Popular Music

Popular Music


Hailed by Rolling Stone as “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes,” the Popular Music Program at the USC Thornton School of Music is a unique music degree program for the rock, pop, R&B, folk, Latin and country artist. The program addresses the dynamic and changing landscape of the music profession, serving the needs of musicians who do not fit the traditional classical and jazz offerings that are typical in most university music programs. Current students and alumni of the program, which enrolled its first class in the fall of 2009, have received major recording contracts, won respected songwriting awards and  performed in national touring bands. The program is open to instrumentalists, vocalists and songwriters pursuing studies in contemporary pop/rock, folk-rock, R&B/Urban, Latin/Salsa and other popular styles with a concentration on small ensemble performance, live performance, studio and film scoring sessions.

Overview of the Popular Music Performance program

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Once a week, students in USC Thornton’s revolutionary Popular Music Performance program take a break from their busy rehearsal and practice schedules for Popular Music Forum – a lecture series that brings some of the biggest names in the music industry to campus to address a wide range of special topics and issues confronting the popular musician today.

This year’s guests encompassed a variety of performers, producers and songwriters, including: Graham Nash; Earth, Wind & Fire; the Beach Boys; Smokey Robinson; Sheila E.; and Randy Jackson.

“The whole idea behind the forum was to bring in professionals from all aspects of the industry to talk about what they do,” said Chris Sampson, Vice Dean of Contemporary Music. “As the students hear all of these insights into the industry, they start to make up their own mind as to how they’re going to successfully navigate it.”

Throughout the course of each class, guest speakers provide an overview of their careers in music and answer questions from students about their individual artistic process, the struggles they face as artists, and how the music industry is evolving.

“My band and I have been able to put into use so many things that we’ve learned from Pop Forum,” explained Popular Music student Malia Civetz. “You learn so much from their experience.”

To get a taste of what Pop Forum is all about, check out the above video featuring clips from Earth, Wind & Fire’s visit to USC.

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Divya Maus (BM, ’14) profiled by USA Today College

June 23, 2014


Recent alumna Divya Maus, who studied songwriting in USC Thornton’s Popular Music Program, discussed her career as a vocalist and composer in an interview with USA Today College. Maus will enroll at NYU to pursue graduate studies in musical theatre composition in the fall. “I’m going into musical theater composition now because that’s all about composing […]

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