USC Thornton Music Mentorship Program

The Music Mentorship Program is considered a cornerstone of professional development for all USC Thornton students.

Headshot of Greg Philinganes.

Greg Phillinganes


The USC Thornton Music Mentorship Program is an annual initiative designed to connect music majors with leading industry professionals. Mentorship sessions range from intensive, individual conversations to small group meetings.

USC Thornton’s music mentors consist of leading industry professionals like award-winning producer Rob Cavallo, the Roots tour manager Tina Farris, renowned choral conductor María Guinand, and celebrated keyboardist and arranger Greg Phillinganes. Mentors are paired with current USC Thornton students, helping to guide them while offering strategic career advice that spans all facets of professional music.

Headshot of Nicole Plantin

Nicole Plantin

Headshot of Willie Murillo

Willie Murillo

Headshot of Ruth Eliel

Ruth Eliel

Headshot of Rob Cavallo

Rob Cavallo

Headshot of Tina Farris

Tina Farris

Headshot of Vincent Womack

Vince Womack

Meet the Mentors

Mentors are chosen to serve because of their significant professional accomplishments and their eagerness to support students.

Current Roster

  • Jen Appel, Co-Founder & Partner of The Oriel Co (entertainment consulting, content storytelling, and 360-degree creative strategy)
  • Jongnic Bontemps, Film composer (Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and more)
  • Binta Brown, Founder of omalilly projects; former Head of Operations and Strategy at Keep Cool/RCA Records.
  • Mel Brown, Grammy winner, producer, entrepreneur
  • Ben Cadwallader, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO)
  • Rob Cavallo, Grammy-winning producer (Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and more)
  • John Ehmann, Former A&R, RCA Music Group; Interscope Records (Lana Del Rey, Carly Rae Jepsen)
  • Ruth Eliel, Arts Manager; Former Executive Director of LACO and Colburn Foundation
  • Tina Farris, Tour Manager (The Roots, Chris Rock, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah)
  • Gregg Field, Grammy Award Winner and Producer
  • Grant Gershon, Conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)
  • María Guinand, Choral Conductor
  • Suzanna Guzman, Mezzo-soprano; host of Opera at Noon and On Broadway on 105.1HD4 KMozart
  • Dorian Holley, Musician; backing singer, vocal coach (Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, & more)
  • Richard Jones, USC Thornton Board of Directors, Opera and Classical
  • Vimbayi Kaziboni, Conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic)
  • Matt Leipzig, Literary Manager and film/television Producer
  • Brooke Morrow, Executive Director, Creative Development, Writer/Publisher Relations at Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
  • Willie Murillo, Producer, trumpeter, vocalist, writer (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, The Brian Setzer Orchestra)
  • Mark Needham, Music engineer, music producer, recording engineer, sound engineer
  • Greg Phillinganes, Keyboardist and Arranger (Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Toto)
  • Nicole Plantin, Owner, Soeur Agency (entertainment consulting, A&R, creative strategy, project and talent management) 
  • Peter Rotter, Music/Studio Contractor
  • Tracy Sykes, USC alumna, USC Trustee, USC Thornton Board Member
  • Daniel Walker, President, Perfect Works, content producer for film, tv, theater, photography, digital archives and music; acclaimed historian, philanthropist and social entrepreneur
  • Chloe Walsh, Co-Founder & Partner at The Oriel Co (entertainment consulting, content storytelling, and 360-degree creative strategy)
  • Matthew Wang, Film and television composer (Shrill, Yellowjackets, Mrs. Fletcher)
  • Harley Wertheimer, A&R/partner in Zelig Records (Mark Ronson); ex VP of A&R Columbia Records
  • Benjamin Williams, Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist.
  • Vince Womack, Music Director, James A. Foshay Learning Center

Application Process

Current USC Thornton students must fill out an application to participate in the USC Thornton Music Mentorship Program, which is typically announced in the fall semester. The program is open to all undergraduate and graduate music majors, though priority is given to students who are within one year of graduation.

Enrollment in the program is selective and competitive. Prospective mentees are selected based upon the quality of responses to the prompts in the application, as well as a students’ readiness for the professional opportunity. Applications are evaluated by members of the School of Music leadership team. 

Conductor Maria Gundinard leading a performance.

María Guinand

Areal image of USC campus.

Stay Connected

Questions about the USC Thornton Music Mentorship Program can be directed to Michael Doshier, Special Assistant to the Dean, at