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Music Studies in France

Updated on March 28, 2009

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Some of the links are out of date, just google the desired conservatory using google.fr, the French version of google.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: Supérieur 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.

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...

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.

Help me improve this by your comments...click on the orange button below...thanks for your help! -Ivan

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      mouawad-chady 4 years ago

      Hello ! Thank You for the whole information you provide here ! Do you have any idea if the Dalf test is required by all music schools in France ?

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      osman-ilgen-5 4 years ago

      Thank you for such detailed informations. Do you have any knowladge to music school accepts young, 9 years old, student. I want him to take good technique. You can watch him if you type "Pera Erdinç İlgen" to youtube.

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      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      So much good information! Pity I'm not more musical.

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      DeborahBroder 6 years ago

      @IvanCDG: Many thanks for your music listings. Can you advise me of the top 3-5 jazz programs. I do speak French, and am currently at the Eastman School of Music, an American music conservatory. Thank you.

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      killashandre 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello - I don't know if you're still looking to go to Toulouse, but I did a master's in musicology there, and the university you want is called "Toulouse 2, Le Mirail". It's the public university for arts and literature. If you are still looking to go, you may contact me at killashandre@hotmail.com, and I can give you some info about the music department, as well as a friend that I have there, who's a Brazilian guitarist and is completing a doctorate on Carlos Jobim. However, you must speak French! If you don't have a basic level of spoken and written French, they won't let you in. In fact, there's a test which you have to pass before you can apply. Let me know if you're still interested - Killa

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      Author

      IvanCDG 7 years ago

      If you have questions, please email me via my website, (www.IvanCDG.com)

      I don't read these comments regularly

      - Ivan

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      I just wanted to know, if you study a music degree in France would that mean that you would be studying French music?

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi there! my name is John and I am currently looking for a university in which I can study jazz in Toulouse or any other southern part of France, my instrument is guitar. I am particularly interested in black music i general, I've been in New Orleans as well as in Salvador, Brasil studying various rhythms. I would like to learn the jazz concept and apply it to many different genres, and I though Toulouse would be a great place to go because of its diversity. Do you know any good schools there? Are there other cities in the south I can study at? Thank you for your information and god bless. John

      My email: Gallegos_john@hotmail.com

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you so much for the information. It's really helpful. I'm planning to take piano study in Paris this year. After reading your blog, i got many explanation which i never had before. Hope you would share your experience. Keep up the good work!

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you very much for this article. I just received my bachelors degree in piano and now I am interested in studying in France. I speak some french and have travelled/lived there for short periods on 2 occasions. I am on the first step of researching this and your article was fantastic.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      What good music programs (Suzuki, Yamaha, traditional) are there in either Toulouse, Montpellier, or Avignon? Thanks, M. Brown

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      Thank you so much for your great job...Its the most helpful site for artists who want to move to Paris...

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      I would like to thank you SO MUCH for this page. I'm planning on moving to paris next fall and i'm looking now for teachers/schools and felt kind of lost until i found your page. thanks again.

      ps, do any of the sites have a list of their faculty, particularly violins? I have yet to find anything!

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      anonymous 10 years ago

      I rent Paris apt '08 for month bfore found could rent w/pft. Bldg off Bvd Raspail had pract rooms avail. This was 1961. You know,or similar? Just getting back playing - don't want stop dead for month, no pract. In future like stay Paris ltemps for remedial pft study. Help find pract room this trip?

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      anonymous 10 years ago

      I studied violin 20 years ago with my daughter when she was 10 and I would like to take it up again during my 6 month visit to France. Is there a school for beginners. I arrive March 19, 07 for 6 months and was planning to spend most of the sumer in the south