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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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  • USC Thornton Symphony: Tchaikovsky's Fourth

    Carl St.Clair leads the USC Thornton Symphony in a theatrical and musical presentation of Tchaikovsky’s impassioned Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. The emotional urgency of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, is said to reflect the composer's struggles with health issues, a failed marriage, blackmail, his brother’s criminal activities, money problems, closeted homosexuality, and vicious rumors. In this performance, actors will bring Tchaikovsky's melodrama to vivid life with readings from his correspondences and program notes as the music unfolds. Presented by USC Visions and Voices; the Arts & Humanities Initiative.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • Faculty Recital: Sarah Gibson & HOCKET

    Composition faculty member Sarah Gibson presents HOCKET, a piano-duo collaboration with alumnus Thomas Kotcheff, in a program featuring two world premieres by Thornton composers. The program will feature the premiere of a new work by faculty composer Donald Crockett, music by Stephen Hartke, and more.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • USC Thornton Symphony: Dance as Music

    Drawing inspiration from dance, Sharon Lavery conducts the USC Thornton Symphony in two works originally conceived as ballet: Stravinsky's Petrushka and Ravel's Boléro.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • USC Thornton Concert Jazz Orchestra

    The USC Thornton Concert Jazz Orchestra, led by Jason Goldman, presents a tribute to singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. The performance will feature original arrangements by Jazz Studies students and singers from Thornton's Jazz and Popular Music programs.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Faculty Recital: Antoinette Perry, Michele Zukovsky, James Walker & Ben Hong

    Pianist Antoinette Perry will be joined by faculty members Michele Zukovsky, clarinet, James Walker, flute, and Ben Hong, cello, in a wide-ranging chamber music recital. The program will include Beethoven's Bagatelles, Op. 119 for piano; Mieczyslaw Weinberg's Clarinet Sonata, Op. 28; Jon Kimura Parker's Pan Dreams for flute and piano; and Brahms' Clarinet Trio, Op. 114.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Jazz Night

    Students from Thornton’s Jazz Studies department present an evening of contemporary jazz as part of an ongoing series. For parking & directions, visit: https://music.usc.edu/map/

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Chamber Music Masterclass with Arnold Steinhardt

    Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri Quartet, presents a chamber music masterclass.

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • Thornton Edge

    Donald Crockett leads the Thornton Edge new music ensemble in a program of contemporary works by distinguished British and American composers. The performance will feature Harrison Birtwistle's Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum and Breakfast Rhythms by Joan Tower.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Jazz Night featuring the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra

    Music director Bob Mintzer and the USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra headline this ongoing contemporary jazz series.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Faculty Recital: Cherry Rhodes with Ladd Thomas & Douglas Masek

    Organ Department faculty member Cherry Rhodes performs a recital at Los Angeles' iconic downtown cathedral with guest artists Ladd Thomas and Douglas Masek. The program will feature the world premiere of Fr. Joseph Walter's Chorale, Diferencias and Glosas on Puer Natus in Bethlehem, Olivier Messiaen's Combat of Life and Death, and Rayner Brown's Sonata for Organ Duet, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone and Clarinet featuring USC Thornton faculty organists Cherry Rhodes and Ladd Thomas and saxophonist/clarinetist Douglas Masek.

    Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

  • USC Thornton Wind Ensemble

    The program opens with Karel Husa's Smetana Fanfare and William Schuman's George Washington Bridge, followed by Vaughan Williams Folksong Suite, featuring a guest singer. In the second half of the program, the ensemble will perform Beethoven's Octet, Paul Dooley's Mavericks, and Hindemith's “March" from Symphonic Metamorphosis.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • Baroque Sinfonia: In stile moderno

    Rotem Gilbert leads the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia in a program of virtuosic music from seventeenth-century Italy. The concert will feature virtuosic Italian music by Claudio Monteverdi, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Barbara Strozzi, Luca Marenzio and Dario Castello, as well as a fiery Vivaldi bassoon concerto performed by Leah Kohn.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • news archive

    News

    Sean Holt

    Sean Holt contributes tips for vocal health on tour

    August 23, 2016

    Popular Music faculty member Sean Holt (MM ’91, jazz studies) was recently quoted in Reverb about his “5 Tips For Vocal Health While On Tour.” The USC Thornton alumnus and professional vocalist with 25 years of performing experience compared the physical challenges of touring as a vocalist to those faced… read more

    more news