighting makes the design of the school as dynamic as any performance that could be presented within.
Speaking of the interior, the outside of the building is just a foretaste of the beauty of the inside. Floating above the stage are nine round lighting clouds that provide a soft ambient glow and customizable acoustic effects. According to Southwest Chamber Music, “Zipper Hall is acoustically one of the best performance spaces in the Los Angeles area.”
36.) Baldwin Wallace University (Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory), Boesel Musical Arts Center
There’s something mysteriously attractive about mirrors; it’s almost impossible to walk past them without looking. Such is part of the appeal of the striking Boesel Musical Arts Center of Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. Like a wide mirror stretched between frames of brick, the gradually slanted panes of glass reflect the rest of the campus measure by measure, repeating the view with staccato-like rapidity. The Boesel Musical Arts Building joins three buildings: Kulas, Annex, and Merner-Pfeiffer, to form the “Conservatory.”
The Conservatory is home to an illustrious Music Theatre program, and it hosts the oldest collegiate Bach Festival in the United States. Its central location and artistic design make the Conservatory at Baldwin Wallace University an excellent choice for such events as this.
35.) University of Kansas School of Music, Swarthout Recital Hall
The University of Kansas Swarthout Recital Hall is an intimate, 273-seat facility located in the main Murphy building. Thanks to a generous grant, the acoustically excellent building is undergoing major renovations and technological upgrades to make the hall even more outstanding for the musicians and patrons who use this facility. The building reopens in 2015.
With bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs, the School of Music at the University of Kansas also offers exciting electives courses for non-music majors. With the excitement generated by the gorgeous, newly updated Swarthout Recital Hall, it wouldn’t be surprising if the enrollment of the school increases.
34.) University of Louisville School of Music, Margaret Comstock Concert Hall
The University of Louisville’s School of Music offers its students a smorgasbord of opportunities. From the virtual room, where acoustics can be customized to the exact specifications with ease, to the ProTools Lab, the University’s Music School offers students everything they’ll need to continue their musical career in today’s tech-savvy world.
The Music Building also houses the Dwight Anderson Music Library; the Computer Teaching and Lab Facilities; the 558-seat Margaret Comstock Concert Hall; and the Malcolm Bird Recital Hall. The School of Music also houses the Classical Dance Program.
33.) University of Mississippi School of Music, Music Building
Graced by tall, mature trees, the University of Mississippi has a gracious Southern charm about it. The sprawling facility has housed the University’s music department since 2005. After its renovation from 2000-2005, the Music Building now has an updated, modernized feel.
Here, students and faculty work together in classrooms and the musical technology lab. Band and rehearsal halls afford students the chance to develop their expertise. Department offices and faculty studios are also housed in the music building, making it a convenient, attractive spot for students and faculty to complete their duties with a view of the stately trees in the lawn outside.
32.) Longy School of Music of Bard College, Zabriskie House
The Cambridge Longy School of Music of Bard College was founded in 1915. A peer of the Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory, and the Boston Conservatory, the Longy School provides Boston with yet another excellent music school, this one with a unique, neo-medieval vibe. The whimsical Zabriskie House, with its stone walls and red turreted roof, offers plenty of scope for the imagination.
Originally located in the Edwin Abbot House, a building designed by Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow, the very air of Cambridge breathes of rich New England heritage. A neighboring school of Harvard, students at Cambridge’s Longy School, enjoy a rich and quality course of study. As of the 2014-2015 academic year, the Longy School has 248 students, many of whom are international.
31.) Northern Illinois University (College of Visual and Performing Arts), Boutell Memorial Concert Hall
The geometrically fascinating Boutell Memorial Concert Hall of Northern Illinois University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts offers rich, stimulating productions year round. Not only does it serve the student body with excellence in musical education, it also provides the community with quality performances, many of which cost nothing to attend.
