Contemporary Music

By bringing together jazz, industry, technology, popular music, studio guitar, and film scoring into a single learning environment, USC Thornton’s Division of Contemporary Music has created the foundation of a professional network for our students.

“Through interaction, collaboration, and a dynamic curriculum, students in the Contemporary Music Division have hands-on experiences designed to prepare them for careers in music. All under the direction of a truly remarkable faculty, each one dedicated to our student’s development as artists, professionals, and human beings.

USC Thornton has a long tradition of innovative programs. We were among the first in the nation to offer degrees in jazz studies, studio guitar, film scoring, and music industry. This tradition continues with the recent addition of our Popular Music program. Along with our outstanding classical and academic programs, we are one of the most distinctive and comprehensive music programs you will find in the world.


The results of this experience can be found in the success of our alumni. Current and former students are Grammy nominees, in-demand producers, established film composers, touring musicians, recording artists, and accomplished educators.

So, I invite you to come to the USC campus to visit the Division of Contemporary Music and see for yourself—meet with our staff and faculty, sit-in on a class, attend a showcase or concert. As you get to know more, I believe you’ll understand why we take enormous pride in our programs and in USC. I hope to meet you soon!”

Christopher Sampson
Vice Dean
Contemporary Music

event calendar

Upcoming events

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  • Sketches of Miles: A Workshop-Performance

    The classical and jazz worlds meet when violinist Etienne Gara, pianist Patrice Rushen, bassist Edwin Livingston, and drummer/percussionist Ian Wurfl revisit pieces from Bach to Miles Davis, along with Bartok, Ravel, Debussy, Gershwin and Zawinul. Following the workshop-performance, USC Thornton dean Robert Cutietta and USC Dornsife neuroscience professor Antonio Damasio lead the musicians in a panel discussion about their process.

    USC Brain and Creativity Institute's Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall (BCI)

  • Thomas Hooten Faculty Recital

    Thomas Hooten, USC Thornton faculty member and principal trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, presents an intimate evening of classical works.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Music@RushHour: Strings Chamber Music

    Strings students present a program featuring excerpts of Schubert’s Cello Quintet, Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor, and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet for string quartet and clarinet. Skip the traffic and enjoy a free concert of music by USC Thornton students. A free reception follows the performance.

    Ramo Recital Hall (BMH)

  • Jazz Night

    Students from Thornton's jazz programs showcase contemporary jazz works at Carson Center. Please note that, due to the closure of Ground Zero Performance Café, this event has been relocated to Carson Center (CTV).

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Vocal Forum with Nate Bachhuber

    Nate Bachhuber, the LA Phil's Artistic Administrator for Artistic Planning, takes Thornton Vocal Arts majors through a mock audition, teaching them the in's and out's of a successful audition experience.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • USC Thornton Wind Ensemble: A Night of Firsts

    H. Robert Reynolds and Sharon Lavery lead the USC Thornton Wind Ensemble in a performance that features the premieres of Frank Ticheli’s Silver Lining Concerto for Flute and Wind Ensemble with soloist James Walker, and Boyde Hood’s fanfare, Autunno Toscana. Jean Francaix’s Sept Danses, Eugene Zador’s Suite for Brass, and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski’s Music for Winds round out an extraordinary concert.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • Apollo Men's Chorus & Oriana Women's Choir: Listen!

    The USC Thornton Oriana Women’s Choir and Apollo Men’s Chorus call for the audience to “Listen!,” in a wide-ranging program featuring the music of Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Paul Rardin, David Dickau, and more.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • CollabFest@USC: Keyboard Collaborative Arts

    In the culminating event for CollabFest@USC, a day-long symposium of masterclasses and colloquia presented by the Keyboard Studies department, alumni and guest artists will perform classics from the vocal and instrumental music repertoire, including a world premiere by Alan L. Smith. Performers include pianists Joel Clifft, Mitsuko Morikawa, Elvia Puccinelli, and Lisa Sylvester along with guest artists including soprano Kathleen Roland, violinist Alex Russell, and flutist James Walker. PROGRAM: Strauss Lieder - Elvia Puccinelli, piano, Molly Fillmore, sopranoOlivier Messiaen - Thėme and Variations - Joel Clifft, piano, Alex Russell, violinAlan Smith - And With Such Boldness - Lisa Sylvester, piano, Kathleen Roland, soprano, Alex Russel, violin *World PremiereMike Mower - Deviations on the Carnival of Venice - Mitsuko Morikawa, piano, James Walker, fluteFor more information about the day-long CollabFest@USC conference event, click here.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Beethoven Was a Lesbian: A Tribute to Pauline Oliveros

    One of the foremost avant-garde composers of her generation, Pauline Oliveros (1932–2016) expanded our understanding and perception of sound. In her groundbreaking career, Oliveros consistently experimented with new musical forms, emphasizing the potential of non-hierarchal musical practices and collaboration. An influential figure in Southern California’s artistic communities during the 1970s, Oliveros’s work was inspired by and deeply committed to the women’s movement. ONE Archives, in collaboration with author, playwright/director, and poet IONE and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), will present an open set of performances, meditations, Deep Listening, screenings, and discussions in tribute to Oliveros’s extensive work in experimental and electronic music. Featuring performances across multiple spaces; archival film and video screenings; and discussions about Oliveros’s musical work, 1970s Southern California, and Latinx musical history, this immersive event will offer exciting new ways to explore Oliveros’s landmark contributions to music. The event’s title, Beethoven Was a Lesbian, comes from a 1974 collaboration between Oliveros and Alison Knowles that addressed women’s outsider status in the music world. Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative.

    ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries

  • LACO Mock Orchestral Auditions

    The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO)-Thornton Strings Mentorship Program presents the Mock Orchestral Audition, providing students with the hands-on experience of a professional orchestra audition. True to the professional process, selected USC Thornton Strings students will play orchestral excerpts behind a screen for a panel of adjudicators. At the conclusion of the audition, a special award may be given to an exceptional student at the discretion of the judges, giving them an opportunity to be mentored by a LACO principal musician and to perform as a substitute player during one week of the orchestra's 2017-18 concert season.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra: Celebrating Ella

    Bob Mintzer leads the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra in a celebration honoring Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Strings Showcase

    USC Thornton's extraordinary Strings students present an evening of solo and chamber works.

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • news archive

    News

    Thornton alumni create the Los Angeles Film Conductor’s Intensive

    October 18, 2017

    USC Thornton alumni David Newman (MM ’82, Violin) and Angel Velez (MA ’14, Music Education) have teamed to create the Los Angeles Film Conductor’s Intensive (LAFCI), a conductor training program designed for media composers. LAFCI hosts regular workshops and seminars to train artists in the nuances of conducting for film,… read more

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