Keyboard Studies (Classical Piano)

Bachelor of Music (BM) or Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Master of Music (MM) or Graduate Certificate (GCRT)
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

If you are planning to apply to the Artist Diploma program please follow the audition requirements on the Artist Diploma page.

Applicants to programs in Piano must submit a pre-screen recording (an Audio only recording is allowed, but a video recording is preferred) to be reviewed by the faculty. The results of this pre-screen will determine whether an applicant will be invited to perform a live audition on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Recordings will not be accepted via mail or email for this program. Recordings must be submitted online through the “Fall DecisionDesk portal” by the December 1st deadline. Any application not complete by December 1 may be removed from consideration.

To access the Fall portal to submit your recording click on the following link:

USC Thornton Fall Portal (Available Sept 1)

Please note: Current USC Thornton students applying for a graduate program are not required to submit a prescreen recording, however they must indicate on the application that they are a current Thornton student or they will not automatically be scheduled for a live audition. Current USC students are encouraged to contact Kit Bellamy in the Thornton Admission office with any questions or concerns regarding audition scheduling.

Audition requirements

The required repertoire is the same for both the prescreen recording and the live audition. The entire pre-screen recording should be recorded in a single session as if the applicant were performing a live audition. All pieces on the recording MUST be indicated with a separate track (Students should separately index the Bach prelude and fugue, and each movement of multi-movement works).

Both the Pre-screen recording and the live audition should include the following works entirely from memory:

  • Bachelor of Arts
    • Three pieces in contrasting style
  • Bachelor of Music
    1. Baroque – a Prelude and Fugue by J. S. Bach from the Well-Tempered Clavier
    2. Classical – a complete multi-movement sonata by a classical composer, up to and including Schubert, but excluding Beethoven opus 49 and 79
    3. One piece from the Romantic, Impressionistic or Contemporary repertoire
    4. An etude
  • Master of Music and Graduate Certificate
    1. A Prelude and Fugue by J. S. Bach from the Well-Tempered Clavier
    2. A complete sonata by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, or Beethoven, excluding Beethoven opus 49 & 79
    3. A complete work of a 19th-century composer
    4. One piece or single movement by a contemporary composer
    5. An etude of virtuosity at the level of those by Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky or Ligeti
  • Doctor of Musical Arts
    • Applicants must prepare a full-length (60 minute minimum), memorized recital, which includes works from at least four contrasting style periods, including a contemporary work. In addition, pianists must present from memory an etude of virtuosity at the level of those by Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky or Ligeti. Applicants should also be prepared for sight-reading and an interview as part of their second-round, live audition. All second-round, live DMA piano auditions will be 30 minutes in length.

Additional information

  • Those applicants who pass the pre-screening round will be invited to campus for a live audition as the second round. Applicants located within 100 mile radius of USC are required to audition live in person. If an applicant who has passed the first round cannot be accommodated in a live audition (outside of the 100 mile radius), that applicant must contact the Thornton Admission office at (213) 740-8986 to request that their pre-screen video recording be considered in lieu of a live audition (Note: Audio only pre-screen recordings cannot be used as a final audition.) DMA applicants must perform a live audition.
  • All applicants should carefully note that no concerti will be accepted as audition pieces and that all audition pieces MUST be memorized. Persons failing to prepare the full audition program following the guidelines described above on both the prescreen recording AND for the live audition, will not be permitted to perform a live audition nor offered admission to the program.
  • Current USC undergraduates auditioning for the Master’s degree can use their recital or jury as the audition, however current USC Master’s students auditioning for the Doctoral degree must audition on a scheduled audition day.
  • Important notes for spring:

    • For admission to the Spring semester, all applications and supporting materials must be submitted by the October 1st deadline. Any application not complete by October 1 may be removed from consideration.
    • Applicants for spring admission are required to submit a recording for pre-screening.
    • Undergraduate applications are not accepted for Spring admission to this program unless the applicant is already enrolled at USC.
    • Current USC piano students for spring admission are not required to submit a recording for pre-screening.
    • Spring applicants will be notified via email regarding their prescreen decision.


Applicants wishing to study harpsichord should refer to the early music program requirements for information regarding entrance requirements.