Home to the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble and Steelband and the Avalon String Quartet, the College of Visual and Performing Arts has an excellent reputation in the area, and for good reason. For example, the Avalon String Quartet has earned high accolades from the Chicago Tribune as “an ensemble that invites you – ears, mind, and spirit – into its music.”
30.) University of South Florida (College of the Arts School of Music), Music Building
Surrounded by gorgeous landscaping, the new streamlined, state-of-the-art School of Music at Tampa’s University of South Florida offers students a paradise of performance opportunities and instructional activities. With over 150 concerts, symposia, and lectures annually; expert faculty performers the school is a mainstay in the region. The University of South Florida is proving to be a top school of choice for America’s promising young musicians.
Not only is the school brilliantly designed externally, it’s almost unmatched for technological advancement. With one of the nation’s most complete electronic music studios, students who make this their choice can avail themselves of valuable experience that can serve them in a wide array of careers. Along with three undergrad music degree programs, USF also offers a Ph.D. in Music Education, a Master of Arts in Music Education, a Master of Music degree, and a Graduate Certification program.
29.) Morehouse College, Ray Charles Performing Arts Center
From the sparkling, polished stage to the gleaming brown walls, the Morehouse College Ray Charles Performing Arts Center shines with the style and class of its namesake. With red brick accent features, cathedral ceilings, and glass walls, this culturally rich Center adds a measure of excitement and soul to the already-stellar Morehouse College.
Since its founding in 1911 as the Morehouse College Glee Club, Morehouse’s music program offers students the opportunity to advance in their chosen musical fields as well as expand into other genres. As Ray Charles himself said, “I never wanted to be famous. I only wanted to be great.” Like the man, the Morehouse Music School has shown that it’s okay to be both.
28.) Yale University (Yale School of Music), Leigh Hall
Like all of Yale University, the Yale School of Music’s Leigh Hall is designed to impress. Every last detail, from the elaborate, immaculate landscaping to the gorgeous crown molding inside and the intricate scrollwork and trim on the outside, speaks of attention to detail and a legacy of excellence.
Leigh Hall, which was built as the University’s health center in 1930, was redesigned and modernized as the Abby and Mitch Leigh Hall music building in 2005. The American aristocracy style of the Ivy League school is prominent in this building, where exposed beam ceilings reach toward Gothic-style arched windows. The building houses several offices as well as an intimate recital area on the fourth floor.
27.) Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts, Ganz Hall
Chicago’s Ganz Hall, a part of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts, is a gorgeous performance space with the dramatic effect of a church and the splendor of a temple. On the elevated stage, concert grand pianos take the spotlight. Above the stage, elaborate, unique steel chandeliers hang down, a focal point in themselves. Arched Stained glass windows round out the stunning effect, and it’s easy to imagine sitting through an entire performance with your head flopped back and your mouth hanging open like a child in awe.
Although housed at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, the Chicago College of the Performing Arts is an independent entity, somewhat like the relationships between The Cincinnati Conservatory and the University of Cincinnati. The school welcomes 600 students from over 40 states and 25 foreign countries, and the world-class faculty consists of experts in their fields.
26.) Bowdoin University, Studzinski Recital Hall, Kanbar Auditiorium
The Studzinski Recital Hall, used to be a pool building. Now it is home to a 280 seat intimate performance space with acoustic perfection on the campus of Bowdoin University. This state of the art performance space opened in 2007, is the center of the universities push to increase the arts and culture profile of the school and has since transformed the music program into a renowned creative space.
The building also includes nine practice spaces with wireless technology, and composition spaces for further learning opportunities. It houses the Bowdoin International Music Festival which happens each summer.
25.) University of Iowa School of Music, Music Building
“Seize the day” could be the motto of the University of Iowa’s School of Music. Although the school lacks a permanent home, its interim facilities are second to none, meticulously designed to fit the needs of its students today. At several of these sites, students can take advantage of state-of-the-art sound-isolating practice rooms and even more advanced acoustically simulating practice rooms that approximate the environs of different musical venues.
