Top 25 US Jazz Guitar Schools

Choosing the right university program to study at can be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a jazz guitarist. With literally hundreds of programs to choose from, finding the right jazz guitar school for you can be a tough decision. That’s where this guide will help.

These 25 jazz guitar schools are the top programs in the US, with each offering different approaches to teaching and studying jazz guitar at the collegiate level.

While each program offers its own approach to teaching, one thing that they all share in common is that they provide world-class educations for each of their jazz guitar majors.

The jazz guitar schools on this list are presented in no particular order, as they all rank highly, and all offer something depending on what you’re looking for as a student.

Some programs feature large student bodies, others have a smaller number of students.

Some of these programs are in big cities, while others are in smaller communities.

No matter what you’re looking for in a program, big, small, in a metropolitan area or in a smaller city, these 25 jazz guitar schools are the best place to begin your search for a program.

Note: This list is meant to introduce you to these schools, and is not meant as an endorsement of one or any of these particular programs.

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1. Berklee College of Music

Berklee College Of Music

 

Website: www.berklee.edu
Location: Boston, MA 02215
Tuition (2015): $37,800
Acceptance Rate: 35%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teachers: Mick Goodrick, Sheryl Bailey, Tim Miller, …
Alumni: Pat Metheny (Teacher), John Abercrombie, Emily Remler, Kurt Rosenwinkel, …

Berklee is the most recognizable name in jazz guitar education, and for good reason. Founded in 1945, Berklee has consistently produced some of the biggest names in jazz guitar since it first opened its doors. With an alumni list that features John Abercrombie, Emily Remler, and Kurt Rosenwinkel, to name but a few former students, Berklee is often at the top of the list when applying for Jazz guitar colleges.

2. University of Southern California (USC)

University of Southern California

 

Website: music.usc.edu
Location: Los Angeles, CA 90089-0851
Tuition (2015): $50,210
Acceptance Rate: 19.80%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teachers: Frank Potenza, Bruce Forman, Pat Kelley, …
Alumni: Lee Ritenour, Paul Jackson Jr., Larry Koonse, …

Featuring both a traditional jazz degree, and a studio jazz guitar degree, USC has quickly set itself apart as a first choice jazz guitar college. By providing students with a dedicated Jazz guitar degree, USC has shown a commitment to giving their students a world class Jazz guitar education and experience. Alumni have gone on to perform with Michael Buble, Ray Charles, Lee Ritenour, and more.

3. University of Miami (Frost School of Music)

University of Miami

 

Website: https://jazz.frost.miami.edu/
Location: Coral Gables, FL 33124-7610
Tuition (2015): $41,580
Acceptance Rate: 40,40%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teacher: John Hart
Alumni: Pat Metheny, Bruce Hornsby, Randy Johnston, Raul Midon, …

One of the first schools to offer a jazz degree, the Frost School of Music now boasts one of the most esteemed jazz programs in the US. As well as offering undergrad and graduate degrees in jazz studies, the school is also the home to the Henry Mancini Institute and the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program. Alumni include Bruce Hornsby, Randy Johnston, Pat Metheny, and Raul Midon.

4. New York University (NYU Steinhardt)

New York University

 

Website: steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/jazz
Location: New York, NY 10003
Tuition (2015): $47,750
Acceptance Rate: 26%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teachers: Wayne Krantz, John Scofield, Peter Bernstein, …
Alumni: Wayne Shorter, …

Located in the heart of the jazz world, NYU’s students experience not only a world-class education, but also life in Greenwich Village and New York’s thriving jazz scene. With a teaching list that reads as a who’s who in the jazz guitar world, alumni include Wayne Shorter, Brad Shepik, Ron Blake, Todd Coolman, and many more top names on today’s jazz scene.

