Music School Central, which advises prospective music students on music schools and conservatories around the country, praised the University of Arizona's approach to collaboration that includes music school students working with dance and theater students.

"... the students and faculty at the school are excellent. Recently, percussion student Trevor Cameron Barroero performed as a guest percussionist/timpanist with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. ... Faculty member Carrol McLaughlin is considered one of the top harp professors in the country and has toured extensively as a soloist," Bill Zuckerman, founder of Music School Central and curator of the list, said in his explanation of why UA ranked so high. 

The 2017 Hidden Gems list, which seeks out lesser known music schools, follows Zuckerman's inaugural 10 best list from 2015. All of the schools this year are new to the list.

"I like to talk about the really famous well-known schools, but I also like to give a lot of credit and let students know there are more schools out there," he explained. 

Zuckerman said he has known about the UA for years, going back to his days as a music school in Michigan. The Tucson school came back on his radar recently after the $20 million donation from Alan and Daveen Fox in honor of Alan Fox's father, noted horn player Fred Fox. 

Zuckerman, whose website offers a free guide to music schools and consulting services for prospective students, also praised the UA for its location in Tucson, which he said felt like "a Western version of Ann Arbor, Ithaca, or any other cool college town."

"Tucson is a fine city with lots of night life and a lot going on," he said, adding that Tucson, like his University of Michigan Wolverines, is devoted to its sports.

Also making the Music School Central list, starting with No. 10 and going to No. 2: Baylor University School of Music in Waco, Texas; Chapman University's Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music in Orange, California; Columbia College in Chicago; Hugh Glauser School of Music at Kent State University, Ohio; St Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota; SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music in New York; Vandercook College of Music in Chicago; Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Aaron Copland School of Music at the Queens College City University of New York, New York City.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.