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Popular Music

Overview

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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Spotlights

event calendar

Upcoming events

  • Popular Music: First-Year Showcase

    Led by professor Andy Abad and Program Chair Patrice Rushen, first-year Popular Music program students explore the foundations of their craft, culminating in exciting and true-to-form performances. Come see Popular Music students perform as part of what Rolling Stone calls “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of one of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes.”

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Popular Music: Second-Year Showcase

    Headed by faculty member Sean Holt, second-year Popular Music program students focus on stylistic nuance, groove and ensemble technique, taking their performances to the next level of artistry. Come see Popular Music students perform as part of what Rolling Stone calls “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of one of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes.”

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • PopFest

    Over 20 acts take the stage in this mini-festival featuring student bands, singer-songwriters and DJs from the Thornton Division of Contemporary Music.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Latin Pop Showcase

    Faculty member Andy Abad and students from the Popular Music Program showcase songs in the styles of Juanez, Shakira and Trio Los Pancho, among many others.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Popular Music: First-Year Showcase

    Led by professor Andy Abad and Program Chair Patrice Rushen, first-year Popular Music program students explore the foundations of their craft, culminating in exciting and true-to-form performances. Come see Popular Music students perform as part of what Rolling Stone calls “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of one of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes.”

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Popular Music: Second-Year Showcase

    Headed by faculty member Sean Holt, second-year Popular Music program students focus on stylistic nuance, groove and ensemble technique, taking their performances to the next level of artistry. Come see Popular Music students perform as part of what Rolling Stone calls “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of one of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes.”

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Popular Music: Third-Year Showcase

    Third-year Popular Music students perform in Thornton’s newest venue, Carson Center, featuring all original music written, arranged, and performed by students under the direction of program chair Patrice Rushen and faculty member Richard Smith. Come see Popular Music students perform as part of what Rolling Stone calls “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of one of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes.”

    Carson Center (CTV)


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    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

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