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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  • Chamber Music Festival

    Faculty member Karen Dreyfus leads an intensive two-day festival featuring chamber music masterworks performed by students from the Strings Department together with colleagues from across the Classical Performance & Composition Division. The USC Thornton Chamber Music Festival is a two-day student performance program, which includes the following events: Tuesday, Apr. 25 at 7:30 PM Wednesday, Apr. 26 at 5:00 & 7:30 PM

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Popular Music: First-Year Showcase

    Led by professors Andy Abad and Patrice Rushen, first-year Popular Music program students explore the foundations of their craft in this showcase.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Jazz Night featuring CreSCendo

    The CreSCendo Vocal Jazz Ensemble, led by Sara Gazarek, headlines this ongoing series of contemporary jazz.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Concerto Competition Finals: Keyboard Studies

    Selected student finalists from the Keyboard Studies department perform before a panel of guest adjudicators in this popular competition finale.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Baroque Sinfonia: Strike the Viol, Touch the Lute: Music of Restoration England

    The USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia performs music from the bawdy to the sublime—pleasant ditties, grand anthems, and dancing tunes—in an engaging concert featuring viols, voices, and sundry instruments. The return of Charles II and the monarchy brought a resurgence of pomp, pageantry and the salacious to Restoration England, which is expressed in music by Jenkins, Locke, Lawes, Humfrey, and Purcell. The program will feature special guest performer Jalli Lamin Kuyateh, Gambian griot and kora player. Seating is first-come, first-served, and RSVPs are not available.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Popular Music: Second-Year Showcase

    Sean Holt leads second-year Popular Music students in this showcase, focusing on stylistic nuance, groove, and ensemble technique.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Chamber Singers: Prayers and Intercessions

    The USC Thornton Chamber Singers present a program of "Prayers and Intercessions" including Debussy's Trois Chansons and Christina Whitten Thomas' Choral de Betes. The concert features the American premiere of Johann Naumann's Psalm 149, which marks the culmination of a scholarly and artistic collaboration between the Choral & Sacred Music Department, the USC Music Library and its director, Andrew Justice, and the Moravian Archives in Herrnhut, Germany.

    St. John's Episcopal Cathedral

  • Popular Music: Third-Year Showcase

    Third-year Popular Music students present original music written, arranged, and performed under the direction of professors Patrice Rushen and Richard Smith.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Concerto Competition Finals: Strings

    Always a popular event, this competition performance brings selected student finalists from the Strings department before a panel of guest adjudicators.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • news archive

    News

    Peter Erskine releases new trio album

    April 25, 2017

    Peter Erskine, jazz drummer and director of Drumset Studies at USC Thornton, recently released a new trio album, In Praise of Shadows. The trio features Erskine, bassist Damian Erskine, and pianist Vardan Ovsepian, who wrote several of the tracks. Electronic valve instrumentalist Judd Miller and cellist Artyom Manukyan are guest… read more

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