5. New School for Jazz and Contemporary Arts

New School for Jazz and Contemporary Arts

 

Website: newschool.edu/jazz/
Location: New York, NY 10011
Tuition (2015): $32,860
Acceptance Rate: 65.90%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teachers: Steve Cardenas, Vic Juris, …
Alumni: Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Avashi Cohen, Alex Skolnick, …

By focusing on the concept of teacher as mentor, and providing students with access to the world’s best jazz musicians, the New School is often a first choice college for young jazz guitarists. Located at the center of the world’s best jazz scene, students get to experience life in New York as well as a top-notch education while studying at the New School. Alumni include Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Avashi Cohen, and Alex Skolnick.

6. Purchase College (State University of New York aka SUNY)

Purchase College

 

Website: www.purchase.edu/academics/jazz-studies/index.php
Location: New York, NY 10577
Tuition (2015): $6500 (In State Undergrad) / $22000 (Out of State Graduate)
Acceptance Rate: 40%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Performers Certificate, Artist Diploma
Guitar Teacher: Vic Juris, John Abercrombie, Doug Munro
Alumni: Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Avashi Cohen, Alex Skolnick, …

If you want to experience the New York jazz scene, but not live directly in the city, then Purchase College offers the chance to study with legendary players a short hop from the heart of the jazz world. With a focus on performance and small class size, students at Purchase receive a rigorous education in a small-town atmosphere.

7. University of North Texas (UNT College of Music)

University of North Texas

 

Website: jazz.unt.edu
Location: Denton, TX 76203-5017
Tuition (2015): $8,745 (average)
Acceptance Rate: 61%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teacher: Fred Hamilton
Alumni: Tim Miller, Bruce Saunders, Jim Snidero, …

There are few schools that share the reputation as that of North Texas. With a long history of producing some of the nation’s top jazz musicians, the words North Texas are synonymous with excellence in jazz education. With a lower tuition rate compared to many of their peers, North Texas boasts a world-class program at an affordable cost to students. Alumni include Tim Miller, Bruce Saunders, Jim Snidero, and more.

8. Northern Illinois University (NIU School of Music)

Northern Illinois University

 

Website: www.niu.edu/music
Location: DeKalb, Illinois 60115
Tuition (2015): $14,426 (In State) / $23,891 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 50,90%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Fareed Haque

Located a stone’s throw from Chicago and it’s legendary jazz scene, Northern Illinois offers students the chance to study one-on-one with one of the countries top guitarist, Fareed Haque. With a jazz graduate program that has been ranked in the top-10 in the country, NIU provides undergraduate and graduate students with a top education at an affordable price range compared to many of its competitors.

9. University of Colorado Denver (UC Denver)

University of Colorado Denver

 

Website: http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/CAM/academics/programs/meis/Pages/guitarauditioninformation.aspx
Location: Denver, CO 80217-3364
Tuition (2015): $10,404 (In State) / $29,334 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 73%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teachers: Sean McGowan, Paul Musso, Bill Kopper, …

For guitarists that want to receive a well-rounded guitar education in one of America’s top cities, then Colorado at Denver is a very viable option. With a strong guitar department, featuring jazz, classical, and world-music teachers, students receive a versatile education that prepares them for the many facets of life as a modern guitarist.

10. California Jazz Conservatory

 

California Jazz Conservatory

 

Website: www.cjc.edu
Location: Berkeley, CA 94703
Tuition: cjc.edu/baccalaureate-program/general-information/tuition-supplemental-fees/
Acceptance Rate: 73%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teacher: Mimi Fox

The new kid on the block, the California Jazz Conservatory is the nation’s only independent conservatory devoted solely to jazz performance and related musical styles. With a student teacher ration of 6 to 1, CJC students receive a personalized and attention focused degree in one of the nation’s top cities. Ensembles include the Miles Davis/Wayne Shorter ensemble, Brazilian ensemble, gypsy jazz ensemble, and more.

