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Top Colleges with Music Theory Degrees

Read about top colleges that offer programs in music theory, which can include the study of both classical and modern musical techniques. See what type of undergraduate and graduate programs are offered by three high-ranking universities, as well as what other schools across the country have degree programs in music theory.

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School Overview

Each one of the three universities profiled below has received a ranking or recognition from Forbes, U.S. News & World Report or Washington Monthly. All three schools offer bachelor's degree programs in music theory; graduate studies leading to either a master's or doctoral degree are also available.

Top U.S. Schools with Music Theory Programs

1. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

The first public college in the Northwest Territories, the University of Michigan (UM) ranked 28th on U.S. News & World Report's list of best national universities for 2011. Additionally, the college came in tenth among Washington Monthly's national university rankings in 2011, an indication of how much the school has contributed to the public good. UM offers a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory program, through which students take courses in modern and classical music composition, improvisation and music technology. Although no master's degree programs in music theory are available at UM, the school does offer a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Music Theory program with advanced studies in modern music theory and tonal composition.

2. Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

Northwestern University (NU) is a private college that ranked 11th on the Forbes list of America's Top Colleges in 2011. Northwestern's Bienen School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory with an emphasis on harmony and music history, as well as interdisciplinary coursework in cognitive science and the influence of culture on music. NU also offers a Master of Music in Theory and a Ph.D. in Music and Cognition. Students in these programs will conduct research in musical performance and contemporary music.

3. Boston University in Massachusetts

A private school that offers over 200 degree programs, Boston University (BU) ranked 53rd among U.S. News & World Report's national university rankings for 2012. The BU School of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Theory, through which students have the opportunity to create a unique composition. BU also offers a Master of Music in Music Theory, which includes advanced studies in music history and composition.

List of Ten Good Music Theory Schools in the U.S.

School Name Distinction Location
Baylor University Oldest continually operating university in Texas Waco, TX
Boston University Oldest degree-granting program in the U.S. Boston, MA
California Institute of Arts Programs offered worldwide Valencia, CA
Carnegie Mellon University Focus on computer models in music theory Pittsburg, PA
Cornell University Nation's first professorships in musicology Ithaca, NY
The Juilliard School Largest university collection of Steinway pianos New York, NY
Michigan State University Top university for research in the world East Lansing, MI
Northwestern University Incorporates history into the music program Evanston, IL
Syracuse University Ranked study abroad program Syracuse, NY
University of Michigan Small class sizes Ann Arbor, MI
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