Are you a musical student or want music to be an active part of your college social life? These schools are great places for you to research. See the short list below and scroll down for more in-depth explanations.
1) Reed College – Portland, OR
2) Grinnell College — Grinnell, IA
3) Vassar College – Poughkeepsie, NY
4) Oberlin College & Conservatory – Oberlin, OH
5) Muhlenberg College – Allentown, PA
6) University of Texas at Austin – Austin, TX
7) University of Vermont – Burlington, VT
8) Vanderbilt University – Nashville, TN
9) New York University – New York, NY
10) Brown University – Providence, RI
At Reed College, both the artistic student community and being located in Portland, OR, where there is a strong music scene, play into the artsy social scene at the school.
“I normally go out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There are parties at Reed that I sometimes go to. I personally prefer to go out downtown and go to bars or concerts. There is a really big DIY space concert scene in Portland that is worth taking advantage of. A lot of the events are 21+ which is a hindrance for the first year of school. There are also parties on campus and off-campus because a lot of people live off-campus at Reed but in the general vicinity of campus.
Reed also organizes events that have a musical focus too.
“Reed has a lot of dances, they happen almost every weekend. I go to all of those. They aren’t dances like prom, they’re all themed. We have a Talking Heads theme party that everybody goes crazy for. I don’t go out into Portland personally, which is why the fact that the campus is separated from the city can also be good. Most of the stuff the school offers happens is on campus, and I personally like to go to that. We have dances, comedy nights, improv shows that people go really crazy for, and open mic nights. The dances are my favorite.”
At Grinnell College, the student performances and campus-run dances are very popular events for students to go to. Many students complain about the remote location in Grinnell, but also acknowledge that the remote location is part of the reason these events are so well-attended.
“The school has a building called the Harris Center and the dances that happen there are called ‘Harrises.’ There are dances throughout the year. We just had ‘Disco Harris’ and there will be other themes for the dances. There’s also another building called Gardner Lounge and there will be concerts there with local artists and student artists. Otherwise, there are off-campus parties. Those are nice, but if you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all. We have one street of off-campus houses, so it’s nice, but it’s always the same thing. The best part of nightlife is whatever you do with your small group of friends before going out.”
“There are a couple of student performances that are really good. There’s a group called Singers that has some really amazing concerts. Those are phenomenal and I love going to those. I also attend a lot of acapella concerts.”
Vassar College has a strong arts scene on campus because it attracts students who are artistically oriented. Like Grinnell, the school’s remote location in Poughkeepsie plays a role in the student performances being well-attended.
“There are always things on campus to go see and do. Tonight, I’m going to a dance showcase, yesterday I went to a choir performance for my friend, and then the night before we went to a musical that was written, directed, and produced by students. They’re good about providing entertainment on campus because there is quite a lack of it in Poughkeepsie. Vassar’s not really a party school by any means, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who want to go out all the time. Dorm room parties are a thing where like twenty people will hang out in a room.”
At Oberlin College, because the school also has a conservatory, there is a strong culture of students performing at house parties and also bringing performers to school.
“We don’t have Greek Life so we don’t have big house parties. We have a lot of people interested in music and in student bands, making the music scene really big. Pretty much every week there is a house show going on in someone’s basement or living room. It gets [rowdy], and maybe twice a year we’ll get a bigger name performer that comes to the school like Metro Boomin. It’s not going to be any crazy nightlife like the larger schools have.”
“I usually go to one of the sports houses for nightlife. The parties are definitely smaller than your normal DIII liberal arts schools, but you get to know the people so it’s nice. Coming from a small high school, anything bigger then 60 students in your graduating class is going to be fun. Nights that everyone goes out are Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The school is based on a lot of music and incorporating the student body in selecting artists to play at the school. There is a lot of live music on Wednesdays. The Conservatory is a big part of the school, so you can go to student Jazz concerts. Student Council hosts the bigger name artists that will come in.”
Muhlenberg College, although it does not have a conservatory, [about 17%] of the student population is involved in the visual or performing arts, so there is a strong culture of student performances on campus.
