About USC Thornton

The USC Thornton School of Music prepares students for successful careers in the 21st century, drawing upon an unparalleled history of artistry and scholarship established alongside the City of Angels.


Founded in 1884, the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music prepares students for successful careers in the 21st century. Our mission is defined by the pursuit of musical excellence, collaboration, and support.

USC Thornton blends the rigors of a traditional conservatory-style education with the intellectual ambition of a leading research university, students thrive as artists, performers, educators, and professionals while taking classes in other schools at USC. They often add a double major or a minor, and learn from esteemed faculty and students beyond the musical classroom and across the university.

With our location in the heart of Los Angeles, opportunities abound and students often build careers before they graduate. We are unique among our peers in the sheer diversity of music that is taught here—from early music to popular music, orchestral performance, screen scoring, jazz, composition, music industry, and more—all at the highest levels. Scroll down to learn more about USC Thornton.

Facts & Figures

Students: 1,012

USC Thornton serves just over 1,000 students as of Fall 2022 across all degrees & departments.

Degree Completion

USC Thornton undergraduates complete their degrees 10 – 23% faster than national rates.

Faculty: 171

USC Thornton supports 86 full-time faculty & 85 part-time faculty at the school of music, as of Fall 2022.

Alumni Satisfaction

94% of recent alumni surveyed would likely enroll at USC Thornton if they could to do it again.


USC Thornton offers courses for everyone whether you are embarking on a degree, earning a graduate certificate or artist diploma, considering a minor, or rounding out your electives.

Develop your skills with a graduate or undergraduate degree in our classical, contemporary, or scholarly & research programs.

USC Doheney Library on a sunny day.

Regardless of your major or level of experience, we invite you to study and create music at USC Thornton.

Image of student holding a viola.

Designed for artists concentrating on the full-time development of their discipline, holding an undergraduate music education or its equivalent.

Join the Conversation

Attend an in-person or virtual information session with USC Thornton Office of Admissions to learn more about the application process.

Start Here. Go Anywhere.

Whether you dwell in the city or study abroad, USC and the Thornton School of Music offer resources to support your journey.

Student playing guitar outdoors on campus.

Los Angeles is home to over nine million people from more than 140 countries. USC Thornton’s location allows you to engage with this dynamic city via scholarship and practice.

USC Thornton belongs to a consortium of international schools of music and conservatories, creating global gateways for students.

Jason King

Dean, Thornton School of Music

Jason King, Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, is a multi-talented Canadian-American scholar, journalist, author, musician, performer, producer, songwriter, radio and video host and event curator. King earned his PhD in performance studies from New York University, and formerly served as chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at Tisch School of the Arts.


Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

USC Thornton recognizes that it is imperative for musicians and scholars to acknowledge systemic racism and the historical exclusion of marginalized peoples in music. Learn about the J.E.D.I. Committee and university resources committed to equity in our classrooms, concerts & communities.


USC Thornton Senior Leadership

Senior Leadership is responsible for managing institutional operations at USC Thornton through administrative units and channels. Additionally, the Faculty Council, Staff Council, and Student Council have power to make studies, reports and recommendations to the Dean and to Senior Leadership in matters pertaining to their constituencies.

USC Thornton Alumni

USC Thornton alumni consistently earn accolades for their work including GRAMMY, Tony, Grawemeyer and Pulitzer Prize Awards. No one career looks like another, and we train students for success in multiple career paths including classrooms, archives, studios, and leadership positions throughout the arts.

Featured Alumni

*denotes current faculty 

Ambrose Akinmusire (MM ’07), jazz trumpet

Piotr Anderszewski (non-degreed alum), pianist

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (BM ‘03), producer/arranger/studio musician

Alan Baer (non-degreed alum) principal tuba, New York Philharmonic

Alexander Lloyd Blake (DMA ’19), conductor/founder of Tonality

Peter Boyer (GCRT ’96), composer and orchestrator

Calder Quartet:

Benjamin Jacobson (BM ’01, MM ’07), violin

Andrew Bulbrook (BM ‘02), violin

Jonathan Moerschel (BM ’01, MM ’03), viola

Eric Byers (BM ‘03), cello

Lucinda Carver* (DMA ‘89), pianist

Billy Childs (BM ’79), composer/jazz pianist

Rozzi Crane (BM ’13), pop vocalist

Gerald Clayton (BM ’07), jazz pianist

Louis Cole (BM ‘09), jazz musician/drummer

Daedelus (Alfred Darlington) (BM ‘00), electronic DJ/producer

Sara Gazarek (BM ‘04), jazz vocalist

Grant Gershon (BM ‘85), conductor, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Rod Gilfry (BM ‘83), baritone

