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

  • Sketches of Miles: A Workshop-Performance

    The classical and jazz worlds meet when violinist Etienne Gara, pianist Patrice Rushen, bassist Edwin Livingston, and drummer/percussionist Ian Wurfl revisit pieces from Bach to Miles Davis, along with Bartok, Ravel, Debussy, Gershwin and Zawinul. Following the workshop-performance, USC Thornton dean Robert Cutietta and USC Dornsife neuroscience professor Antonio Damasio lead the musicians in a panel discussion about their process.

    USC Brain and Creativity Institute's Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall (BCI)

  • Popular Music Strings Ensemble

    Robbie Anderson leads the Popular Music Strings ensemble in an evening showcase.

    The Songwriter’s Theater

  • Latin Pop Showcase

    Popular Music students showcase their skills in a variety of exciting Latin musical styles

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • 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.

    Tommy's Place (TCC)

  • Popular Music: Second-Year Showcase

    Sean Holt leads second-year Popular Music students in an evening showcase.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • 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)


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    Scary Pockets covers Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You”

    October 13, 2017

    https://youtu.be/g_xcxu0TTvo Scary Pockets is a Los Angeles funk band that features four USC Thornton alumni. Vocalist Kenton Chen (’10, Popular Music), guitarist Ryan Lerman (’09, Studio/Jazz Guitar), drummer Ben Rose (a Dornsife grad who majored in Jazz Studies for one year), bassist Sam Wilkes (’13, Popular Music), and keyboardist Jack… read more

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