Popular Music

Bachelor of Music (BM)

Application Deadline for Current USC Students

December 1

Not a Current USC Student?
Click here for your requirements

Undergraduate Application Requirements for Current USC Students

This section is for current USC students applying to the Bachelor of Music (BM) Popular Music program, including current Thornton students wishing to add or switch their major. All required materials for fall admission must be submitted by December 1. Applications are not accepted for Spring admission to this program.

The total application fee is $25 for the Thornton Portfolio in SlideRoom. Recordings/materials must be submitted online through the SlideRoom Portfolio by the December 1 deadline and will not be accepted via mail or email for any program. We cannot guarantee the review of any material received after December 1. Any application not complete by December 1 may be removed from consideration.

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 SlideRoom Portfolio

Applicants must complete the USC Thornton Portfolio for Current USC Students via SlideRoom. Applicants are only permitted to select one program through the SlideRoom application. Applicants who would like to be considered for admission to a second Thornton program must contact Brittany Jimenez at seits@usc.edu prior to the application deadline to receive instructions on how to submit a second SlideRoom application.

To access the Current USC Student SlideRoom portal to submit your application click here.

Important Note: Once in SlideRoom, make sure to select the form titled “FOR CURRENT USC STUDENTS ONLY” and the appropriate term (spring or fall). All other forms will require you to have a Common Application and current USC students do not need to complete the Common Application.

Applicants will be asked to provide the following materials in the SlideRoom portfolio:

SlideRoom Requirements

Prescreen Recorded Audition

Applicants to the Popular Music program 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.

The prescreen video recording should contain performances of three to five selections. Selections may be original songs or chosen from existing popular music repertoire from contemporary pop/rock, folk rock, R&B/Urban, country, Latin/Salsa/Samba, or from the “Great American Songbook” tradition. Songwriters, guitarists, drummers and wind applicants see below for additional prescreen requirements.

The prescreen video recording should best demonstrate the applicant’s performance, artistic and creative abilities. Videos do not need to be highly produced and should accurately represent the candidate’s abilities – avoid using studio effects such as AutoTune.

The prescreen video recording performances may be self-accompanied, accompanied by other musician(s) or by a band (as long as the applicant is prominently featured). Pre-recorded accompaniment is acceptable. A capella vocal performances are discouraged.

The Popular Music program will consider applicants auditioning on most instruments found in the popular music world. Applicants playing instruments considered unusual or playing in musical styles not specifically indicated on this website may contact the USC Thornton Admission office to determine suitability for the program and audition requirements.

Songwriters, guitarists, drummers and wind applicants see below for additional prescreen requirements:

Guitarists must also include a one-minute verbal introduction in the prescreening video, providing answers to the following questions:

  • What are your goals and aspirations in pursuing a career in music?
  • What do you expect to gain from and contribute to the Popular Music Guitar program?

Songwriters must submit all original materials on the prescreen recording. Typed lyric sheets should also be included for all original songs.

Drummers should also include several bars of a rhythm pattern in each of the following styles: blues shuffle, swing, Latin, funk and rock.

Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone and Doubles should also include several scales covering the range of the instrument at quarter note = 120. Repertoire performed may include classical (concerto repertoire or technical etude) and jazz (performing the head of the tune and two choruses of improvisation).

Optional Supporting Materials: Applicants may submit supporting materials in addition to their pre-screen video recording. These materials may include audio recordings, press materials, additional videos, website examples, etc. These materials can be uploaded where indicated on SlideRoom (supporting materials will not be accepted via mail). Applicants are asked to be selective when choosing such materials. It is not advantageous to overwhelm the faculty committee with optional supporting materials.

Introductory Video for All Undergraduate Applicants

All applicants to undergraduate Thornton programs are required to submit a single-take, unedited, and preferably unrehearsed 1-2 minute video that offers a brief personal introduction and answers the following question: How do you envision using your USC Thornton education to become a force for positive change in the evolution of the music profession and music as an art form?

Popular Music Final Project Video

The music profession is changing, and we’re changing with it. USC Thornton’s undergraduate music curriculum maintains a rigorous foundation of the finest musical training, while also offering flexibility for students to chart their own artistic pathway. We aim to create musical leaders who can not only take advantage of traditional opportunities, but also discover new ones – and even create their own. All four years are aimed at the two things most important to musicians: taking their musicianship to the highest levels and preparing for a thriving professional life.

One of the components of this forward-thinking curriculum is the required Final Project, completed in the senior year, which allows students to develop and fully realize a unique project related to their work as musicians. This could involve developing a hybrid performance, conducting original research, exploring new technologies, or applying creative expression to a pressing social issue.

To help us get to know our applicants and their unique identity as young musicians, all applicants to undergraduate programs in the Thornton School are required to submit (via SlideRoom) a single-take, unedited, and preferably unscripted video of no more than two minutes. In this video applicants must answer the following question: If you were pitching your Final Project idea today, what is the project you would propose and why?”

Résumé

The résumé should list musical, professional, and academic experience and 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.

Academic Information

Current USC students are not required to submit transcripts but will be asked to upload a copy of their “Summary of Completed Courses” and “Registered Course List” available through myUSC.

To access your “Summary of Completed Courses”, log into myUSC (my.usc.edu) and click “OASIS”. Click “Continue” to access your course information and then select “Summary of Completed Courses”, which is the history of your completed courses including units and grades. Important note: the STARS report will not be accepted in lieu of the “Summary of Completed Courses”.

