As a college audition coach, I often get asked: “What are the ‘top’ Musical Theatre Programs?” While this list is by no means definitive, here is my take on the Top 20 Musical Theatre Programs.
Baldwin Wallace University
Located in the beautiful, quaint town of Berea, Ohio, Baldwin Wallace’s Musical Theatre Program boasts a 100% signing rate for their students at their annual New York Senior Showcase for the past 12 years. With its close proximity to Cleveland, students have the opportunity to earn Equity points while in school at the various regional theaters nearby. Every year, BW brings in various industry professionals for masterclasses and starting their Sophomore year, students perform in front of these professionals and being offered critiques, giving them great exposure to the industry.
Boston Conservatory’s Musical Theatre Program provides rigorous training in one of the country’s most bustling theatre cities. The first two years of training focus on foundational skills in all areas and in their Junior and Senior years, students are prepared to delve deeper into advanced technique. In their final year, the program puts on a showcase in New York, and an online version is released in order to maximize outreach into the industry. Students also have the opportunity to work alongside MFA Musical Theatre candidates.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon’s Musical Theatre program is a conservatory-style program. Both Acting and Musical Theatre students take the same core curriculum in acting, movement, and voice and speech. Carnegie Mellon prides itself on its rigorous training and small class sizes. Many students are cast immediately following their senior showcase. Furthermore, all students within the School of Drama have multiple study abroad opportunities. Recent examples include the NIDA in Sydney, the Moscow Art Theatre, and London’s Drama Centre.
Elon University’s Musical Theatre program boasts an extensive Broadway alumni list. With masterclasses featuring industry professionals, Elon graduates build up their connections while they are still in school. Starting in their first semester, students have a wide range of performances to practice their craft. Their training combines a conservatory-style program with traditional liberal arts classes. Furthermore, Elon provides many study abroad opportunities for Musical Theatre students. Recent examples include classical studies in Greece, and opportunities with the London Theatre.
Located in the heart of Boston, Emerson’s Musical Theatre program combines traditional liberal arts courses with an intense, conservatory-style training. Performing opportunities are mostly through Emerson Stage, which is the producing organization of the department. Students audition at various conferences throughout the school year to secure summer gigs and internships. Furthermore, Emerson boasts two showcases for their graduating seniors: one in Boston and one in NYC.
Florida State University
Florida State University’s Musical Theatre Program is a joint program between the School of Music and the School of Theatre. Students have a variety of performance opportunities throughout the year, including two main stage musicals. At the end of their tenure at FSU, students participate in the Senior Showcase in NYC for industry professionals all around the country. In addition, FSU offers a theatre-intensive study abroad opportunity in London.
Ithaca College’s Musical Theatre Program is an intense, performance-driven program focusing on fostering a passion in Musical Theatre. BFA Acting and BFA Musical Theatre majors all take the same core acting curriculum. Students are subject to evaluations and given specific feedback to allow for continuous growth throughout their time at Ithaca. Students are able to audition for shows as early as their first semester. Furthermore, voice lessons are held in the world-renowned School of Music. Graduating seniors participate in the Senior Showcase for a wide range of industry professionals following their time at Ithaca.
Marymount Manhattan College
Marymount Manhattan College is located in New York City giving students access to the world’s most bustling theatre city. Their Musical Theatre program incorporates intense training in tandem with liberal arts courses. All BFA Musical Theatre students are part of the Daily Dance program, ensuring dance training five times a week. Masterclasses and guest lecturers are part of the curriculum, with the college bringing an array of industry professionals to work with their students during the school year. Performance opportunities are not limited, they produce full musicals on campus and have Studio Workshop productions at venues like the National Dance Institute and The York Theatre Company.
Located in the heart of NYC, Molloy/CAP21’s Musical Theatre Program offers a combined academic and conservatory style program. Starting with Freshman year, students spend three days a week at Molloy College taking academic and studio classes and the other two are spent at the newly-renovated Manhattan Center. The BFA program boasts private voice lessons for every student once a week throughout their training, and their extensive faculty list includes current working professionals.
Pace University’s Musical Theatre is a conservatory-style program located in New York City. Both Freshman and Seniors have the opportunity to perform in a showcase, with the latter being shown to a wide range of casting directors, agents, and other industry professionals in New York. BFA Musical Theatre students are also enrolled in classes like acting for television/film. The curriculum is taught by current working professionals, and Pace constantly brings in other industry professionals for masterclasses and workshops. The department produces four musicals a year.
