Choral and Sacred Music

Master of Music (MM), Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Graduate Application Deadline

December 1

Current USC Thornton Student?
Click here for additional information

Undergraduate Student?
Click here for your requirements

Graduate Application Requirements

This section is for all MM and DMA applicants including current USC students applying to the Choral and Sacred Music program. Applications are not accepted for Spring admission to this program. Note: This information applies only to Choral and Sacred Music applicants. For classical voice, please refer to the Vocal Arts page.

All applicants are required to submit two separate application forms:

  1. USC Application for Graduate Admission
  2. Thornton’s SlideRoom application form

The total application fee is $115 ($90 for the USC Graduate Application and $25 for the SlideRoom Media/Materials upload). All required materials must be received by December 1. Application materials will not be accepted via mail or email. If both required application forms are not submitted by the appropriate deadline, your application will be removed from consideration.

Note: Although the stated application deadline is December 1, graduate choral applicants are encouraged to submit all materials by November 1 in order to allow greater time for prescreen processing.

MM applicants are preferred to have had a minimum of two years of experience as the conductor of a choral ensemble, however potential MM candidates are reviewed based upon potential, and ability to apply new concepts (this can be full or part-time; church, synagogue, professional or community chorus).

DMA applicants should have a minimum of four years of experience as the conductor of a choral ensemble (this can be full or part-time; church, synagogue, professional or community chorus).

Applicants experiencing hardship or extenuating circumstances due to natural disaster or public health concerns in their local area that may affect their ability to satisfy application requirements may contact the Thornton Office of Admission at uscmusic@usc.edu to explore possible accommodations. Though we cannot guarantee that accommodations/exceptions will be possible, applicants are encouraged to contact the Admission Office as soon as possible to allow the maximum amount of time to consider the options.

Applying For

Fall Admission

Auditions Required?

Yes, 2 rounds

Questions?

Email: uscmusic@usc.edu | Phone: (213)740-8986

Complete the USC Application

Applicants must complete the USC Graduate Application and submit all other application materials required by the December 1st deadline.

USC Graduate Application Fee

The application fee for the USC Graduate application is $90. Application fee waivers are available to qualified applicants, and must be requested before submitting the USC Graduate Application. If you plan to apply for a waiver of the USC Graduate Application fee, please do so at least two weeks before the application deadline. The deadline will not be extended for applicants who fail to request a fee waiver in time. Details and instructions can be found here.

Transcripts

All transcripts are due December 1st. Please carefully read the transcript requirements below.

Scans (PDF format) of official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you have attended must be uploaded into the USC Graduate application. Official transcripts are issued by the registrar’s office of each institution. Unofficial transcripts or documents printed from an on-line student system will not be accepted. Failure to upload scans of official transcripts may significantly delay the release of a final admission decision.

Please note that official transcripts must also be submitted separately to the USC Graduate Admission office following the guidelines here.

Program Materials Section

When completing the USC Graduate application, it is important to pay special attention to the following items that you will find in the “program materials” section of the application:

  • Thornton SlideRoom portal – A link to access the Thornton SlideRoom portal will be provided in this section.
  • The Documents tab – Documents submitted in this section will not be accessible to the Thornton faculty. Thornton faculty will only be able to review documents submitted via the Thornton SlideRoom portal. In order to complete this section, you must check the box indicating that you do not wish to upload documents in this section.
  • The Questions tab – Enter your SlideRoom Confirmation number where indicated (you will receive your SlideRoom confirmation number upon submission of the SlideRoom form).
International Applicants

Click here for important additional requirements and instructions.

Complete the SlideRoom Portfolio

All applicants must complete the Thornton SlideRoom portfolio by the December 1st deadline.

All Thornton supplemental materials must be uploaded through SlideRoom, which you will access through the link provided in the “Program Materials” section of the USC Graduate Application.

SlideRoom Requirements

SlideRoom Application Portal

A link to the SlideRoom portal is located inside the USC Application for Graduate Admission, in the “Program Materials” Section.

The SlideRoom application fee is $25 (fee waivers are not available). Thornton supplemental materials will not be accepted via mail or email.

The SlideRoom form must be submitted before the USC Application for Graduate Admission (Applicants can start both forms and work on them at the same time). Once SlideRoom is submitted, you will need to enter your SlideRoom confirmation number into the “Questions” tab, also located in the “program materials” section of the USC Graduate application.

Prescreen Recorded Audition

Applicants to programs in Choral and Sacred Music must submit a video recording to be prescreened by the faculty. Only video recordings are acceptable. The results of this prescreen will determine whether an applicant will be invited to perform a live audition. Prescreen results will be sent to applicants via email in late December.

The prescreen recording should include the following:

A choral ensemble performance of a minimum of 10 minutes and a rehearsal of a minimum of 10 minutes conducted by the applicant, including choral works from several periods and styles, with at least one being a twentieth/twenty-first century composition.

Scholarly Writing Sample

Grad applicants to Choral and Sacred Music must submit a scholarly writing sample to be uploaded in the Thornton SlideRoom portal (not more than 10 pages, an excerpt from a larger paper is acceptable).

Résumé

The résumé should list musical, professional, and academic experience. It should also specifically note conducting experience. This is generally 1-2 pages in length.

Repertoire List

This list should include works studied and performed. Etudes, scale studies, arias, art songs, chamber music, solo pieces, and original compositions are all examples of what could be included in this list. This list should be divided into categories of works sung, works studied or conducted in rehearsal, and works conducted in performance.

Statement of Purpose

Graduate applicants are required to prepare a brief statement of their professional goals, as well as their purpose in applying for the Choral and/or Sacred Music program. The Statement of Purpose is typically 1-2 pages in length.

Transcripts

All transcripts are due December 1st. Please carefully read the transcript requirements below.