  • Note: If you are currently enrolled in your first semester at USC and have not yet completed any courses, upload a PDF document with the following statement: “I am currently enrolled in my first semester at USC and have not yet completed any courses at USC.”

To access your “Registered Course List”, log into myUSC (my.usc.edu) and click “OASIS”. Click “Continue” to access your course information and then select “Registered Course List”.

  • Note: you only need to upload your registered courses for the current fall semester.
Letters of Recommendation (Optional)

Optional letters of recommendation for the Thornton School may be submitted through the SlideRoom References section. Important notes for optional letters of recommendation:

  • Any optional letters of recommendation you want reviewed by the faculty must be submitted via the Thornton SlideRoom References form by the appropriate deadline (December 1 for fall admission). We cannot guarantee the review of any material received after the deadline.
  • Any recommendations sent via mail or email will not be reviewed by the faculty.

Perform Audition if Invited

The results of the prescreen will determine whether an applicant will be invited to perform a live audition. Notice of the results of the prescreen audition will be sent to applicants via email 3-4 weeks after the application deadline, which will include the date and time of the audition, if invited.

Applicants who live more than 100 miles from the USC campus and are unable to travel to Los Angeles for their live audition due to financial hardship can request an online audition on their Thornton SlideRoom Portfolio. Applicants who live within a 100-mile radius of the USC campus are required to perform their live audition in person.

Please carefully note that a requested online audition may be scheduled on a date that does not fall on one of our regularly scheduled audition weekends, and it is not guaranteed that all online audition requests can be granted.

Live Audition Requirements

Live auditions are typically 15 minutes long. Applicants should prepare three to five selections for the faculty to choose from. These selections may be the same as submitted on the prescreen video recording or entirely different selections. The faculty panel may wish to hear selections in their entirety or excerpts. The faculty also reserve the right to modify the audition format at any time to evaluate the potential of each individual candidate.

The following equipment will be provided at the live in-person auditions taking place on the USC campus: microphones, piano, keyboard, audio play-back equipment (phone and iPod inputs), amplifiers for bass and guitar, 5-piece drum kit with crash, ride, and hi-hat cymbals.

Accompanists will not be provided however, applicants are welcome to accompany themselves, bring accompanying musicians with them to the audition, or bring recorded accompaniment on a phone or iPod. A capella vocal auditions are discouraged.

In addition to the three to five prepared selections, applicants should also prepare the following (if your instrument is not listed below, please contact the USC Thornton Admissions office for audition details):

Bass Guitar:

In addition to the prepared selections, the audition may include: two octave scales in various modes/keys/rhythms, improvisation, and demonstration of various forms and grooves (blues, shuffle, funk, etc.) For applicants performing a live audition in-person on the USC campus: A drummer from the program may be present to assist during the audition.

Drums:

In addition to the prepared selections, the audition may include: rudiments, sight reading, and demonstration of grooves in various styles (rock, blues shuffle, funk, disco, pop ballad, etc.) with the bassist and guitarist. For applicants performing a live audition in-person on the USC campus: A bassist and a guitarist from the program may be present to assist during the audition. There will be a 5-piece kit with crash, ride, and hi-hat in the room. Please provide your own sticks. You are welcome to bring your own pedal, snare, etc., but keep in mind that any additional setup will cut into your audition time.

Guitar:

In addition to the prepared selections, the audition may also include:

  • sight reading (notes, rhythms or chords with harmonic rhythms)
  • improvisation
  • major and minor scales and modes covering the entire fingerboard (at the discretion of the faculty and time permitting), major and minor triads on four different string sets
  • seventh chord voicings and extended harmonies (at the discretion of the faculty and time permitting)
  • inversions and demonstrations of various chord progressions in a variety of styles (twelve-bar blues, funk, etc.) to evaluate interaction with a live rhythm section

For applicants performing a live audition in-person on the USC campus: A bassist and a drummer from the program may be present to assist with your audition. Amps will also be provided. Please bring your own instrument cable and tune your instrument prior to entering the room. You are welcome to bring your own pedals, but keep in mind that any additional setup will cut into your audition.

Keyboards/Piano:

In addition to the prepared selections, the audition may also include: sight reading, improvisation, two octave scales in various modes/keys/rhythms, and demonstration of various accompaniment styles (blues, funk, etc.).

Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, and Doubles:

In addition to the prepared selections, the audition may also include: scales, improvisation, and sight reading. Students may provide their own accompanist and/or back up tracks via Phone or iPod if desired.

Singer/Songwriter:

In addition to the prepared selections, students may also be asked to perform a brief songwriting exercise such as setting a lyric to music.

Strings:

In addition to prepared selections, the audition may also include: scales, improvisation, and sight reading. Students may provide their own accompanist and/or back up tracks via Phone or iPod if desired.

Voice:

Vocalists (unless accompanying yourself) will need to provide their own accompaniment, whether with Phone, iPod, or accompanist. A capella auditions are not recommended. Your audition may also include scales, sight reading, basic theory exercises, etc.

Undergraduate Theory Exam

All undergraduate applicants (except in Composition and Music Industry) are required to complete a music theory examination as part of the live audition requirements. The exam will measure proficiency in basic music theory. Further details about how and when the exam will be administered will be provided in the audition confirmation sent to applicants invited for a live audition. Exam results alone will not prevent a student from being admitted to USC or the Thornton School. The Thornton Admission office cannot release exam details in advance of the exam. Inquiries regarding the content of the exam will not be answered.

Note: Current Thornton students who have already completed MUCO 132ab and MUCO 133ab are not required to take the exam.