Music Studies in France
This is Part One of the guide I wish I had before moving to France in 2001. The higher educational system is evolving all over Europe, but certain key features of the French system remain the same. In this segment I give a broad overview of the public school system to help you decide the right approach for your year abroad or graduate studies. I also discuss housing, piano rental, and other practical stuff.
Some of the links are out of date, just google the desired conservatory using google.fr, the French version of google.
Things to keep in mind
- The French system is not equivalent to the American system.
There are only two levels of studies: SupÃ©rieur and Perfectionnement.
The first is the rough equivalent to a Bachelor's, and can last anywhere from 2 to 4 years, depending on the school.
The second is kind of like a Master's Degree, lasting 1-2 years, except it doesn't qualify you for anything (ie teaching). It's just for bragging rights.
- Students in France generally acquire a high level of technique and polish much earlier than their American counterparts. There are thousands of French instrumentalists under 20 that have professional-level skills.
However they tend to peak early in their development.
- Instead of earning PhDs, French students generally move from Conservatory to Conservatory, amassing First Prizes (Premiers Prix) and Medailles d'Or (the same thing) before applying to specialized state schools that offer teaching degrees, the D.E. and the C.A.
- The most important thing, as everywhere, is the teacher. The best French teachers have at least two teaching jobs, which is convenient.
- The best thing the French system has to offer instrumentalists is a higher expectation of skills. Those coming to France for credentials are wasting their time.
Public Conservatories in France - (More or less in order of prestige)
Public schools in France are the cheapest and arguably the best.
- CNSM de Paris
This is the school people call the Paris Conservatory. It remains the best public school in France for music, and has the most competitive entrance exams. About ten years ago it moved into a new neighborhood as part of a kind urban development proje
- CNSM de Lyon
A close second place to the CNSM in Paris, this school was founded just 25 years ago to help alleviate the fact that not enough people were being admitted to the CNSM in Paris. Entrance exams are just as competitive, but the number of students is mu
- CNR de Paris
In each major city in France, there is a "regional" conservatory that serves as a stepping stone to the two CNSM. The acronym stands for "Conservatoire National de RÃ©gion." The one in Paris, with lots of teachers in common with the CNSM, is consid
- Other CNRs near Paris
These are within an hour's suburban train ride of Paris: Clermont-Ferrand Versailles Boulogne-Billancourt Rueil-Malmaison Aubervilliers-La Courneuve Saint-Maur Cergy-Pontoise CNRs in other cities include: Amiens, Angers, Annecy, Bayonne, BesanÃ§on
- Neighborhood or "Municipal" conservatories
There's a conservatory in each of the 20 "arrondissements," or quarters in Paris. One exception: there is one conservatory for for the first four arrondissements called the Conservatoire du Centre. These can be great resources; many teachers at the
CNR websites - "Website" is an overstatement for most of these...
This is the only complete list of CNR weblinks on the web. Finding some of these was like pulling teeth.
The only two I can't find are Lille and Bayonne...
- The Boulogne-Billancourt Conservatory
Boulogne is a suburb of Paris. This one's popular.
- The Versailles Conservatory
Versailles is a ritzy suburb of Paris. This one's also popular.
- The Rennes Conservatory
A 2 hour train ride West of Paris.
- The Clermont-Ferrand Conservatory
3 1/2 hours South of Paris by train.
- The Caen Conservatory
2 hours West of Paris, just off the breezy Normandy coast by train.
- The Besancon Conservatory
Besancon is 3 hours South-East of Paris by train, right by the Swiss border and Dijon.
- The Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory
Another suburb of Paris.
- The Aubervilliers-La Courneuve Conservatory
Another suburb of Paris.
- The Saint-Maur Conservatory
Another suburb. Scroll down to pages 24-32 for the important info.
- The Cergy-Pontoise Conservatory
The last of the CNRs in suburbs of Paris.
- The Amiens Conservatory
1 hour North of Paris by train.
- The Annecy Conservatory
4 hours from Paris to the South-East by train: near Switzerland and Italy.
- The Angers Conservatory
1 1/2 hours West by South-West of Paris by train.
- The Lyon Conservatory
Lyon is 2 1/2 hours by train South by South-East of Paris. Be careful not to confuse this one with the CNSM in Lyon (see above). This CNR has an excellent website with lots of detailed information; the menu is on the bottom.
- The Marseille Conservatory
Marseille is on the South-East coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea. Although it's far from Paris the TGV trains (high-speed train) make the trip in 3 hours.
- The Metz Conservatory
Near the German border 3 hours to the East of Paris by train. Scroll down on the site.
- The Montpellier Conservatory
Montpellier, like Marseille, is on the Southern coast of France. 3 1/2 hours from Paris on the TGV train.
- The Nantes Conservatory
Nantes is 2 hours West by South-West of Paris by train. Click on "l'Enseignement" then "professeurs" on the bottom menu for a list of the teachers.
- The Nice Conservatory
On the South-East coast of France, Nice is 6 hours on the train or 1 hour by plane (I recommend the latter: it costs the same!)
- The Perpignan Conservatory
Perignan is on the South Coast of France (Mediterranean) just off the Spanish border. For travel, it's similar to Nice (5 hours by train or one hour airplane).
- The Reims Conservatory
Reims is 2 hours North-East of Paris. It's closer than it sounds, but the train is slow. Their website is excellent.
- The Rouen Conservatory
Rouen is 1 hour North-West of Paris by train.
