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Thornton Alumni Association


The USC Thornton School of Music is proud to share the milestone moments of our outstanding alumni. These achievements represent only a small sampling of the many accomplishments of our alumni across the world.

The list below includes those milestones submitted since January 2013. Previous milestones can be accessed in the archive.

To submit your own alumni milestone, email

Milestones Archive


Lee Allen MM ’08, DMA ’12, Trombone Performance
Lee was just appointed the new professor of trombone at Oberlin Conservatory.

Donnie Bell ’11, Music
Donnie released his latest work Egg Water on May 28, 2013. Earlier, Donnie released his latest work Climb Aboard Longhorn on February 5, 2013.

Eric Guinivan MM ’08, DMA ’11, Compostion
Eric’s Los Angeles Percussion Quartet was nominated in three categories for their album Rupa-Khanda: “Producer of the Year, Classical,” “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance,” and “Best Surround Sound Album” during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.  Recorded at Skywalker Ranch by Sono Luminous, the recording consists of new music from Guinivan, percussion faculty Joseph Pereira, alumnus Jeffrey Holmes MM ’01, composition, and Sean Heim.  The ensemble includes Guinivan and alumnus Nick Terry DMA ’11, percussion performance.

Maggie Hasspacher MM ’11, Double Bass Performance
Maggie performed live and was interviewed on National Public Radio’s local Miami station (WLRN 91.3) on Michael Stock’s Folk and Acoustic Show. Listen to an excerpt from her interview and performance here. She is also a visiting artist at the O, Miami Poetry Festival and appears on Miami’s Channel 2 News in promotion for the upcoming festival.

David Holben DMA ’11, Tuba Performance
David commissioned 4 pieces for the tuba/euphonium community via a consortium of the nation’s finest performers and teachers. Three of the four composers are affiliated with USC: Eric Guinivan MM ’08, DMA ’11, composition, Brian Kehlenbach DMA ’91, composition, and current DMA candidate Laura Kramer. Brian has collaborated on a previous consortium project commission last year. While Laura’s piece has yet to be completed, David will be performing another piece he commissioned from her entitled Sleuth for tuba and piano as well as the world premiere of Guinivan’s Push for tuba and piano, and Kehlenbach’s Due Pezzi Perpetua for tuba trio at the Southwest Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference (SWRTEC) at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California on Saturday May 4 at 11 am.

Scott Hoying, Popular Music Performance
Scott and his a capella group Pentatonix went on to win Season 3 of The Sing Off and has taken the world of a capella by storm, releasing an EP, touring the country and producing a number of hit cover songs on YouTube. Their 2013 tour kicked off Thursday, January 24 with a concert at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood. After making its way through the rest of California, the group will be back performing in Southern California at the House of Blues in Anaheim on January 30.

Vimbayi Kaziboni ’10, Percussion Performance
Vimbayi was selected for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award and will spend a year in Uzbekistan.

Lesley Leighton MM ’91, Vocal Arts, DMA ’12, Choral Music
Lesley directs the New West Symphony Chorus in Visions of America – A Celebration of Democracy from January 25 to January 27 with Thornton piano faculty Norman Krieger, who is a New West Symphony debut artist. For more information, click here.

Gina Luciani MM ’13, Flute Performance
Gina was interviewed recently as a featured artist with Miyazawa Flutes. An active freelance musician, Luciani has performed with a diverse array of artists, from the Golden State Pops to famed hip hop icons the Wu Tang Clan. Read the full interview here.

Oscar Navarro GCRT ’10, Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television
Oscar had his symphonic poem Noah’s Ark performed in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall on May 7 for the first time in the United Kingdom.

Pablo Ortiz de Urbina ’11, French Horn Performance
Pablo appeared on Spanish National Radio on April 3 with his London-based quintet Cataleya.

Steve Pandis ’05, Jazz Studies, MAT ’10, Music Education
Steve has just completed a 22-date nationwide tour with the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s annual Christmas Extravaganza as the bassist for the opening band Totsy.

