Popular Music students take center stage at tuneful celebration of writer T.C. Boyle

In celebration of his latest, music-inspired novel, author T.C. Boyle was honored with an evening of live music. (Photo/Jamieson Fry)

USC Dornsife Writer-in-Residence and Distinguished Professor of English, T.C. Boyle draws inspiration from a host of creative sources – from the music he listens to and the words that he hears, to his everyday lived experiences as a novelist, short story writer and contemporary artist.

For his latest novel, The Harder They Come (HarperCollins), the New York Times bestselling author paired readings from the book with six songs that were “central to his creative process” in a live presentation on March 3rd at USC’s Doheny Memorial Library.

(Photo/courtesy USC Dornsife)

Vice Dean for Contemporary Music Chris Sampson performing the blues standard “Hellbound on My Trail” (Photo/courtesy USC Dornsife)


Working in conjunction with the USC Thornton School of Music’s Popular Music Program, David St. John, professor and chair of English at USC Dornsife, conceived of the “jukebox” format, which “weaves together readings by celebrated writers,” like Boyle, with their favorite musical selections.

To celebrate Boyle’s release, fourteen talented students – led by Popular Music Program founder and Vice Dean of Contemporary Music, Chris Sampson – performed six songs, ranging from Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

In this video of the event, Katie Skene (BM ’15), Chase Baldocchi (BM ’14) and Ren Martinez (BM ’15) can be seen performing, followed by Sampson’s rendition of “Hellhound on My Trail” by Robert Johnson.

Video by Matt Meindl (Courtesy/USC Dornsife)

Dani Ashjian (BM ’15) and Tre Ulseth (musical studies minor) performed the Talking Heads classic, “Psycho Killer,” while Josette Maskin (BM ’16), Katie Gavin (BM ’16) and Naomi McPherson, who perform in the band MUNA, belted out the Nirvana single.

Tyler Mann (BM ’15), Michael Aaron (BM ’17), Michael Groome (BM ’15), Jimmy Villaflor (BM ’15) and Jake Noveck (BM ’16) also performed in the celebration of Boyle’s work.

The Department of English plans to continue the “Reading + Music” series into the Fall of 2015.