“Since I’m in a fraternity I normally go out at night, whether that’s to the bars since I’m 21, or a fraternity or sports party on and off-campus. We party in houses that are a block or two off-campus. On Thursday nights everyone usually goes out to the bars, while Friday and Saturday nights are usually for fraternity and sports parties. For people that don’t go out, there’s something called Muhlenberg Activities Council (MAC), which hosts events every weekend night. There are a lot of [performing arts students] here, so whether it’s acapella groups performing, a theater or dance show, bingo, or people they bring in, there are activities for people.”
The University of Texas at Austin benefits from the very strong live-music culture in Austin, Texas.
“It’s the live music capital of the world. There are lots of music festivals.”
Austin has 6th Street which is very popular with students and tourists.
“There are house parties, and sometimes I’ll go to frat parties. Not so much this year, but my freshman and sophomore year I’d sometimes go to frat parties or parties my friends throw. Sometimes we’d go downtown to 6th Street or East 6th Street and go to clubs. I went to Topgolf this weekend and I went kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. I like going to Zilker Park or Barton Springs to swim and tan. In the spring, usually a couple of my organizations throw boat parties on Lake Travis. There’s a lot to do.”
The University of Vermont similarly benefits from the strong live music scene in Burlington, VT.
“Since I’ve turned 21, I don’t really go to house parties anymore. The bar scene downtown is pretty small. Everybody sort of finds their bar or their niche and sees the same crowd every weekend. I’m really into the arts community in Burlington, there are a lot of cool DJs, rappers, and musicians. When I was a freshman I would go to concerts like every single week, whether they were large ones you paid to go to or small ones at the local music bar. I’m more into the hip-hop/house music scene, so I’m always downtown dancing. It’s such a small community where you can go out by yourself and run into a bunch of people you know.”
What is your favorite place to go dancing?
“These days I party a lot at Half Lounge because they will play more experimental electronic and house music. Sidebar is also a good place for hip-hop music and dancing.”
What is your favorite place to see live music?
“My freshman year I really liked going to Radio Bean because it’s always free and you could get in before you’re 21. Nectar’s is cool, but they have a capacity for under 21 people and you have to get there before 11.”
Vanderbilt University also benefits from a very strong music scene in Nashville, TN. There is the Broadway music scene that is very popular with students and tourists, as well as a more underground scene and small concerts around the city.
“I personally have done the whole Broadway scene, which is the typical bar scene in the city. There are also frat parties which are big for people in Greek life and even the people not in Greek life will come through to the parties, and that’s not a big deal. Those are the two main things, but I’ve also done some more of the underground coffee shop scene. I’ve been to some open-mics, and there are a lot of concerts in Nashville, so I’ve been to some underground shows and stuff. The majority of my weekends are spent doing the typical college stuff, like going to bars, clubs, or frat parties.”
New York University students are able to take advantage of everything Manhattan has to offer, so many students go to clubs to see DJs and performers, as well as many students like to see comedy and other types of performances. Also, students live in small dorms and apartments, so much of the social life happens in the city.
“Personally, I spend a lot of time just going to comedy shows or performing because that’s the scene I’m most affiliated with here. Other than that, I like to go over to my friends’ apartments and listen to music and do whatever. People have parties and have people over every now and then. There are a lot of cool independent movie theaters to go to. Museums are also good to go to during the day. I generally do stuff on Friday and Saturdays.”
“Going to a bar or a nightclub or just going out to eat with friends, which is what most NYU students do. Clubbing is a big thing since there are not that many parties at NYU. I usually go out either Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night because I don’t have class at all on Friday night. Other than that, I try not to go out too often because I have to get work done before the week starts. Sunday is just a day to wake up late and work.”
Brown University benefits from being in Providence, which has one of the more vibrant music scenes in New England, as well as having a musically-inclined student body.
“I would say that Brown has a lot of options but my preferences have changed over the course of my time here. I was definitely into the house party type scene for a while. I’m going to a lot more concerts and shows now. That type of vibe is what I enjoy on campus too. Most of the concerts I go to are off campus, Providence is great for that. There’s a lot of venues that can hold people and there’s a lot of community art so you can always find places where people are playing shows in coffee shops and stuff for pretty cheap. Also, people at Brown who study music or are into music participate in groups. Like, I have a friend that plays in a jazz group and they get together every Wednesday and play for people and it’s really casual. I also have a friend who hosts random techno shows in his basement, so stuff like that can be really fun.”