John Piscitello GCRT ’12, Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television
John composed the score for No Place on Earth, a film distributed by Magnolia Pictures, opening in theaters April 5, 2013 and premiering in Los Angeles on April 12, 2013.

Alexander Singer DMA ’12, Percussion Performance
Alexander has been appointed the first Assistant Professor of Percussion at Soochow University in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China. A brand new music school, the university’s academic year will begin in August 2013.

Carrie St. Louis ’12, Vocal Arts Performance
Carrie is the lead in “Rock of Ages,” the new big house musical at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The original creative team from the long-running Broadway, London and Australia productions also directed this production. The showed opened for preview in December 2012 and had its official opening night on January 5, 2013. For more information, click here.

Dale Trumbore MM ’11, Composition
Dale has had a work for SATB chorus and piano, The Whole Sea in Motion, published by Dale Warland ’65, music, and his choral series with G. Schirmer. The published work was written for and premiered by the USC Chamber Singers, directed by Thornton Choral and Sacred Music Department Chair Jo-Michael Scheibe DMA ’85, choral music, in 2011. The Whole Sea in Motion was later included in a Chorus America / American Composers Forum reading session conducted by Dale Warland in June 2012 and selected by Warland for inclusion in this series.

Daniel Weidlein ’12, Jazz Studies
Daniel wrote the music and lyrics for the USC all-male a cappella group Trojan Men’s new song, “Trojans for Life.”

Sunny Jungin Yang MM ’10, Violoncello Performance, GCRT ’12, Music Performance
Sunny joins San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet and will become the fifth cellist in the quartet’s 40-year history.


Jessica Cambio MM ’06, Vocal Arts Performance
Jessica performed at the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Center in Moscow, Russia. She also gave a performance at the Vatican’s Gemelli Hospital in Rome. On December 26, 2012, she was the soprano soloist in the Bach Magnificat in the Modena Cathedral. This April, she will travel to New York to cover the role of Giselda in Verdi’s I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata with the Opera Orchestra of New York under the direction of Eve Queler at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.

Christian Campos MM ’07, DMA student, Choral Music
Christian leads the Horizon Chamber Choir & Players at the Long Beach Bach Festival on April 6, 2013, which features more than a dozen current students and alums, including Kelley O’Connor ’02, vocal arts performance. Thornton early music faculty Rotem Gilbert joins O’Connor and Campos for the final work on the program. The Festival is produced by the Long Beach Camerata Singers and their conductor Rob Istad DMA ’06, choral music.

Kyle Crane, Music Performance, Brian Green ’07, Studio Guitar Performance and Bill Zimmerman ’08, Jazz Studies
Kyle, Brian and Bill performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno with Crystal Bowersox on Monday, March 25, 2013.

Ebony Rae Cunningham ’06, Vocal Arts Performance
Ebony launched her songwriting and production company, Curbside Vision, which includes Sony music producer Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer; vocal expert and muse coach Dr. Miluna Fausch and songwriter and Broadway performer Raymond “Ray Ray” Patterson. Curbside Vision’s latest song, “Uncommitted” recorded by Korean pop superstar Xia Junsu of Korean boy band JYJ recently held the #1 spot on music charts throughout Asia and South America.

Nové Deypalan MM ’09, Choral Music
Nové won first place in the 10th International Conductors Workshop and Competition in Macon, Georgia on January 18-21, 2013. This is Deypalan’s second time winning the competition.

Ross Garren ’08, Composition
Ross will have the world premiere of his piece, “Auroras at Sea,” performed by the Midnight Winds, which features Amy Tatum MM ’05, Flute Performance, Jennifer Johnson MM ’08, Oboe Performance, Andrew Leonard MM ’05, Clarinet Performance, Maciej Flis GCRT ’05, Bassoon Performance, and Allen Fogle, MM student, French Horn Performance. The piece will be performed on January 13 at the Pacific Unitarian Church in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Ross will then play harmonica solo, accompanied by the Midnight Winds, in the premiere of his second piece, “Mary’s Song.”

