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.

The Popular Music Program at USC is an immersion into a creative environment that stresses the musical skills required for the successful, professional 21st century musician. Classes emphasize the respect for traditions, techniques and nuances of feel and groove through the examination of the various eras and forms of popular music repertoire. Students collaborate in small performance group settings, while simultaneously addressing their particular area of interest via private lessons. Career aspects — including performance, songwriting and arranging, recording studio efficiency, music production, and entrepreneurship — are also taught.

We offer to our students the idea that the values of musical skills, artistic aesthetics and commercial sensibilities are not mutually exclusive.

Patrice Rushen
Chair, Popular Music Program

Chris Sampson
Vice Dean, Division of Contemporary Music
Founding Director, Popular Music Program

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MUNA’s “Loudspeaker” at #1 on list of 50 best songs of 2015

January 14, 2016

The band MUNA, which was formed by USC Thornton Popular Music graduate Katie Gavin (BA ’15), current student Josette Maskin (BM ’16), along with Naomi McPherson, took the top spot in ShortList’s “50 Best Songs of 2015.” The annual rundown, which highlights the publication’s favorite tracks from “big, small, old… read more

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