Popular Music Teaching and Learning

Master of Music (MM)

Graduate Fall Application Deadline

Priority Deadline: December 1 | Final Deadline: May 1

Current USC Thornton Student?
Click here for additional information

Graduate Application Requirements for Fall Admission

This section is for fall applicants to the Music Teaching and Learning Department’s specialized degree program in Popular Music Teaching and Learning. Applications are not accepted for Spring admission to this program. If you are interested in applying for one of our other programs in Music Teaching and Learning (the MM in Community Music, or the MM or DMA in Music Teaching and Learning), please click here to view those requirements.

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).  

Priority Deadline: December 1

Final Deadline: May 1

All required materials must be received in order for the application to be considered. Applicants to the MM program in Popular Music Teaching and Learning are encouraged to submit all materials by December 1. Applications can be considered on a rolling basis until May 1. If the program fills before May 1, any applicants who cannot be accommodated will be given the option to postpone their applications to a later term. Application materials will not be accepted via mail or email. If both required application forms are not submitted by the final deadline, the application will be removed from consideration.

Preferred qualifications for the MM in Popular Music Teaching and Learning:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Music or Music Education (or equivalent coursework to include applied music study, music ensemble performance, music history, music theory, conducting, music electives)
  • Experience in the popular music idiom as a performer, songwriter, or producer

The faculty will contact applicants to set up a 15-minute interview, likely to be conducted via Zoom. This interview could take place at any point during the application review period. 

For additional information regarding this degree program, please contact Chris Sampson (Associate Professor of Practice, Popular Music) at sampson@usc.edu. For further information about application requirements and the application process, please contact Thornton Admission at uscmusic@usc.edu or (213) 740-8986.

Applicants experiencing hardship or extenuating circumstances due to natural disaster or public health concerns in their local area that 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 for maximum consideration.

 

Applying For

Fall Admission

Auditions Required?

No.

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 priority deadline or the May 1st final 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 for the priority deadline or May 1st for the final deadline. 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 December 1st for the priority deadline or May 1st for the final 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.

Applicants to the MM in Popular Music Teaching and Learning must include the following items as part of Thornton’s SlideRoom 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.

Scholarly Writing Sample

This could be an academic paper written for a class, a thesis or other written capstone project, a literature review, a research report, an opinion piece, or other sample of writing that demonstrates strong writing skills.

Teaching and Performance Video

A video recording of the applicant teaching in any setting, for the purpose of evaluating teaching skills and level of experience. Applicants should also provide a performance of one selection that demonstrates experience in popular music. This performance can be vocal, instrumental, an original song, or a “cover” from popular music repertoire. The applicant may also demonstrate proficiency in music production with a video selection of their work station and creative process. The complete video recording should be approximately 15 minutes in length.

Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

This should include musical, professional and academic experience, including job descriptions. Teaching experience can be private, public, studio teaching, or in a community music setting.

Personal Introductory Video

All applicants must prepare a 3-5 minute introductory video where they express why they are interested in this degree, why Thornton is a good fit, and what their career plans are.

Transcripts

All transcripts are due December 1st for the priority deadline or May 1st for the final deadline. 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

3 recommendation letters are required from Popular Music Teaching and Learning applicants. Letters should speak to musicianship and potential as a teacher. Recommendation letters are to be submitted online through the Thornton SlideRoom portal via the “References” section by December 1st for the priority deadline or May 1st for the final deadline. We cannot guarantee the review of any material received after the aforementioned deadlines.

TOEFL or IELTS Scores (International Applicants Only)

TOEFL or IELTS scores are required from International applicants for whom English is a second language. Please include your scores on the application form where indicated, and be sure that an official score report is sent to USC’s Graduate Admission office by the application deadline. Minimum test score requirements and other relevant information can be found here. Please note that scores well beyond the minimum acceptable are preferable.

Graduate Academic Admission Examination

All MM applicants to Popular Music Teaching and Learning 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 books 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