Scans (PDF format) of official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you have attended must be uploaded into SlideRoom. Official transcripts are issued by the registrar’s office of each institution. Unofficial transcripts or documents printed from an on-line student system will not be accepted. Failure to upload scans of official transcripts may significantly delay the release of a final admission decision.

Please note that official transcripts must also be submitted separately to the USC Graduate Admission office following the guidelines here.

Letters of Recommendation

All graduate applicants are required to submit 3 Letters of Recommendation via the SlideRoom portal.

For DMA applicants, one of these letters must be from a professor who has assessed a substantial research or analysis paper that the applicant has written.

Doctoral Introductory Video (DMA only)

A “Doctoral Introductory Video” must be submitted through SlideRoom by December 1st.

USC Thornton recognizes that DMA and PhD graduates are expected not only to be elite performers and scholarly experts in their fields, but also exceptional and versatile teachers, inspiring and innovative leaders, and consummate musicians with strong complementary skills. This is a tall order, and it necessitates a well-honed individualized academic portfolio. To this end, USC Thornton requires every Doctoral student to declare, in addition to the major field, an academic field and two elective fields, one of which may be a field outside of music. The purpose of this multidisciplinary approach is to support each student’s personal and artistic development in a way that will be well-aligned with her/his professional goals.

As a reflection of the individualized nature of the USC Thornton Doctoral programs, DMA and PhD applicants are required to submit a single-take, unedited, and preferably unrehearsed video of no more than four minutes, including a brief personal introduction, a description of professional goals, and an explanation of how pursuing a DMA or PhD at USC Thornton will support the pursuit of those goals.

Perform Audition if Invited

A live audition in Los Angeles, on the USC campus, is required for all graduate level applicants (MM and DMA) to the Choral and Sacred Music program. The results of the prescreen will determine whether an applicant will be invited to Los Angeles to perform a live audition. Notice of the results of the prescreen audition will be sent to applicants via email in late December.

Applicants who are invited to perform a live audition will receive their prescreen decision and audition appointment details in the same email, in late December. Live auditions typically occur in late January and early February. Please do not make travel plans to audition at USC Thornton until you have received confirmation of your audition appointment.

Live Audition Requirements

At the live audition, each candidate will conduct a choral ensemble on a predetermined composition and rehearse an additional selection during a 20 minute live audition.

Each applicant will also perform a solo vocal selection, for which an accompanist will be provided.

Additionally, applicants will take examinations in choral literature, sight-singing, pitch retention, harmonic function, and keyboard skills (score reading).

Graduate Academic Admission Examination (DMA only)


DMA applicants to Choral and Sacred Music must take Thornton’s Graduate Academic Admission Examination. The examination will be administered via an online platform on January 14, 2023 from 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM Pacific Standard Time. Applicants will receive materials to be reviewed in preparation for the exam about two weeks prior to the exam date. Additional details will be sent in mid-December to those applicants who are required to take the exam.

This written examination reflects the types of critical inquiry with which graduate-level courses at USC Thornton engage. The examination will be assessed by academic faculty as a measure of an applicant’s readiness for the academic rigors and multi-disciplinary structure of Thornton graduate programs. This assessment will be one of several important components considered by the faculty in order to reach a final admission decision for each applicant.

The examination will be administered in two sequential sections:

  1. Conceptual Essay: Applicants will be given an essay prompt about an issue or issues in the music profession today. Applicants will be asked to write a short essay exploring various aspects of the topic(s) introduced by the prompt, responding to specific questions and drawing on their own experience, knowledge, and opinions as appropriate.
  2. Analytical Essay: Applicants will be given a scholarly/literary text on a music-related topic. Applicants will be asked to respond in essay form to a series of analytical questions relating to the text provided. The analytical issues may concern basic music theory (possibly with reference to a short example in musical notation), music history, and/or aesthetics.

It is important to note that Thornton’s Graduate Academic Admission Examination is not an examination for which students are generally able to study or prepare. It is not designed to examine factual knowledge, but rather the ability to think analytically and express critical thought in academic language, as this is the type of work that is required for graduate-level academic courses at USC Thornton. While the content of Thornton’s Graduate Academic Admission Examination may be drawn from a wide range of scholarly sources, it may be helpful to refer to the following publications by our own faculty:

  • Barrett, Janet & Webster, Peter: The Musical Experience: Rethinking Music Teaching and Learning.
  • Brown, Bruce: W. A. Mozart: Così fan tutte (Cambridge Opera Handbook)
  • Coppola, William, Herbert, David, & Campbell, Patricia: World Music Pedagogy: Teaching World Music in Higher Education.
  • Demers, Joanna: Anatomy of Thought-Fiction: CHS Report, April 2214
  • Foster, Kenneth J: Performing Arts Presenting: From Theory to Practice
  • Garcia Corona, León: & Wiens, Kathy: Voices of the Field: Pathways in Public Ethnomusicology.
  • Gordon, Stewart: Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas: A Handbook for Performers
  • Nye, Sean: “Sprockets + Autobahn: Kraftwerk Parodies, German Electronic Music, and Retro Dreams in Amerika.” In Dreams of Germany: Musical Imaginaries from the Concert Hall to the Dance Floor. Neil Gregor and Thomas Irvine, eds.
  • Page, Tim: On Music: Views and Reviews
  • Russo, Frank, Ilari, Beatriz, & Cohen, Annabel: Routledge Companion of Interdisciplinary Research in Singing
  • Simms, Bryan: The Atonal Music of Arnold Schoenberg, 1908-1923
  • Sloan, Nate. Switched on Pop (blog with Charlie Harding). http://www.switchedonpop.com.
  • Vest, Lisa: Awangarda: Tradition and Modernity in Postwar Polish Music