Be carefully not to get hung up on the word “conservatory”. It does often refer to “stand-alone” conservatories like Juilliard, MSM, NEC etc. These are excellent music schools but they are not the ONLY excellent schools. If you look at the bios of opera singers, you will see a wide range on schools, particularly for UG.
Universities or LACs will offer a music conservatory or school of music. Often they offer a VERY similar curriculum. The marketing people at a particular school may try to make a school of music sound different than a conservatory…but you should look closely at curriculum to determine the best fit school. I remember looking up one school that said: The conservatory at Big U’s school of music. So is it a school of music or conservatory…lol.
Vocalist are YOUNG when they enter college (particularly male vocalists). For UG, you certainly want a good school…but you don’t need to worry about your kid getting into Juilliard. You can worry about that for grad school (and even then a stand-alone conservatory is not necessary). I would recommend looking closely at the curriculum, faculty and, of course, reputation of the “music school/conservatory” at some of the public schools that are affordable. A young, male vocalist can find an excellent teacher at many schools to shepard him for UG.
So feel free to check out a few public schools that would be affordable. I highly recommend this for any students as VP is a long road…and you need to watch the money!! You really should NOT pay $50,000 or $60,000 per year for UG. That would mean no scholarship. Don’t try to buy success at a school with a fancy name…consider schools that recognize his talents with money and have a good faculty to help him grow. Those schools will most likely give the necessary attention.
There are little nuggets in the music world as well, like University of North Texas that, I believe, give in-state to all music students who are offered any scholarship. I would consider it a conservatory education. IU has a conservotory music degree and has a little lower bar for academic merit (compared to Michigan, Northwestern or USC) that may lower tuition to a more acceptable amount. However if he has high academic stats, a university with a conservatory/SOM may be the right choice bc he will get money for those good grades (while conservatories may or may not consider academics in their scholarships). Still, as @vistajay says, try a few conservatories too. You never know.
And…check out some LACs too. They can be generous as well. Look at Lawrence, Oberlin and maybe local schools in your area like St. Olaf.
I think if you spread out your search, you will find excellent schools that can be affordable. If you stay strictly with stand-alone conservatories…that could be risky from a financial standpoint for a vocalist.
And how much money should you expect to pay!!! At an LAC or Big U…it’s dangerous to say…but I would guess that you will still pay about half the bill (tuition and R&B) with good talent and good grades. Of course your in-state public may be different and give you a lower price depending on their policies. As for very high acadamics (and high talent) you could get free tuition at some schools…but academics must be VERY high. For a conservatory, I wouldn’t be surprised by no scholarship or maybe $10,000…or half tuition for high talent. Note that I’m talking about a Vocalist…not a pianist who had been playing since 3 or 5 years old. Vocalists start late…so I haven’t seen the big pops for them for UG. Of course, there can always be exceptions for all these types of schools…but I’m giving a “general” rule, in my OPINION…so don’t take this as fact…simply some information to add to all your research.