The Top 5 Graduate Musical Theatre Programs in the Country for 2016-17

For many in the theatre business, getting your MFA seems to be a logical step in your education. 

For theatre students, where you attend can certainly have an impact on your career with the type of training you receive. It's also important to note that while each school listed here is excellent, a college degree doesn't guarantee success nor is one required to become successful in this industry. 

Here at OnStage, we take months to research the best MFA programs to come up with our own lists. We base it off tuition, curriculum, faculty, career support, basically everything you yourself would consider before making a college choice. We even have gone as far to call admission offices to ask them questions. 

We'll be doing rankings of most MFA level degree fields. We've already done our MFA Acting rankings, now let's move onto Musical Theatre. 

Truth be told, there aren't a ton of options available for an MFA in musical theatre. More often, you'll find degrees with vocal performance, pedagogy or directing. However there are some really strong programs out there that continue BFA musical theatre training. For this list we've included not only MFA degree programs but also Master of Music(MM) degrees as well. Here are our picks for the best of the best. 

 5. Arizona State University - Tempe, AZ

Notable Facts: 

- The MM program in performance with a concentration in musical theatre and opera performance provides students the opportunity to choose from three specific emphases: opera, musical theatre or music direction. Regardless of the emphasis, students have ample opportunities to study both musical theatre and opera.

- A student in the Master of Music in the musical theatre concentration receives ongoing practical training and performance experience to further hone performance skills for professional work as a musical theater singer and actor. In addition to studio voice instruction and advanced work in acting and performance techniques, students study repertoire from the traditional and contemporary musical theatre canon and are required to perform major roles in at least two Lyric Opera Theatre productions.

- Facilities include the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre(pictured above), modeled after the Wagnerian Theatre in Bayreuth Germany, rises five stories and seats 500 people. This theatre is the home of the many opera and musical productions presented by the ASU Herberger Institute School of Music’s Lyric Opera Theatre. The theatre is also used as a classroom for the larger music appreciation courses.

4. San Diego State University - San Diego, CA

Notable Facts: 

- Graduate courses include Research and Bibliography. This course serves as an introduction to bibliographic tools and techniques as they relate to theatre research; use of the library and Musical Theatre Archive; and practical applications of presentation, video, and library software.

- Each semester, the SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film produces a musical production as part of its performance season.  These productions feature our MFA students in principal and featured roles, and by the end of their two years, they will have been a part of four productions. 

- Over its 30-year history, the SDSU MFA Musical Theatre Program has amassed an extensive collection of librettos, manuscripts, vocal scores, vocal selection books, composer songbooks, song sheets and anthologies, reference books, audio and video recordings, programs, playbills, posters, clipping files and memorabilia, much of which is unpublished, out-of-print, or unavailable elsewhere. These collections are housed in our Musical Theatre Archive, the only university archive/study facility of its kind on the West Coast.

3. Boston Conservatory at Berklee - Boston, MA

Notable Facts:

- Throughout the program, students work intimately with a faculty comprising Broadway veterans and theater professionals who provide guidance and valuable industry expertise. Students perform regularly on the mainstage, in student- and faculty-directed productions, in productions around Greater Boston, and in master classes given by acclaimed guest artists, including Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza—two Tony Awards), Nick Adams (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Susan Stroman (five Tony Awards), and Andrew Lippa (composer—Tony Award and Grammy Award nominee).

- The five-semester curriculum of the M.F.A. in musical theater is a comprehensive performance-based immersion in the world of theater. Although the program emphasizes musical theater, it offers a strong theoretical and practical focus on theater fundamentals and standard industry practices. For example, students become familiar with the evolution of the art form over time through courses that explore the history of theater and musical theater. With this foundation in place, students move through a four-semester progression of courses designed to introduce them to the variety of musical theater styles and genres.

- The program offers many opportunities for students to participate in on-campus musical theater productions. Throughout the program, students participate in three capstone projects. The summer stock presentation on the conservatory's mainstage is performed entirely by musical theater M.F.A. students. This production, which features both traditional and original works, gives students an opportunity to develop a theatrical work in an ensemble setting. Throughout the rehearsal process, students are deeply involved in textual, musical, and character development.

2. Oklahoma City University - Oklahoma City, OK

Notable Facts: 

- The Master of Music degree program is a rigorous, selective course of study for exceptional musicians who have earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music and are committed to excelling in the field.  The professional graduate programs integrate performance skills, music scholarship, pedagogy, and professionalism to prepare students for music careers in the 21st century.  Students completing this degree may pursue a doctorate, seek an entry level position at a university, teach privately or seek a career as a performer. 

- The MM in Musical Theatre is intended for students who hold a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theater or Vocal Performance degree from a NASM accredited institution and have the vocal, dramatic and academic potential to succeed in the field. The curriculum is designed to develop and refine the performance skills of our students by integrating music scholarship, pedagogy, and performance experience to prepare students for careers in performance and/or further academic scholarship.

- Musicians holding the M.M. from Oklahoma City University include performers Kristin Chenoweth, Sarah Coburn, Lara Teeter, and Roy Bean

1. NYU Steinhardt - New York, NY

Notable Facts: 

- In this master of music program, intensive workshop classes, related academic coursework, and private lessons with their renowned faculty and industry professionals will build skills in movement, speech, auditioning, and business. Students will perform in fully staged productions under the guidance of directors, choreographers, conductors, and designers from Broadway and major regional theatre communities.

- This program of study will provide students with a solid foundation of healthy vocal technique on which they can build a career in whatever area of voice performance they choose to pursue. They'll take 19 specialization credits, including private voice instruction, vocal coaching, music theatre workshops, and acting; 6 credits in core courses, including script analysis and dramaturgical process; 3 additional credits in research, aesthetic, and literature classes such as music criticism, film music, and music therapy – 4 credits of music theatre history, and 4 credits of guided electives, such as audition skills and theatre dance. 

- Students will perform a graduate recital as their terminal degree experience. In addition, they will make their New York City "debut" in their final semester when they are presented to agents, casting directors, directors, and producers in our Graduation Showcase – a revue designed to feature the work of each student and help them make their first professional contacts in the industry.