The School of Music offers three electronic music studios, a full music library, ear training facilities, professional recording studios. Students also have access to a technology center with MIDI synthesizers and music-related software, a piano lab, and spacious rehearsal halls. Students are afforded the opportunity to study in multiple degree programs to hone their skills. Emphasis on performance, conducting, musicology, theory, composition, music education, and music therapy can all be expected while studying at the University.
24.) St. Olaf College Music Department, Christiansen Hall of Music
With its attractive style born from the adage that “what goes out of style will come back in,” the retro appearance of the St. Olaf College’s Christiansen Hall of Music offers a trendy chic appeal. This hub of the College’s music department houses the Urness Recital Hall, the Halvorson Music Library, the Margaret Skoglund Reception Room, three rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and electronic music studio, and even faculty studios.
The building also offers a dedicated percussion suite with mallet and tympani practice spaces, a reed-making room, two large practice rooms with two grand pianos apiece, 36 practice rooms, and a seminar room.
23.) Kean University Conservatory of Music, Enlow Hall
The classy Enlow Recital Hall, a focal point of the Kean University Conservatory of Music, has welcomed Broadway legends, classical virtuosos, pop performers and jazz stars to its regal hall. Here, students and audiences are given the opportunity to enjoy an all-star lineup of events, such as Celtic storytelling, a TED-acclaimed musical lyric revivalist, documentaries and international film specialties.
For students who want to experience as much as they want to study, the rich culture afforded at Enlow Hall should inspire a trip to view the gorgeous facility for themselves. After all, experience is an excellent teacher.
22.) University of the Pacific (Conservatory of Music), Faye Spanos Concert Hall
The University of the Pacific’s illustrious Faye Spanos Concert Hall has the timeless look of medieval splendor blended with stylish, no-nonsense 1920s American architecture. The building was updated in 1988. Because of its classic appeal, it has even been chosen to be a backdrop in the big screen.
As the west coast’s first accredited professional music school, the University of the Pacific offers 11 accredited separate degree programs. The Faye Spanos building houses an 870-seat concert hall, practice rooms, faculty offices, and administrative areas. The school welcomes students from around the United States, and some of those who attend are international students.
21. Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, McIntosh–Goodrich Mansion
If your tastes run on the intimate-yet-elegant side, you’d love the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music housed in the 1903 McIntosh-Goodrich Museum. This gorgeous, columned brownstone structure is the music school to 1,000 students. Still, the cozy atmosphere provides a homelike setting, particularly if your home has rich murals expertly painted mahogany walls. The detail continues with intricate stained glass designed by Lewis Comfort Tiffany, stunning curved glass bay windows, and antique parquet floors.
At the independent Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, over 50 instructors and performers provide group classes and individual instruction for the students in a variety of music genres.
20.) Indiana University (Jacobs School of Music), Simon Music Center
Bloomington, Indiana’s Simon Music Center, a part of The Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University, is a tasteful blend of modernity and grandeur. Established in 1921, the school today serves over 1,600 students, making it the second greatest enrolled music school of all those accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.
Saluted by sparkling fountains outside, the Simon Music Center houses the Ford-Crawford Hall, the William and Gayle Cook Music Library, Auer Hall, The Sweeney Lecture Hall, and the Latin American Music Center. Outside, its ponderous, solid appearance balances the bright reflections on the large glass panes in a tasteful presentation of balance and symmetry.
19.) University of California, Irvine (Claire Trevor School of the Arts), Claire Trevor Theatre
Both music majors and non-majors are encouraged to partake in the courses offered here. The building houses a variety of studios, labs, instructional facilities, and rehearsal spaces.
18.) Berklee College of Music, The Berklee Performance Centre
Boston’s Berklee College of Music, a trendy-yet-classic structure, is the world’s largest independent college of contemporary sound. Housed in such a striking, orthodoxy-meets-improv building, the Berklee Performance Theatre provides rare college-level instruction for its students in a smorgasbord of classic and also contemporary styles. They know their business, too; 99 Berklee alum have been awarded 229 Grammy Awards as of 2013.
