Music Study Abroad: Top 5 Destinations
Studying abroad offers a unique opportunity for college students to broaden their horizons and get a glimpse into the inner workings of the global community. For most, the once-in-a-lifetime experience of studying abroad and engaging with a foreign culture is both valuable and enriching. This unique experience will provide you with a world-class education in global human relations, while also expanding your international network- thereby putting you a step ahead in the career process.
The value of music study abroad programs shines through in an international setting. Not only are students given the chance to live and work in the birthplaces of legendary Classical music composers like Haydn and Mozart, but they’re afforded the invaluable opportunity to experience how their musical interests are taught, shared, and materialized on an international scale. From learning the fundamentals of music in a brand new context to broadening your perspective as a human being, studying abroad is an opportunity that should not be missed.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 destinations for music study abroad to help you or your student choose the right fit.
Top 5 Destinations
1. Italy (Milan/Florence)
The music of Italy encompasses instrumental and vocal classical music, symphonic music, and everything in between. Italy’s innovation in musical scales, harmony, notation, and theatre enabled the development of opera in the late 16th century, as well as much of European classical music.
The Opera; Instrumental & Vocal Classical Music; Symphonic Music
Famous Italian Composers:
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741); Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901); Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
IES Abroad offers a study abroad program titled “Music: Tradition & Innovation.” Based out of the IES Abroad Milan center, the per-semester program offers a full range of opportunities for instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, and performance majors. Partnerships with the Civica Scuola di Musica, the Conservatorio G. Verdi, the Milano Classica Chamber Orchestra (spring semester only), and La Verdi Symphonic Choir are all incentives to study music in Milan.
For more information on IES Abroad’s Milan music program, check out the program’s site.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a four-week summer seminar for those interested in studying music in the heart of Florence. Open to both graduate and undergraduate students (including non-music majors and non UW-Madison students), this program falls in the midst of Florence’s Maggio Musicale, one of Europe’s most significant annual music festivals. The goal of this program is “to realize the three-way collaboration of composer, performer, and audience that embodies the complete process of musical creation.”
For more information on the UW-Madison seminar, check out its site.
Other Reasons to Study Abroad in Italy:
- You’ll have ample opportunity to practice speaking the Italian language
- Italy is rich with history; explore ancient Greek and Roman ruins, visit the Colosseum, and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
- Italy is home to La Scala Opera Theatre, one of the most prestigious opera houses in the country
- Italy is the birthplace of a variety of world-renowned fashion designers, including Versace, Gucci, and Prada
- Italy’s cuisine is internationally-recognized for its delicious blend of tomatoes, meat, and cheese
2. France (Paris)
Regarded among music historians as the hotbed of middle-to-late Romantic music, France is internationally recognized for its world-class conservatories and tradition of classical music theory. Today, France remains a vibrant source of musical innovation, attracting composers and performers from all across the world.
Classical Music; Musical Innovation & Technology
Famous French Composers:
Claude Debussy (1862-1918); Igor Stravinsky (1881-1971); Edith Piaf (1915-1963)
Among the best music schools in France is Paris’s Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM), which is dedicated to both musical expression and scientific research. As one of the world’s largest public research centers- and the world's leading center for computer-music training- IRCAM is the perfect campus to house CIEE’s Study Abroad “Summer Contemporary Music Creation + Critique” program. This program blends theory and intensive practice to give students interested in contemporary music and composition hands-on access to cutting-edge acoustic technology.
For more information on IRCAM, check out their website.
For more information on CIEE’s Summer Program, check out the site.
Other Reasons to Study Abroad in France:
- You will have innumerable opportunities to practice your French
- The architecture is stunning and you can visit some of the world’s most famous castles, cathedrals, and icons, including The Palace of Versailles (Versailles), Notre Dame (Paris), and the Eiffel Tower (Paris)
- If you’re interested in art, check out France’s world-famous museums, like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay (Paris)
- Paris is a fashion capital and France is home to some of the most well-known fashion houses in the world, including Chanel, Vuitton, and Dior
- You’ll have the opportunity to relax on France’s beautiful Mediterranean beaches
3. Austria (Vienna/Salzburg)
Home to an astounding number of legendary composers, Austria is widely regarded as the birthplace of Classical music. Historic cities like Vienna and Salzburg offer a variety of highly-acclaimed music conservatories, including the world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the spectacular Vienna State Opera House. Though Austria’s musical culture is rich with historical influence, it remains a center of musical innovation.