Christine Gengaro Ph.D. ’05, Musicology
Christine recently published Listening to Stanley Kubrick: the Music in His Films.

Gabriel Golden MM ’09, Double Bass Performance, GCRT ’10, Music Performance
Gabriel is mentoring cello students of the new Santa Monica Youth Orchestra (SMYO), which held its first holiday concert in December 16, 2012. For more information, click here.

Brian Hargrove ’09, Music Industry
Brian earned a merit award from the Boston Metro Opera (BMO) for his song cycle Two Musings from “The Art of Infinity” for violin, violoncello, piano and baritone voice from the company’s international composers’ competition. The work features text by fellow Thornton alumnus Amitabha Chakrabarti MM ’10, vocal arts performance, and will be receiving its east coast premiere as part of BMO’s regular concert season. In October 2012, he performed with The RH Factor (led by Grammy award winning jazz artist Roy Hargrove) at one of the largest jazz festivals in China, the JZ Festival in Shanghai and will be returning to East Asia at the end of February for a three day residency at Blue Note Tokyo. He was also invited to the inaugural YoungArts Los Angeles event at the LA Theatre Center (LATC) to lead a masterclass in composition and improvisation for a select group of high school students.

Benjamin Jacobson MM ’07, Violin Performance, Jonathan Moerschel ’01, MM ’03, Viola Performance, and Eric Byers ’03, Violoncello Performance
The Calder Quartet performed at a Jacaranda-produced concert celebrating the music of Hungarian composer and conductor Peter Eötvös. They also performed at Northwestern University’s Winter Chamber Music Festival. In March, the quartet will perform with Iva Bittová at the Adelaide Festival in Australia. This spring, they will begin their residency at the LA Philharmonic’s composer fellowship program where four high school composers will work with the quartet throughout the fall and write a string quartet exclusively for the Calder Quartet.

The Calder Quartet performed at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis on Saturday, February 2 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 3 at 2:00 p.m. For more information, click here.

Jennifer Jolley ’03, Composition
Jennifer is one of six composers invited by Chicago’s Baroque Band to create new and original works drawing inspiration from the Bach Brandenburg concerti. Her new work entitled Speilzeug Straßenbahn (Toy Trolley) will receive its world premiere on Saturday, February 23 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and will be performed alongside Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, the piece from which Jennifer draws her inspiration.

Rong-Huey Liu DMA ’00, Oboe Performance
Rong-Huey will be the concerto soloist performing John Corigliano Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra with the Riverside County Philharmonic on January 19, 2013. She also recently won the principal oboe position for both the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and the Reno Chamber Orchestra.

Julie Makerov MM ’01, Vocal Arts Performance
Julie made her LA Opera debut as the lead role of Senta in Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the LA Opera’s Music Center. She is expected to be back in the role of Senta for the next performance of “The Flying Dutchman,” scheduled for March 17, 2013.

Angela Meade MM ’04, Vocal Arts Performance
Angela returns to Washington’s Kennedy Center following her sold-out recital debut last November to headline her first fully-staged Norma in a new Washington National Opera production from Anne Bogart from March 9 to March 24.

Dino Meneghin ’00, Studio Guitar Performance
Dino composed music for “Teen Wolf” and was recently interviewed by MTV. To read the full interview, click here.

Andrew Norman ’02, Piano Performance, MM ’04, Composition
Andrew was commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) to compose Music in Circles III. Andrew is currently the composer-in-residence with LACO.

