Popular Music

Bachelor of Music (BM)

Undergraduate Application Deadline

December 1st (First-year and Transfer)

Undergraduate Application Requirements

This section is for all first-year and transfer applicants from outside of USC applying to the Bachelor of Music (BM) Popular Music program for the fall semester. USC does not accept applications for spring admission unless you are already a current USC student.

Note: This information applies only to Popular Music applicants. Current USC students should follow the change/addition of major application process.

All required materials must be submitted by December 1. We cannot guarantee the review of any material received after December 1. Any application not complete by December 1st 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 USC Application

All applicants must complete the USC Undergraduate Application and submit all other application materials required by USC Admission by the December 1st deadline: First-year applicants, Transfer applicants, International applicants. The USC Undergraduate Application fee is $85. Click here for more information.

First-Year/Freshman: Important Notes for Completing the Common Application
  • Early Action (EA) is not available for majors requiring a portfolio or audition, which includes all undergraduate Thornton majors. Therefore, all first-year/freshman applicants to the Thornton School must select the “Regular Decision” option for the “Preferred admission plan” in the Common Application. Applicants will not be able to select a Thornton major under the “Early Action” admission plan in the Common Application.
  • Undergraduate applicants to the Thornton School are only permitted to select one Thornton major through the Common Application and it must be selected as the first-choice major.
  • Applicants who would like to be considered for admission to a second Thornton major (or a second area of emphasis within the same major) must complete the Second Major Request process by December 1. Please note that it is important to plan ample time to complete this process. Click here for Second Major Request instructions.
  • The final application deadline for undergraduate applicants to the Thornton School is December 1. The Common Application will list multiple deadlines but all Thornton applicants must complete both the USC Undergraduate Application process and the Thornton SlideRoom Portfolio by the December 1 deadline to be considered for admission. Applicants who fail to complete the application process by December 1 may be removed from consideration.
Transfers: Important Notes for Completing the Common Application
  • Undergraduate applicants to the Thornton School are only permitted to select one Thornton major through the Common Application and it must be selected as the first-choice major.
  • Applicants who would like to be considered for admission to a second Thornton major (or a second area of emphasis within the same major) must complete the Second Major Request process by December 1. Please note that it is important to plan ample time to complete this process. Click here for Second Major Request instructions.
  • The final application deadline for undergraduate applicants to the Thornton School is December 1. The Common Application will list multiple deadlines but all Thornton applicants must complete both the USC Undergraduate Application process and the Thornton SlideRoom Portfolio by the December 1 deadline to be considered for admission. Applicants who fail to complete the application process by December 1 may be removed from consideration.

Complete the SlideRoom Portfolio

All applicants must complete the Thornton SlideRoom portfolio by the December 1st deadline. The SlideRoom application fee is $25. First-year applicants who receive a Common Application fee waiver will automatically have their SlideRoom fee waived. Transfer applicants who receive a Common Application fee waiver must email Brittany Jimenez at seits@usc.edu by November 1 to request a SlideRoom fee waiver.

All Thornton supplemental materials must be uploaded through SlideRoom, which you will access through the link provided in the “Portfolio Instructions” section in the Common Application (see details below). Thornton supplemental materials will not be accepted via mail or email.

All first-year applicants: By selecting a Thornton program in the first-choice major field, the Common Application will automatically populate with the following text: “Because of the major you selected above, you will need to submit a Portfolio for your program to complete your application”. Select “Yes, I understand.” and refer to the Portfolio Instructions in the left hand column.

All transfer applicants: By selecting a Thornton program in the first-choice major field, the Common Application will automatically populate with the following text: “Because of the major you selected above, you will need to submit a Portfolio for your program to complete your application”. Select “Yes, I understand.” and refer to the “USC Thornton School of Music” SlideRoom link that will automatically populate below the portfolio question.

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. Applicants should also submit lyric sheets when submitting original music. 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 prescreen 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 or email). 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.

Transcripts
  • First-year applicants are not required to upload transcripts in SlideRoom but must submit official transcripts to USC Admission, as required.
  • Transfer applicants are required to upload a copy of all college transcripts in SlideRoom in addition to the official transcripts that must be submitted to USC Admission.
    • Note: USC Admission also requires official high school transcripts (with date of graduation) and official college transcripts of any and all college coursework completed through the fall term for all transfer applicants.
Letters of Recommendation (Optional)

In addition to the recommendation letters required by USC Admission submitted via the Common Application, undergraduate applicants may submit optional letters of recommendation via the SlideRoom Portfolio “References” section. Important notes for optional letters of recommendation:

  • Any optional letters of recommendation you want reviewed by the Thornton faculty must be submitted via the Thornton SlideRoom “References” section by December 1. We cannot guarantee the review of any material received after December 1.
  • Required letters of recommendation submitted to USC Admission through the appropriate Common Application avenues will automatically be included with the Thornton SlideRoom application for review by Thornton Faculty for first-year/freshman applicants.
  • USC Admission will not receive any optional letter of recommendation submitted through the Thornton SlideRoom “References” section.
  • Any recommendation sent via mail or email will not be reviewed by the Thornton 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 in late December, which will include the date and time of the live audition, if invited. 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.

Prospective students are strongly encouraged to visit our campus and live audition events can be the ideal opportunity for this kind of visit. We therefore encourage applicants to make every effort to perform their live audition in person on the USC campus.

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 in the below areas 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.). 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.