Penn State University
Penn State’s Musical Theatre Program offers unique opportunities for students, such as the New Musicals Initiative, which commissions musical theatre writers to write for their students. Training is individualized in the program and the faculty is full of current working professionals. Furthermore, Penn State offers a unique Musical Theatre Wellness Center, which focuses on mental, physical, vocal, and nutritional health specifically for musical theatre students.
Point Park University
Point Park’s Musical Theatre program is housed in the Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Students have the opportunity to audition for the Conservatory Theatre Company and Playhouse Jr., as well as select roles with Point Park University’s professional theatre company (The REP). Many guest artists and industry professionals are brought in for masterclasses and workshops throughout the academic year. Following their four years of training, students perform in a showcase in NYC for multiple casting directors, agents, and other industry professionals.
Located just an hour away from New York City, Rider University’s Musical Theatre Program offers three main stage musicals a year led by faculty and other visiting guest artists. Furthermore, there are a variety of student-run productions done throughout the year. All Musical Theatre majors attend a weekly Musical Theatre Lab which includes presentations and workshops by an array of directors, choreographers, guest artists, managers, casting directors and more.
Roosevelt University/Chicago College of the Performing Arts
Roosevelt University’s Musical Theatre Program guarantees onstage performance credit while attending the institution. The University is located in the heart of Chicago, giving students multiple opportunities to audition for professional theaters while in school. Their faculty is composed of full-time members as well as current active theatre professionals. Roosevelt also offers a BFA Musical Theatre Dance Concentration.
Shenandoah University’s Musical Theatre Program has just gone under a huge revision to their curriculum, now including programs like ShenCoSkills, which focuses on giving students in their first and second years the tools to help with academic success and overall well-being. All students can audition for all productions at the conservatory, which includes two main stage musicals and one main stage play every year. Musical Theatre students also have the opportunity to study abroad in New York City and London.
Syracuse University’s Musical Theatre Program partners with Syracuse Stage, a professional theatre near-by, which allows students to earn equity points while attending the University. First-year students focus on the foundational training and are not allowed to audition for performances. From their second year and on, there is no lack of performance opportunities at Syracuse. Students are also given the opportunity to delve into the Tepper Semester in NYC (named after a Syracuse graduate!) Syracuse also brings in multiple industry professionals for master classes throughout the year.
Texas State University
Texas State University’s Musical Theatre Program is housed within the Theatre department, and all classes are taught by Musical Theatre and Acting faculty. In their junior and senior year, students take a series of labs called Business of the Business, led by Kaitlin Hopkins, to cover important topics about surviving in the professional theatre world. In addition, MT students can choose to follow a choreographer, musical director, or playwright track, giving students many opportunities to delve into these topics. Students can also study Shakespeare abroad in London.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona’s Musical Theatre Program offers a conservatory-style program in a university setting. Acting and Musical Theatre students take the same core curriculum in acting, movement and speech, and performance. Students can also collaborate with the Arizona Theatre Company, giving them a chance to earn Equity points while in school. The department produces two main stage musicals and three plays every year, in addition to film projects and student-produced work.
University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Conservatory of Music
Renowned as one of the nation’s first Musical Theatre Program of its kind, CCM’s program provides conservatory training to create thriving musical theatre performers. CCM’s vocal training has a two-fold approach: technique and coaching. Their acting training combines various techniques so students are well-versed in all acting techniques. Both Freshmen and Seniors create and perform in their own showcases, with the Senior Showcase taken to NYC and performed in front of an array of casting directors, agents, directors, and other industry professionals.
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre Program is consistently ranked among the top Musical Theatre programs in the country. They combine the rigors of a conservatory-style program with traditional liberal arts courses so graduates are well versed citizens. Their curriculum is taught by current working professionals and Michigan consistently brings in an array of industry professionals. With an average class size of 23, Michigan fosters an intimate working environment, allowing tremendous growth. Many summer stock theaters hold auditions at the University of Michigan, giving these students a leg up when looking for summer gigs. Furthermore, their extensive list of student-run clubs allows for many performance opportunities throughout the year.