11. New England Conservatory (NEC)

New England Conservatory

 

Website: www.necmusic.edu
Location: Boston, MA 02115
Tuition (2015): $42,600
Acceptance Rate: 28%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teacher: Brad Shepik
Alumni: Don Byron, John Medeski, Fred Hersch and Luciana Souza

One of the top music programs in the world, jazz or otherwise, NEC focuses on improvisation, building an original voice, group interaction, and small groups study in their curriculum. With an open-minded approach to jazz education, NEC students are encouraged to explore their own personality and musical voice during their education. Alumni include Don Byron, John Medeski, Fred Hersch, and Luciana Souza.

12. Eastman School of Music

Eastman School of Music

 

Website: www.esm.rochester.edu/jazz/
Location: Rochester, NY 14604
Tuition (2015): $44,580
Acceptance Rate: 36%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teacher: Bob Sneider
Alumni: Ron Carter, Maria Schneider, Jeff Beal

At the Eastman School of Music, applications will select either a performance or writing emphasis as they undertake their jazz studies at one of the nation’s top conservatoires. By maintaining a core residential faculty, and augmenting it with world-class guest artists, students will be able to work closely with their regular teachers and learn from the biggest names in the business during artist residencies. Alumni include Ron Carter, Maria Schneider, and Jeff Beal.

13. UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

UCLA

 

Website: www.schoolofmusic.ucla.edu
Location: Los Angeles, CA 90095-1616
Tuition (2015): $15,000 (In State) / $39,000 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 20%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teachers: Kenny Burrell, Wolf Marshall

At UCLA, students study a B.A. in ethnomusicology with a jazz studies concentration. While the degree is different from those offered by their peers, UCLA gives students the chance to work with the biggest name in Jazz guitar education, Kenny Burrell. Students are also able to study with one of the most legendary guitar authors and transcribers, Wolf Marshall, as they study the history, theory, and performance aspects of their degrees.

14. The Juilliard School

Juilliard

 

Website: www.juilliard.edu
Location: New York, NY 10023
Tuition (2015): $32,180
Acceptance Rate: 6.7%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Rodney Jones
Alumni: Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Christian McBride, Lage Lund, …

With only 27 students, the Juilliard Jazz department maintains the highest standards as set by the rest of the world-famous New York school. Though it’s very difficult to get in, Juilliard students who pass the rigorous audition process will receive one of the best music educational experiences the world has to offer. With a focus on performance and touring, the program is designed to give students real-world experiences as they master their jazz skills along the way. Alumni include Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Christian McBride, and Lage Lund.

15. Manhattan School of Music

Manhattan School of Music

 

Website: www.msmnyc.edu
Location: New York, NY 10027-4698
Tuition (2015): $42,000
Acceptance Rate: 34,30%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teachers: Rodney Jones, Jack Wilkins
Alumni: Chris Potter, Miguel Zenon, Stefon Harris, Jason Moran, …

One of the many first-class Jazz programs in New York City, the Manhattan School of Music gives students the chance to develop their abilities as performers, composers, arrangers and jazz educators during their time studying at the conservatory. With a wide-range of performance ensembles to choose from, and a top-notch faculty to study with, MSM has long been a first choice school for the nation’s top young jazz guitarists. Alumni include Chris Potter, Miguel Zenon, Stefon Harris, and Jason Moran.

16. University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin

 

Website: www.music.utexas.edu
Location: Austin, TX 78712-1555
Tuition (2015): $22,000 (In State) / $46,000 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 40.20%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate
Guitar Teacher: Bruce Saunders

Though not as famous as its cross-state rivals UNT, Texas at Austin aka (Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music) has been building a program in recent years that has lifted it out of the shadow of the UNT jazz giant down the road. With undergrad, graduate, and doctorate degrees, as well as a small number of students and excellent faculty, Austin has quickly become one of the top jazz and jazz guitar schools in the nation.

17. Depaul University

Depaul University

 

Website: music.depaul.edu
Location: Chicago, IL 60614
Tuition (2015): $38,600
Acceptance Rate: 69,60%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Bob Palmieri

Located in one of the nation’s most celebrated jazz scenes, DePaul gives students the chance to study with a top-level faculty and experience life on the Windy City’s jazz scene at the same time. With a well-rounded jazz curriculum, including courses in performance, lessons, theory, history, and improvisation, DePaul produces students that are ready to tackle life as a modern jazz musician.

18. Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Oberlin Conservatory of Music

 

Website: new.oberlin.edu/conservatory/
Location: Oberlin, OH 44074
Tuition (2015): $59,474
Acceptance Rate: 30%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teacher: Bobby Ferrazza

Being America’s oldest continuously running conservatory, Oberlin may not have the location that its peers in New York or Boston do, but its high-level of education and academic rigor make it a standout school on the collegiate jazz scene. Providing students a mixture of residential and visiting professors, Oberlin provides undergraduate students the chance to learn from a world-class faculty of jazz educators.

19. California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts)

California Institute of the Arts

 

Website: www.calarts.edu/
Location: Valencia, CA 91355
Tuition (2015): $41,700
Acceptance Rate: 27.70%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Larry Koonse
Alumni: Ralph Alessi, Scott Colley, Ravi Coltrane, …

Founded by the late jazz bass legend Charlie Haden, Cal Arts is widely known as one of the top jazz and improvisational volleges on the West Coast. With a focus on modern jazz, as well as grounded students in the jazz tradition, Cal Arts is a first-choice College for players looking to explore their individual voice in a jazz and modern improvisational context. Alumni include Ralph Alessi, Scott Colley, and Ravi Coltrane.

20. University of Louisville (Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program)

University of Louisville

 

Website: www.louisville.edu/music/jazz
Location: Louisville, Kentucky 40292
Tuition (2015): $10,500 (In State) / $24,800 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 71,90%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Craig Wagner

Named after one of jazz education’s most well loved teachers, the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studies Program is one of the nation’s top destinations for undergraduate and graduate level jazz students. Though he’s not as well known as some of his coastal peers, guitarist Craig Wagner is one of the top players and teachers in collegiate education today. Students looking for a top-level education outside of a big East Coast city will do well to explore Louisville’s jazz program.

21. Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green State University

 

Website: www.bgsu.edu
Location: Ohio 43403-0001
Tuition (2015): $10,600 (In State) / $17,900 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 53,40%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Chris Buzzelli (retired), Ariel Kasler

Though it may not have the big name that some of the other schools on this list do, BGSU features a strong jazz guitar program and, until 2015, one of the country’s top jazz guitar teachers in Chris Buzzelli. If you’re looking for a solid jazz education, but don’t want to live in a big city, then BGSU might just be the school you’re looking for.

22. Peabody Conservatory

Peabody Conservatory

 

Website: peabody.jhu.edu/conservatory/jazz/
Location: Baltimore, MD 21202
Tuition (2015): $42,630
Acceptance Rate: 52%
Degrees: Bachelor
Guitar Teacher: Paul Bollenback

A part of one of the nation’s top Universities, John Hopkins, Peabody provides students the chance to study with world-class teachers outside of the large, more expensive cities. With a small, selective program, Peabody holds only 18 jazz students, giving players the chance to work closely with their peers and professors as they receive their jazz education.

23. Utah State University

Utah State University

 

Website: https://music.usu.edu/area-of-study/grad-guitar
Location: Logan, UT 84322
Tuition (2015): $5450 (In State) / $17,560 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 97.80%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Corey Christiansen

While you might not associate the state of Utah with a thriving jazz program, you might be surprised to learn about the exciting educational opportunities offered to students at Utah State. Apart from the picturesque scenery, Utah State students get study with one of the country’s top jazz guitarists and educators, Corey Christiansen. A medium-sized program, Utah State might be off the beaten path, but it is a school worth checking out when looking for a top-level jazz education.

