Artist Diploma

The Artist Diploma program is the most prestigious performance program offered by the USC Thornton School of Music. Total enrollment in this program is limited to four students. The program is designed for the artistic refinement of those who have already demonstrated great potential for a successful career as a solo performer. Successful applicants will have achieved an extremely high level of artistry and musical accomplishment prior to submitting an application, and must have an earned bachelor’s degree prior to enrolling in the program.

Regardless of their primary instrument, all Artist Diploma applicants (including current Thornton students) must upload an audition recording to be prescreened by the faculty. Prescreen recordings must be video recordings. No audio recordings in any format will be accepted. The results of the prescreen review will determine whether an applicant will be invited to perform a live audition on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Note: Recordings will not be accepted via mail or email for this program. Recordings must be submitted online through the “Fall SlideRoom portal” (see below) by the December 1st deadline. Please see the “Prescreen Recording” section below for repertoire requirements for this submission. Any application not complete by December 1 may be removed from consideration.

For instructions on how to access the Fall SlideRoom portal to submit your recording click HERE

Live audition

For all applicants who are approved for an audition after the prescreen review, a live audition is required. No student will be admitted to the ARTD program who has not performed a live audition. The live audition will be conducted in two rounds. Both rounds of the live audition will take place sometime between January 21 and 24, 2017. Applicants invited to the live Artist Diploma audition must plan to be available for both rounds of the live audition at any time between 9am and 10pm on these four dates. The first round of the live audition will be performed by each applicant for the faculty of his/her specific program of study (e.g., violin applicants will perform for the strings faculty, piano applicants will perform for the keyboard faculty). The faculty will determine from that first round whether to advance the applicant to the second round of the live audition. Only applicants who are advanced from the first round will perform in the second round. Applicants will be notified in person of the first round decision as soon as possible after the first round audition is completed. Any applicant not advanced to the second round will be denied admission to the Artist Diploma program. The second and final round of the live audition will be performed for a representative panel from a range of performance disciplines. This panel will make the final decision regarding admission to the Artist Diploma program. These final decisions will be issued to the applicants by mail after the auditions are completed.

Applicants are admitted for the Fall semester only. Acceptance is for the semester and year of admission only. Applicants wishing to enroll in a subsequent term will be required to re-apply.

The first round of the live audition will vary in length, based on what the faculty will request to hear at the time of the audition.

The second round of the live audition will be 90 minutes in length and will consist of the following:

  • 50 minutes for the applicant to perform a full recital program from beginning to end without stops. This full recital program will be determined by the Thornton faculty (see below).
  • 10 minute break
  • 30 minutes of open time for the audition panel to hear passages from the required audition repertoire (including concerti) that were not performed in the first 50 minutes

The recital program to be performed in the first 50 minutes of the second round of the live audition will be determined by the Thornton faculty from the material presented by the applicant on the original prescreen recording. Applicants will be notified via email one week prior to the audition date to inform them of what the Thornton faculty has decided their 50-minute audition program will include.

Applicants may request that repertoire different from what was presented on their prescreen recordings be presented at the live audition. Applicants wishing to make this request must do so in writing to by January 1. The written request must provide details of the repertoire the applicant wishes to have considered by the faculty and the requested repertoire must meet the audition repertoire requirements. Applicants who do not submit this request by the January 1 deadline will be required to perform repertoire, as approved by the faculty, that was presented for prescreen.

Prescreen recording

Only the departments listed below are accepting Artist Diploma applications. All repertoire listed below for the appropriate instrument must be included on the prescreen recording.

Classical Guitar

    1. Two solo recitals (60 minutes), both including repertoire from at least two style periods and one large-scale work written since 1920 on each program. Examples include the sonatas of Jose, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ponce, Ginastera, Brouwer, etc. Concertos by Rodrigo, Arnold, Brouwer, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and other substantial works from the 20th Century and later should also be programmed on one of the recitals.
    2. Alternatively the recitalist may prepare one solo recital using the conditions listed above and then prepare a chamber music recital as well. The chamber music recital can be music for guitar and other instruments or for guitar duo or multiple guitars. The chamber music component should also include music written since 1920 such as that by Rorem, Sydemann, Bogdanovic, etc.

Keyboard Collaborative Arts

    1. One instrumental recital program (60 minutes) representing a variety of styles (instrumentalists to be provided by the auditionee)
    2. One vocal program (60 minutes) including four styles and languages (singers to be provided by the auditionee)
    3. One solo recital program (60 minutes) performed by memory representing various styles
    4. One piano concerto performed by memory with second piano accompaniment (accompanist to be provided by the auditionee)

Keyboard Studies (Classical Piano)

    1. Two contrasting recital programs of 75 minutes each performed by memory
    2. Two contrasting complete piano concerti performed by memory with second piano accompaniment (accompanist to be provided by the auditionee)

Violin, Viola, and Cello

    1. Five complete contrasting recital works (a total of approximately 90 minutes of music), which must include the following:
      • a complete sonata or partita for violin by Bach, or a complete suite for cello by Bach
      • a standard sonata from the 19th century
      • a contemporary piece written after 1980
      • two additional works of the applicant’s choice
    2. Two complete contrasting concerti, which are in addition to the recital program listed above.

Note: All audition repertoire for violin, viola and cello, with the exception of the contemporary piece, sonatas, and other major duo works, must be performed from memory both on the pre-screen recording and at the live audition.

Double Bass

    1. Four complete recital works, which must include a complete suite by Bach
    2. One concerto
    3. Orchestral excerpts


    1. Five complete contrasting recital works
    2. One concerto

Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion

Note: All audition repertoire for Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion, with the exception of the contemporary piece and sonatas, must be performed from memory at the live audition.

  1. Three to five complete recital works, totaling at least 50 minutes of music, which must include one contemporary work written after 1920.
  2. Two full contrasting concerti or one full concerto and one other full standard work (may be a sonata, etc)