Kelley O’Connor ’02, Vocal Arts Performance
Kelley played Mary in Peter Sellars’ staging of John Adams’ “The Gospel According to the Other Mary” on Sunday, March 10, 2013 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Derek Kealii Polischuk ’01, MM ’04, DMA ’06, Piano Performance
Derek was awarded the Teacher-Scholar Award from Michigan State University. The Teacher-Scholar Award is awarded to only six members of the tenure system faculty who early in their careers have earned the respect of students and colleagues for their devotion to and skill in teaching as well as their field-leading scholarship. Derek’s CD of Impromptus by Franz Schubert and Thomas Osborne DMA ’06, Composition, will be released on Blue Griffin Records this spring.

Michael Powers MM ’05, Conducting
Conducting Faculty member Michael Powers was invited to conduct the 2013 Solano County Band Director Association (SCBDA) Honor Band on January 13. He worked with 105 talented high school students selected from 10 participating Solano County high schools. His program included “Amazing Grace” by faculty composer Frank Ticheli as well as concert classics of Sousa, William Schuman, Malcom Arnold and Johan Strauss, Jr. In the coming month of February, Michael will be the guest conductor of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) 2013 Honor Band. The band consists of 85 students selected from 12 participating schools. The program will feature works by Tchesnokov, Sousa, Jennifer Higdon, Holst and Stravinsky.

Jonathan Sadoff ’06, Humanities (Music)
Jonathan scored the entire soundtrack of “Beautiful Creatures” with two other members of the alternative rock band Thenewno2.

Tali Tadmor MM ’07, DMA ’09, Keyboard Collaborative Arts
Tali is currently serving as Assistant Conductor to Placido Domingo on LA Opera’s production of Dulce Rosa, an original opera by composer Lee Holdridge and librettist Richard Sparks. Opera performances will take place at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, as part of LA Opera’s groundbreaking series, Off Grand, and will run through mid-June.

Jeff Toyne GCRT ’01, Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television
Jeff scored Direct TV’s original series Rogue.

Austin Wintory ’07, Composition
Austin was nominated for “Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media” for Journey during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards. For more information, click here.

Grace Xia Zhao ’03, MM ’06, DMA ’08, Piano Performance
Grace coordinated the University of La Verne’s first Piano Festival, featuring other master pianists and music educators from ULV, Cal Poly Pomona, Chapman University, Pomona College and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in a week of musically diverse concerts in March. She currently serves as the University of La Verne’s pianist-in-residence, director of keyboard studies and a piano professor.


Peter Boyer GCRT ’96, Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television
Peter will have the world premiere of his piece Symphony No. 1 performed by the Pasadena Symphony on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California.

Christopher Lennertz ’95, Composition (Film Scoring)
Christopher recently opened Sonic Fuel Studios, which is designed specifically for film, TV and video game composers. To read more, click here.

Peter Loewen MM ’90, Double Bass Performance, Ph.D. ’00, Music (Historical Musicology)
Peter has been appointed as Assistant Professor of Musicology at The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Roger Myers ’90, MM ’92, Viola Performance
Roger released Fantasy and Farewell: Music for Viola and Orchestra on April 2, 2013 with the London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Michael Francis.

Greg Reitan Trio
Greg Reitan ’96, composition (film scoring), Jack Daro ’93, MM ’99, jazz studies, and Dean Koba MM ’93, jazz studies, held a concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) on Friday, May 10. They will also be performing at the Blue Whale on Wednesday, June 12.

Young Riddle ’85, DMA ’99, Composition
Young taught at USC for a decade before founding The Nimbus Ensemble, an adventurous chamber orchestra heralded as “a notable contribution to musical life here” by the Los Angeles Times. He will conduct violinist Rebekka Hartmann with pianist Mark Robson and The Nimbus Ensemble in Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto on February 2 at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church.

Robert Thies ’93, MM ’95, Piano Performance
Robert was just appointed the Director of Chamber Music Program for the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France. After releasing his critically acclaimed album Blue Landscapes this past December, Robert also just composed and recorded his first crossover album with flutist Damjan Krajacic, bassist Michael Valerio, and drummer Steve Schaeffer.