24. Indiana University (Jacobs School of Music)

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

 

Website: www.music.indiana.edu/departments/academic/jazz
Location: Bloomington, IN 47405
Tuition (2015): $10,400 (In State) / $33,700 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 72%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Dave Stryker
Alumni: Jamey Aebersold, Randy Brecker, Chris Botti, Peter Erskine, …

Consistently ranked as one of America’s top music schools, Indiana University features some of the top jazz educators in the nation. With a roster that features David Baker, Dave Stryker, Luke Gillespie, and Steve Houghton, to name a few, IU students get a chance to study with experienced performers and educators in a medium sized program. Alumni include Jamey Aebersold, Randy Brecker, Chris Botti, and Peter Erskine.

25. Rutgers University (Mason Gross School of the Arts)

Mason Gross School of the Arts

 

Website: www.masongross.rutgers.edu
Location: New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1411
Tuition (2015): $11,000 (In State) / $25,000 (Out of State)
Acceptance Rate: 21%
Degrees: Bachelor, Master
Guitar Teacher: Vic Juris
Alumni: Terence Blanchard, Terell Stafford, Kenny Davis, Adam Cruz, …

With a focus on ensemble playing, offering 16 different ensembles for 60 students, Rutgers is a viable destination for players looking to gain valuable performance experience during their formal education. As well, the faculty features some of the top names on the East Coast scene, including jazz guitar legend Vic Juris. Alumni include Terence Blanchard, Terell Stafford, Kenny Davis, and Adam Cruz.

 

Are you a student in any of these schools or another jazz school? Let us know in the comments below…

 

  • Bob says:

    Duquesne University in Pittsburgh is a terrific jazz guitar school. Mark Koch, Joe Negri, Bill Purse, and Eric Susoeff are on faculty

    • Mark T Johnson says:

      I plan to attend!

  • Will Sands says:

    Does anyone know anything about Duquesne University in Pittsburgh?

    • Mark T Johnson says:

      Great school they got a great recommendation from Jimmy Bruno

  • Wendy Williams says:

    Any feedback on the jazz program at Vanderbilt with Jerry Kimbrough?

  • William I. Taborn, Jr. says:

    I will tell you there is a lot to learn but Bowling Green State University is a great place to learn it. The university’s support of the program is awesome! The faculty members are great musicians, instructors, and people! There may be more exclusive programs but, not better programs.

  • Edwin says:

    How about San Diego state university? Bob Boss is the teacher.

  • Jim Robinson says:

    I would be interested in a list of international schools and/or workshop seminars

  • Stephen Kimani says:

    Thank you for update and going to choose one of them thanks.

  • Michael Katz says:

    Since Berklee Online has come up here: Berklee’s eminence grise Gary Burton teaches a superb online course on jazz improvisation rudiments, via Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/learn/jazz-improvisation).

    Not specifically about guitar technique, but extremely valuable for all instruments. I enrolled back when it was free, and was amazed by how concisely and clearly Burton lays out basic {chord -> scale} guidelines that other instructors can’t fully convey in reams of paper, nor in hours of classroom or online instruction.

    I can’t think of anyone who’s done more for contemporary jazz performance, or jazz guitarists, than Gary Burton. This course is his gift back to everyone who’s followed his music.

  • Mark D. Maxson says:

    As a college instructor I would encourage jazz students to look at the big picture. In a metropolitan area you will have the choice of a variety of guitar teachers, the chance to hear great jazz often, and perhaps even gig a little bit.
    Until the moment you choose a school PREPARE YOURSELF.
    The internet is an amazing resource for jazz study – so much of it completely free of charge – this was not available when I started out.
    You don’t have to be a millionaire – start with a local guy ( I had 3 lessons weekly with different teachers), check out a community college, look into scholarships.
    If jazz is you passion follow it – the journey is part of the experience.
    Mark

  • Andrew says:

    Do Berklee students still use the Modern Method by Leavitt as their foundation?

  • Lee says:

    I would love to see a list of the top Canadian Universities that teach jazz. I know the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory have excellent programs. I would love to research other schools that my kids may want to attend with out leaving the country.

    • Jeremy says:

      Lee, try Humber College – back in the day this was the best jazz school in Canada.

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