July 20: A Message from the Dean on Fall 2021 Reopening

Dear Students of the Thornton School,

We are anticipating with great enthusiasm our return to in-person activities this Fall and look forward to personally welcoming you to campus. In preparation, we are making extensive plans in advance of the first day of classes on Monday, August 23. USC has enacted many personal and building safety measures, and the purpose of this letter is to highlight three that significantly enhance our ability to fully participate in collaborative music activities this Fall. All Thornton students, faculty, and staff will be held to these expectations, so please review them carefully.  Please note that numbers 1 and 3 are currently in place for the entire campus. Expectation number 2 is unique to Thornton.

1. Trojan Check 

USC has communicated with all students, faculty and staff to solicit full compliance with health and safety guidelines through the use of Trojan Check. Importantly, this includes the submission of proof of COVID-19 vaccination by August 1, 2021, or a request for exemption by individuals who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a sincerely held religious belief or for medical reasons.  Links to the exemption forms are set forth in Section 7 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program policy page.  Further, Trojan Check will be the gateway for campus and activity access through daily symptom checks and testing regimens for those who require it. Anyone on the University campus or in a University facility may be asked to produce their Campus Day Pass on Trojan Check at any time and may be asked to vacate if their Campus Day Pass is not available.

2. Thornton Clearance for In-Person Aerosol-Producing Activity

The Thornton School, recognizing the higher risks associated with aerosol-producing activity—including singing, wind playing and related activities—will require that all students, faculty and staff participating in or around any such activity be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Those who are fully vaccinated will be cleared for in-person aerosol-producing activity; those who are not vaccinated will be advised on possible (and probably remote) accommodations.

3. Indoor Mask Mandate

For Fall 2021, all students, faculty and staff participating in Thornton classes and activities will be required to wear masks indoors except when engaging in specifically sanctioned aerosol-producing activity (e.g. singing and wind playing). Per item 2 above, only those cleared for in-person aerosol-producing activity will be permitted to do so without masks.

Given the ubiquity of aerosol-producing activity within our music school, we expect everyone within our Thornton community to adhere to each of these three measures for the Fall 2021 semester. If you know that you will be unable to comply with one or more of these expectations, please contact Associate Dean Phillip Placenti so that we can consider an individual educational plan that accommodates your situation. This accommodation may involve substitution of courses, online delivery, or other modifications to enhance your safety and that of the Thornton community.

Our faculty and staff are working assiduously to create a safe and positive environment for our entire musical community this Fall. For those engaged in vocal, woodwind, and brass performance, it is not optimal to teach and learn while masked. At the same time, because of the aerosols produced by music-making, unmasked performers can pose a higher risk for transmission of the virus to themselves and others. We take this elevated risk very seriously because of the potential career-altering impacts that transmission of virus can have for music professionals.

It is for these reasons—in short, to protect the health of our entire community—that we are requiring that each person be fully vaccinated in order to be cleared to participate in person in any Thornton School course or activity in which voices or wind instruments are involved. To be clear, this includes individual instruction, ensembles, and use of practice and rehearsal spaces unless the performer is in a closed room alone. In addition to abiding by all municipal and USC regulations as conditions warrant and change, we have enacted these measures in recognition of the unique nature of music-making and for the safety of the Thornton community.

We hope you have all had a restful summer. We are thrilled to return to campus and make music together again, and we can’t wait to see you.


Rob Cutietta, Dean, USC Thornton School of Music
USC Thornton Restart Team – Jeffrey de Caen, Brian Head, Susan Lopez, & Phillip Placenti