Renée Elise Goldsberry (MM ’97) singer/actress

Jerry Goldsmith, film composer

Ludwig Göransson (GCRT ’08), film and television composer, producer

Donald Green (BM ‘68), principal trumpet, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Mak Grgić (MM ’12, DMA ’16, GCRT ’20), classical guitarist

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet:

John Dearman (MM ‘83)

Matthew Greif (MM ’92) 

William Kanengiser* (BM ‘81, MM ‘83)

Scott Tennant* (non-degreed alum)

Lionel Hampton (non-degreed alum), jazz musician 

Ben Hong* (ASC ‘93) assistant principal cello, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Marilyn Horne (non-degreed alum), mezzo-soprano

James Horner (BM ‘74), film and television composer

Tommy Johnson (BA ’56), tuba

Vimbayi Kaziboni (BM ‘10), conductor 

Michelle Kim, assistant concertmaster, New York Philharmonic

Morten Lauridsen (BA ‘66, MA ‘68, DMA ‘74), composer, Medal of the Arts recipient

Owen Lee (BM ‘92), principal bass, Cincinnati Symphony

Ryan Lerman (BM ‘09), guitarist

Charles Lloyd (BA ‘60), jazz musician

Petar Mandich (BS ‘10), talent manager

Michael Ke Ma (MM ‘05), assistant principal bassoon, Detroit Symphony

Martha Masters (DMA ‘00), classical guitarist

Jensen McRae (BM ‘19), popular music artist

Bear McCreary (BM ‘02), film and television composer

Angela Meade (MM ’04), soprano

Erica Miller (MM ‘04, DMA ‘07), soprano


Katie Gavin (BM ’15), singer 

Josette Maskin (BM ‘16), guitar

Naomi McPherson (BM ‘15), guitar

James Newton Howard (non-degreed alum), film composer

Andrew Norman* (BM 02, MM ’04), composer

Christopher Parkening (non-degreed alum), classical guitarist

Dwight Parry (BM ‘01), principal oboe, Cincinnati Symphony

Norm Pearson (BM ‘81), principal tuba, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Cynthia Phelps (non-degreed alum), principal viola, New York Philharmonic

Gene Pokorny (BA ‘75), principal tuba, Chicago Symphony

Vicki Ray (DMA ‘88), piano chair, CalArts

Lee Ritenour (non-degreed alum), jazz guitarist/studio musician

Jessica Rivera (MM ’98), soprano

Daniel Rothmuller (non-degreed alum), associate principal cello, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Elizabeth Rowe (BM ‘96), principal flute, Boston Symphony

Patrice Rushen* (non-degreed alum), pop vocalist/pianist, musical director

Royce Saltzman (DMA ‘64), choral conductor

Gail Samuel (BA ‘89), executive director, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

Tom Scott, jazz saxophonist

Nina Shekhar (MM ’20), composer/multimedia artist

Nadia Shpachenko-Gottesman (MM ‘99, DMA ‘04), pianist

Dale Hikawa Silverman (MM ‘77), associate principal viola, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Sheryl Staples (CRT ‘89), associate concertmaster, New York Philharmonic

Michael Tilson Thomas (BM ‘67, MM ‘76), conductor, San Francisco Symphony

Sunny Yang (MM ’10, GCRT ’12), cellist, Kronos Quartet

Cody Westheimer (BM ‘01), film composer

Austin Wintory (BM ‘07), composer

Remi Wolf (BM ‘18), popular music artist

Jenny Wong (MM ’13, DMA ’17), director, San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Lorna Zemke (MM ’68, DMA ’73), music educator

USC Thornton History

As the oldest continually operating cultural institution in Los Angeles, USC Thornton celebrates over a centennial of artistry and scholarship.

Image of a woman seated in a celebratory hall.

Philanthropist and arts patron Flora Laney Thornton is the namesake of USC’s Thornton School of Music.

Black and white image of a building from the early 20th century.

The Thornton School of Music produced nearly half of USC’s first 100 graduates in 1884.

Photo of Robert Cutietta standing on a spiral staircase looking up at the camera.

Dean Cutietta’s two-decade tenure expanded USC Thornton’s definition of a music school’s purpose.

Stay Connected

Each week, we send a recap of the latest events, news and updates at the USC Thornton School of Music. From student and alumni spotlights to our “Pick of the Week,” this is a great way to stay connected with USC Thornton and the Los Angeles music scene.