With a sister campus in Valencia, Spain, the Back Bay Boston school offers 13 recording studios, five film scoring and editing facilities, the five-channel Berklee Internet Radio, and numerous other unique programs. The wide variety of music instruction allows that Berklee students are well-trained in all musical genres. With such striking visual surroundings, it’s no wonder students and faculty enter these doors so uniquely inspired day after day.
17.) Johns Hopkins University (Peabody Institute), Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
This neoclassical concert hall is one of the oldest recital halls in America. It is home to the conservatories vast areas of study, including focuses in your instrument of choice, voice and opera, conducting and more. This is the largest performance space at the university, and a historic treasure in itself.
The Peabody Institute was founded over 150 years ago, and is focused solely on providing artists with the skills to succeed and become leaders in music and education. With only a Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Musical Arts, they ensure that their main focus of the conservatory is to provide an outstanding education in its specific field.
16.) San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Civic Center
Open, ultra-modern, and intriguing: those are the likely first impressions you’ll receive upon entering the San Fransisco Conservatory of Music. The two buildings making up the music school have been restored and redesigned in a contemporary style while retaining the grand, historically vintage exterior.
Housed in the Civic Center, the contemporary feel of the two buildings provides musicians with vast areas for acoustically optimal practice and performance spaces. Included in these are an awe-inspiring 450-seat concert hall reminiscent of an elegant ballroom; a new 160-seat recital hall; and a cozy salon that seats 120. The Conservatory also offers an extensive library, office spaces, and classrooms. The San Fransisco Conservatory of Music enrolls around 400 students.
15.) Vanderbilt University (Blair School of Music), Martha Rivers Ingram Center for the Performing Arts
Interesting by day, stunning by night; the glass-faced Martha Ingram Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2002
And has since been the platform for every type of event. Part of the Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, the Ingram Hall has hosted world premieres by the Nashville Ballet and Nashville Opera and even two Grammy-nominated recordings. The peerless Ingram Hall offers spectacular celebrations complete with on-stage dining; intricately choreographed lighting and multimedia entertainment.
The Martha Ingram Center for the Performing Arts offers so much more than 609 comfortable seats overlooking a grand performance hall. A full orchestra pit, loading dock, green room, dressing rooms, and opera scene shop are just a few of the amenities that make this place perfect for a wide variety of musical and theatrical events.
14.) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – College of Fine and Applied Arts (School of Music), Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Spacious and solid on the outside, alluring and intriguing on the inside, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Fine Arts, offers its faculty and students a brilliantly designed facility in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. This multi-disciplinary art school building was made possible by an enormous donation from Herman and Elnora Krannert. Herman was an alumnus of the University of Illinois, as was Max Abramovitz, the building’s designer.
Inside, the stunning theater seats around 4,000. The beauty is evident from the moment you enter: from the teak Thai wood floors of the main lobby to the marble walls from Carrara, Italy, the entire structure is a treasure. Inside the complex, you’ll find elegant yet acoustically sound performance spaces, especially in the magnificent theater.
13.) University of Oklahoma (Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts School of Music), Donald W. Reynolds Center (Holmberg Hall)
Imagine going to work in a castle or heading to class in a building that makes you feel like royalty. For music students and faculty at the University of Oklahoma, it’s not whimsy; it’s reality.
From its turreted towers to the medieval wooden doorways, the University of Oklahoma’s Donald W. Reynold’s Center immediately calls to mind a palace. With around 300 musicals, operas, concerts, recitals, and dramas performed each year; the building is a special place to many accomplished musicians.
12.) Juilliard School, Alice Tully Hall
Certain places just demand attention: some, for their exterior magnificence, and others, for their intrinsic genius. A rare few claim both distinctions. Juilliard is one.