- The Strasbourg Conservatory
4 hours East of Paris by train, right on the German border, Strasbourg is a beautiful city and the CNR is well worth considering despite its distance from Paris. There are also one hour flights from Paris.
- The Toulouse Conservatory
Toulouse is in the South of France, about 5 hours by train or one hour by plane.
- The Tours Conservatory
Tours is 1 hour South of Paris by train. Click on "Conservatoire National de RÃ©gion" underneath the introductory paragraph for the contact info.
- The Bordeaux Conservatory
Bordeaux is 3 hours South-West of Paris by train, near some of the most beautiful beaches in France.
- The Dijon Conservatory
1 hour 40 minutes South-East of Paris by train. An ugly but functional website.
- The Grenoble Conservatory
Grenoble is 3 1/2 hours South-East of Paris by train, in between Lyon and the Italian border.
- The Limoges Conservatory
Limoges is 3 hours South of Paris by train.
- The Poitiers Conservatory
1 1/2 hours South-West of Paris by train. The website is not up yet, but they've reserved the address so it should be coming soon.
- The Toulon Conservatory
On the South-East coast of France, by Marseille: a 4 hour train ride from Paris.
- The Nancy Conservatory
Ironically, the only page with the contact info for the Conservatory is on a German website. Nancy is 2 1/2 hours by train East of Paris.
- The Douai Conservatory
To the far North of France, near the Belgian border, Douai is a 1 hour train ride from Paris (there is a direct TGV line). The website is poorly done, so click on "Culture" then click on "Le Conservatoire" on the menu running vertically on the left,
- The Chalon sur SaÃ´ne Conservatory
Another relatively new one. Chalon sur SaÃ´ne is just South of Dijon; it's a 3 hour train ride from Paris.
- The Chambery-Pays de Savoie Conservatory
Another new one that has a great website. Chambery is near Annecy in the South-East of France; 4 hours by train from Paris.
- The Saint-Etienne Conservatory
Saint-Etienne is just South-East of Lyon; it's 3 hours by train from Paris.
- The Saint Denis Conservatory (on RÃ©union Island)
Private Conservatories and other alternative ideas
- Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris
This private school founded in 1919 by the pianist Alfred Cortot as an alternative to the Paris Conservatory. His idea was to have beginners study alongside advanced students, and he insisted that all students attend one another's lessons. The tradit
- Schola Cantorum
Located in the heart of the 5th arrondissement (traditionally the students' neighborhood) on the rue Saint-Jacques, the Schola Cantorum is another alternative to the public school system in France founded over 100 years ago. Depending on your instru
- DESS Art du rÃ©cital
***Update*** This apparently has been temporarily cancelled. Stay tuned... ***Update*** This is an interesting idea for those of you who fit the following criteria - you are a singer or pianist - you have very good basic french skills - you are inte
- Lieder masterclasses at the Amsterdam Consevatory
***Update*** This apparently has been temporarily cancelled. Stay tuned... ***Update*** Under the direction of Udo Reinemann, pianists and singers study with lots of well known professionals who take turns teaching. Sounds interesting. Remember: Ams
- Lieder Masterclasses at the Metz Consevatory
Udo also does lieder/mÃ©lodie masterclasses at the Metz Conservatory. Lessons are once a month, so it's possible to commute. Note: it's geared towards singers.
Housing options in Paris - In order of best quality/cost and ending with stuff to avoid
Finding housing in Paris is notoriously difficult: you're going to need help!
A budget of 600 Euros/month is a good guideline.
If you can find a good place for less, you're set.
- CitÃ© des Arts
Boasting a spectacular location overlooking the Seine, this is a very competitive housing complex for artists (mostly visual artists and musicians). In addition to low rent (290 Euros/mo) there are rooms with pianos; sometimes grands. The rooms are u
- CitÃ© Universitaire
The CitÃ© Universitaire is basically a huge student housing complex (read dorms) across the street from one of the most beautiful parks in Paris. Downsides: it's a little isolated from central Paris, and the rooms can be small. Upsides: rent is che
- List of theme-houses at the CitÃ© Universitaire
When staying at the CitÃ© Universitaire almost everybody makes the same mistake of choosing the "House" of their country of origin by default. There are 38 houses to choose from; you can stay at almost any of them. As an American, it might be more fu
- Scholarship opportunity for artists at the American House
For Americans only: It worthwhile to stay at the American House if you get this scholarship: it includes a free sound-proof for musicians from October to June, and a couple of thousand euros cash spending money. It's pretty competitive (4/ year) but
This is my favorite search engine for appartments. You can narrow the search a variety of different ways, and they have new stuff every day. I found my current place this way... Warning: it helps to be in Paris already to use this effectively: you n
The FUSAC, a very popular free magazine in Paris for anglophones, has nothing but rip-offs! Beware: the appartments for rent are almost three times the rent they should be. Just say no to FUSAC.
- De Particulier Ã Particulier
This magazine used to be THE guide to finding appartments in Paris. It has owners renting without a middle-man agent. It used to be a savvy way to by-pass agents' fees...until the secret got out. Now it comes out every thursday morning, and people s
Piano Rental in Paris - some ideas for monthly rentals
- Hanlet Pianos
Hanlet is by far the best for pianos in France. They're pros. Take the mÃ©tro + bus to their store and pick an upright for 35-55 Euros/month (plus a one time fee for delivery; everyone charges about 300 Euros for that). If you're picky, they have a
Help me improve this by your comments...click on the orange button below...thanks for your help! -Ivan