Robert joined the faculty of the Colburn School of Performing Arts. He also released his first CD of original music titled, “Blue Landscapes,” which was a collaboration with Croatian flutist Damjan Krajacic.


Bill Alves MM ’87, Composition
Bill released his newest CD Mystic Canyon: Music for Violin and Gamelan with MicroFest Records. He is currently Professor of Music at the Claremont Colleges, where he also directs the American Gamelan.

Ruth Golden MM ’80, Vocal Arts Performance
Ruth is finishing her 18th year as Professor of Music and Director of Vocal Studies at LIU Post, located on Long Island’s North Shore. Ruth has also served on the faculty of the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) for 8 years and as Guest Instructor for 2 seasons at Bard College Conservatory in Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts Program. In addition, Ruth has presented master classes for Chautauqua Summer Institute, Oberlin in Italy, and the Glimmerglass Opera program for Young American Artists.

Guy Jansen DMA ’84, Choral Music
Guy was recently honored with an award from Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II for services to music. In July of 2012, Guy was invited to represent his country as a master class leader and jury member at the IFCM World Choral Summit in Beijing, China.

Peter Kairoff MM ’80, DMA ’85, Piano Performance
Peter recently published his 4th CD recording with Albany Records and has another CD published on Centaur Records. Professor of Music at Wake Forest University, he also continues to serve as Director of their study-center in Venice, Italy. Peter was recently named a “Steinway Artist,” joining the ranks of the most accomplished and discriminating pianists in the world.

Tina Lo ’83, Classical Guitar Performance
Tina will perform on February 26, 2013 in “The Britten 100 Project,” part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival 2013. Besides playing Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland op. 70, she will be performing with British tenor Nathan Vale to perform Britten’s Songs from the Chinese. The performance will take place at the Nan Lian Garden of the Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong. For more information, click here.

Vince Mendoza MM ’85, Composition
Jazz Studies faculty Vince Mendoza received a “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” nomination for his work on Al Jarreau and The Metropole Orkest’s Spain (I Can Recall) during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Dee Dee Paakkari ’80, Music
Dee Dee received the 2013 GRAMMY Signature Schools Enterprise Award from the GRAMMY Foundation on May 4, 2013 for her work as director of the symphony orchestra and popular music department at John Marshall High School in the Los Feliz/Silverlake area of Los Angeles. John Marshall High is the only Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high school and one of ten in the country to be recognized this year by the Foundation. The GRAMMY Signature Schools program recognizes top public high schools in the United States that are making an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year and “recognizing excellence in schools across the United States whose music programs have a positive impact on the lives of their students.”


Harold Daugherty MM ’67, DMA ’76, Church Music
Dr. Daugherty directs the Chancel Choir of La Canada Congregational Church in “An Afternoon with Franz Schubert” on Sunday, May 19 at 4 pm in the church sanctuary. The free concert will feature Schubert’s Lieder, movements from the Trout Quintet, and the Mass in G, accompanied by strings and organ.

Daniel Robbins MM ’76, Composition
Daniel appeared with the Rapides Symphony Orchestra in Alexandria, Louisiana as a guest lecturer in September 2012. His presentation “The Art of Film Music” illustrated how music influences films. The lecture was followed by the Rapides Symphony Orchestra concert “A Night at the Movies” and featured Daniel’s suite from the Rozsa Academy Award winning score to Ben Hur. Daniel was also engaged by Intrada Records to write program notes for Rozsa’s music from The Red House. The CD was released in October 2012.

Michael Tilson Thomas ’67, Piano Performance, MM ’76, Conducting
San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas won “Best Orchestral Performance” for the Symphony’s album Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride in A Fast Machine during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.


Christopher Parkening, Classical Guitar Performance
Christopher serves as Honorary Chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee for the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society’s Commemorative Dinner on June 9, 2013. He will also lead a special master class at the Music Program in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts of St. Louis University.

Milestones Archive