Located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, The Juilliard School’s Alice Tully Hall is a stunning display of geometrical daring. The building, which glows in a heavenward-pointing arrow at night, juts over the glistening glass entrance below like a world-class ocean liner ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime. Inside, the institution trains around 850 of the world’s best artists in music, dance, and drama. It’s also the home to the New York Film Festival.
11.) Northwestern University (Bienen School of Music), Regenstein Hall
Overlooking the bright waters of Lake Michigan, Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright-esque stone outcropping of the land itself, with its unexpected angles and vine-covered walls.
Located only 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, the Evanston music school has served Northwestern students for over a century. Regenstein Hall of Music, the visually compelling lakefront masterpiece, was built in 1977. The building serves the music school’s student population as a popular practice spot. Inside, the building houses a 200-seat master-class room that hosts a miscellany of popular performances throughout the year. It also offers performance and conducting studios, as well as plenty of acoustically optimal private practice space.
10.) Boston Conservatory, The Fenway
As respectable and classic as the city itself is, the Boston Conservatory, or “BoCo,” offers its students a rigorous musical course of study in the Fenway-Kenmore region of the historically rich capital city. With arched windows and elaborately styled dormers, the prestigious institution offers that age-old, distinguished air of prominence so intrinsic to Boston.
The Boston Conservatory offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Some of these include Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Music, Master of Fine Arts, Graduate Performance Diplomas, Artist Diplomas, and Professional Studies Certificates. For students blessed to attend BoCo, the instruction gained both by the excellent faculty and performers paired with the richness of experience in the grand old city makes the Boston Conservatory an enticing choice.
9.) University of Southern California (Thornton School of Music), Bovard Theatre
Striking yet classic, opulent yet streamlined; the Bovard Auditorium of the Thornton School of Music at The University of Southern California is a work of art. The building was dedicated in 1999, although the music program itself was birth in 1884, making it the oldest continually running arts institution in Southern California.
With spectacular lighting and advanced color choreography, the Bovard Auditorium is a perfect place for both musical and dramatic performances as well as lectures and other significant functions. Here, for example, the 2004 Democratic Presidential debate was held. The balance between classic theater form and modern technological function makes the Bovard an easy choice on any “Most Beautiful” list.
8.) University of North Texas College of Music, Murchison Performing Arts Center
Like a cross between EPCOT and the Sydney Opera House, the Murchison Performing Arts Center can’t help but get noticed. Hugely popular, this Denton, Texas masterpiece enrolls more music students than any other music institution accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Amazingly, nearly one-third of these students have been graduate students, a telling statistic that gives a clue to the quality of education that can be acquired within these acoustically brilliant walls.
The oldest and the first university offering a jazz degree, The University of North Texas College of Music has been in existence since 1890. The century-old legacy of excellence offers inspiration and motivation to younger programs to keep building; in time, world-class programs can be developed by those with patience.
7.) Boston University (Tanglewood Institute) School of Music, Tanglewood Institute
Like a graceful estate in the country, the Tanglewood Institute at Boston University is as idyllic as a peaceful manor could be with the atmosphere of summer camp. Here, the world’s best young musicians converge in a summer training program that is the only one of its kind associated with world-famous symphony orchestras. Like a dream world for these high school students, the attendees get the opportunity to train in the company of members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Students blessed enough to attend the Boston University Tanglewood Institute are afforded free accessibility to all performances of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Relationships forged at the Institute are likely to last a lifetime. The Tanglewood Institute was the creation of legendary director Serge Koussevitzky in 1940.
6.) University of Houston (Moores School of Music), Moores Opera House
Jaw-dropping. That’s the best way to describe the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House. Although stately and gleaming on the outside, the inside is where its glory lies. Inside the 800-seat expanse, one’s gaze naturally drifts upward to the intriguing visual spectacle designed by artist Frank Stella.
