Conservatory vs. College: What's the Difference?

Conservatory vs. College: What's the Difference?

With the school year fast approaching, students are preparing for their last year of high school. Many of them are thinking about the “what’s next?” Will they be going to a more technical and engineering school like NC State, or will they be pursuing medical at Chapel Hill or Law at Duke?

If your child has been involved in theater, dance, or music, they may have developed a real talent and love for the arts. So maybe they consider teaching music by going to Appalachian State, or maybe they consider something totally different like a conservatory such as Julliard in New York. 

Could it be that a conservatory actually matches their hopes, dreams, and goals better? Let us explore more about conservatories and what makes them different from a standard college institution.


“Miss Scarlet, with a Candlestick, in the Conservatory!”

As in the popular board game Clue, as referenced above, there was a room that served as a potential location of the crime, called a conservatory. By understanding the purpose of this room in a house, it helps us understand the purpose of the type of school that we refer to as a conservatory.

Often in houses, there were sunrooms, and there were conservatories. Sunrooms served more recreational purposes, whereas the conservatory was specific for horticulture. Conservatories were the perfect place specifically for plants because they allowed sunlight in that plants needed for growth but also protected them from harsh and undesirable weather conditions.

The same happens at a Conservatory for schooling. It is a very specific place for a specific people that creates just the right climate for them to grow in the art they specialize in with little distraction that could hurt their growth.

Type of Students at Conservatories

Students who are accepted into a conservatory will have passion and drive for their specific art fields, such as music, theater, or dance. They will be top of their class academically with outstanding performance and talent in what they do. A student who arrives at a conservatory must be very competitive, or they will never make it in the cutthroat nature that is there.

Upon auditions for conservatories, the judges will look at not only your drive and talent but how you spent your time outside of school before the conservatory. Ensemble work is very important and shows an ability to work with others.

The conservatory is not for the faint of heart.

Learning at a Conservatory

College and Universities usually cover a large spectrum of topics, including a lot of extracurricular options. There tends to be a drive for a well-rounded student that does well in all educational departments but also has hobbies and interests as well.

A conservatory is less focused on providing a broad range of academics and specifically focused on a particular area of the arts. Each student will be building their talent and strengths as a musician, dancer, singer, performer, or whatever they go to a conservatory for.

If their niche is important to them, but they still want to join in on other academics as well, some conservatories offer dual degrees with partnerships with other schools. Some schools even design their conservatory degrees to allow students to complete a liberal arts education simultaneously. It all depends on what is necessary for your child to accomplish their goals.

You Don’t Choose the School

Many people choose their colleges and universities based on the curriculum of what each school has to offer. A conservatory is a little different. Though there are reputable conservatories, Juilliard being the most well-known in the United States, choosing a school based on your potential teachers is much more crucial. 

You will be building relationships with these professors, peers, and graduate community for approximately four years. These are professors and professionals you will be meeting every day and who will be your primary mentors. Finding the right conservatory means finding the right staff first.

You can find conservatories all around that may be closer to you than Julliard. Just a quick Google search will lead you in the right direction of finding a plethora of options.

Asheville Performing Arts Academy

Whether it be for an extracurricular or whether it be for preparation for a conservatory, APAA is here to help you accomplish your goals and dreams. We offer theatre, musical, and dance programs of all types. With our pre-conservatory program for grades 1 through 8 or our program for grades 6 to twelve, we are confident that we will help you build ensemble experience, grow in your talents, and build community at our academy. 

Give us a call at 828-253-4000 or visit our signup page to ask questions or get started at Asheville Performing Arts Academy in North Carolina.