Classical Music; Performing Arts; Music Composition
Famous Austrian Composers:
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809); Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827); Franz Schubert (1797-1828); Johann Strauss I (1804-1849); Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Note: Though Beethoven was born in Germany, he lived in Austria from age 22 to his death at age 56. He is highly associated with Austria’s music culture, as Vienna is where he studied music, launched his career, and lived out the remainder of his life.
IES Abroad offers a Vienna Music Program in conjunction with the Vienna European Society & Culture Program. Based out of the IES Abroad Vienna center, the per-semester program is ideal for students majoring or minoring in music, as it provides courses in Music History, Music Theory & Composition, and Music Performance.
For more information on IES Abroad’s Vienna music program, check out the program’s site.
Salzburg College offers a semester-long Music Program for undergraduates interested in exploring music performance, composition, and music history. Students are encouraged to participate in local choirs, orchestras, and ensembles, and the semester ends with a final concert in which all participants of the Music Program perform.
For more information on Salzburg College’s Music Program, check out their website.
Other Reasons to Study Abroad in Austria:
- The Vienna State Opera is one of the most revered opera houses in the world, and the Musikverein is one of the top concert halls in existence
- Mozart’s home city of Salzburg hosts the annual summer Salzburg Festival, a prominent music and drama festival established in 1920
- Austria is home to the Austrian Alps, one of the world’s premier skiing regions
- Beautiful castles and museums are prominent throughout the country
- Maschmarkt, Vienna’s oldest and largest market, offers culinary curiosities from around the world
4. Czech Republic (Prague)
Prague, a major training ground for some of the finest jazz and classical performers in Europe, has become a music industry and film music hub. It is also a center for symphonic and ensemble music performance, opera, theater, composition, film scoring, music business, and music technology.
Famous Czech Composers:
Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884); Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904); Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
Jazz; Music Performance; Music Business; Film Scoring; Composition
NYU Steinhardt offers an undergraduate Music Study in Prague program for both NYU and non-NYU music majors. Both fall and spring semesters are offered, and courses include Music History, Music Theory, and Keyboard Harmony and Improvisation. Students may also take weekly individual lessons, including Individual Instruction on Wind or Percussion Instruments/String Instruments/Piano, Individual Voice Instruction, Individual Music Composition Instruction, and Jazz Ensembles.
For more information on the Music Study in Prague program, check out NYU Steinhardt’s website.
Other Reasons to Study Abroad in the Czech Republic:
- If you’re interested in architecture, Prague boasts a variety of gorgeous buildings, including St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle
- Prague hosts a number of strange museums to keep you entertained, like the Museum of Medieval Torture, the KGB Museum, and the Museum of Communism
- There are unlimited activities to keep you occupied; visit the John Lennon-inspired graffiti wall, paddleboat on the Vltava River, or take in a hockey game
- The nightlife is incredible, and the Czech Republic is home to the biggest club in Central Europe
- The Czech Republic is in the heart of Europe, so you may have the opportunity to travel to nearby countries
5. United States (Boston)
United States history is rich with theatre, art, and music. Blues is iconic of music in the United States, and jazz, rock and roll, and hip hop have spawned a legion of subgenres. One of America’s most famous contributions to the world of music is Broadway theatre, consisting of the performances presented in the 40 professional theatres located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway in Manhattan.
Famous American Composers:
Burt Bacharach (1928- ); Irving Berlin (1888-1989); Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
Contemporary Music; Music Theatre; Music Business; Music Production
One of the best contemporary music colleges in the world, Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers summer programs to students from all over the United States and 60 countries around the world. Summer programs range from twelve-week full credit programs to four-day piano and keyboard workshops. Courses include Songwriting, English Language for Musicians, Stage Performance, Music Business, and Music Production.
For more information on Berklee College of Music programs, check out their summer programs page.
Other Reasons to Study Abroad in the United States:
- Studying in the U.S. is a great way to learn or improve English skills
- Around 30 percent of all international students study in the U.S., so you will have the opportunity to interact with people from a variety of different cultures
- The U.S. (New York) is home to Broadway, one of the most iconic representations of American music and theatre
- If you’re interested in architecture, check out some of the world’s most famous bridges and buildings, including the Empire State Building (NYC), the White House (D.C.), and the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco)
- The U.S. is home to a variety of famous landmarks and attractions, including the Statue of Liberty (New York), the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Niagara Falls (New York), and Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Other Notable Music Study Abroad Destinations:
- Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle)
- England (London)
- India (Swarnabhoomi)
- The Netherlands (Amsterdam)
Whether you’re looking to expand your musical abilities with a rigorous international conservatory program or you want to embrace the cultural opportunities afforded to international students, the possibility of studying music abroad is endlessly exciting. We hope this guide helps you select your perfect study abroad destination!
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