History

For more than 130 years, the USC Thornton School of Music has prepared students to excel as performers, composers, industry leaders, and educators on stages and in studios around the world. Today, the Thornton School is the oldest continually operating cultural institution in Los Angeles.

Musical study has been an integral part of the University of Southern California since its inception. In 1884, the newly founded university opened the Department of Music — the first professional school at the four-year-old college. Nearly half of USC’s first 100 graduates earned degrees in music.

As Los Angeles grew, USC grew with it. The School of Music was deeply intertwined with the city’s post–World War II cultural renaissance: Faculty and graduates constituted much of the newly formed Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the school’s growing reputation drew internationally renowned artists to the faculty — Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatagorsky and Ingolf Dahl among them. Today, the Thornton School continues to count some of the world’s foremost performers, conductors and composers in its ranks.

USC Thornton has continuously adapted to the changing landscape of musical professions, and was one of the first schools of music to introduce cutting-edge jazz, film scoring, music industry, and popular music programs. Its faculty, students and graduates continue to shape the course of music in Los Angeles and beyond.