The breathtaking opera hall hearkens back to the great European opera houses of yesteryear, yet with its modern technologically advanced features, it far surpasses anything the classics could have imagined. The perfect acoustics make it possible for young voices to develop properly, with customizable acoustics to spare them from the demands that normally come with trying to reach every corner of a large concert hall.
5.) Oberlin College (Oberlin Conservatory of Music), Bibbins Hall
At first view of Oberlin College’s spectacular Bibbins Hall, eyes widen and the brain stutters as it tries to process the art that is the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. If the design of Bibbins Hall strikes you as vaguely familiar, it should. Its creator, Minoru Yamasaki, designed it in a manner that brings to mind another of his later projects: the World Trade Center. Although this building isn’t dark, has no twin, and isn’t a skyscraper, it’s easy to see the similarity between it and the fallen towers.
This space-age-meets-stately-architecture building houses 40 studios and ten classrooms where students enjoy a variety of individual, small group, and classroom instruction opportunities. The building also provides office space for the deans and other faculty members who provide the school’s musicians with excellent musical instruction.
4.) University of Rochester (Eastman School of Music), Eastman Theatre
The University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music is another work of art in itself, and the history of the building is a portrait of mystique. In 1921, at the onset of the Roaring Twenties, Eastman Kodak Founder George Eastman established the music school at Rochester with the goal of providing a platform for his developing picture industry. In 1922, he opened the doors of the Eastman Theatre, which was an institution not only for music and dance, but also silent film – with complete orchestral and organ accompaniment capabilities.
Indeed, one glance into the Eastman Theatre transports you back in time to a pre-Depression world bursting with possibilities. The theater is exquisite. The massive chandelier illuminates the building above 3,094 burgundy seats. Rippling out from the chandelier, the intricately molded ceiling stretches around, a work of art in itself. Grand, tasteful murals; a well-lit, spacious balcony; and an elaborate, expansive stage are just a few of the room’s other notable features. Outside, the building is an exercise in perspective as one considers the rounded angles and receding lines marked off by columns, windows, doors, and flags.
3.) Bard College Conservatory of Music, Richard B. Fisher Center
As if a bard from heaven itself were settling down to grace the campus with divine proclamations in song, the very roof of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College gives the appearance of an acoustic element poised to catch every note and relay it with perfect tone and volume.
Located in the Hudson Valley Shire of Annandale-on-Hudson, the space age building is anything but quaint. The 110,000-square-foot building contains two theaters for opera, dance, and music; four rehearsal studios; and professional support facilities. Additionally, the Richard B. Fisher Center is almost exclusively fossil-free, since it is heated and cooled by geothermal means. As if that wasn’t enough to convince you of its merit, the New Yorker said that it could quite possibly be “the best small concert hall in the United States.”
2.) Carnegie Mellon University – Carnegie Music Hall Oakland
This historically significant and awe inspiring music hall is owned by the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, but used by Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This performance space dates back to 1895, and seats almost 2,000 people.
Carnegie Mellon is one of the United States’ most prestigious centers for music education. In addition to the Carnegie Music Hall, it boasts three more performance halls of its own and an additional off campus venue. Music students also have the luxury of practice rooms within the college of fine arts, another stunning building of this historic university.
1.) New England Conservatory of Music, Jordan Hall Building
Ornate, magnificent, classic. The opulence and splendor displayed in the 1,019-seat concert hall of the New England Conservatory of Music easily inspires the same awe guests would’ve experienced at their first grand tour through the Titanic or Versailles. In the front of the hall, golden-hued organ pipes weave through gleaming polished wood panels trimmed with gilded flourishes.
As a National Historic Landmark, the building is the aesthetic epitome of how an ideal concert hall should look. Together with the Boston Symphony a block down, it’s known as one of the country’s most acoustically perfect performance spaces. From the main floor to the horseshoe-shaped balcony, every seat in the house has a clear view of the stage and the gorgeous pipe organ.