Strings

Master of Music (MM), Graduate Certificate (GCRT), Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Graduate Student Fall Application Deadline

December 1

Current USC Thornton Student?
Click here for additional information

Graduate Application Requirements for Fall Admission

This section is for all MM, GCRT, and DMA applicants including current USC students applying to the classical Strings program for the fall semester. Applications are not accepted for Spring admission to this program. For applicants interested in Artist Diploma, please refer to the Artist Diploma requirements page.

The USC Thornton School of Music is proud to offer the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship, a partnership with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) and the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA). New students are not admitted to the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship every year; the next time we anticipate admitting new Fellows will be for the fall 2024 semester. For years when there are openings in the Fellowship program, Graduate Certificate (GCRT) applicants in Cello, Viola, or Violin from communities that are underrepresented in professional orchestras are strongly encouraged to apply. To be considered for the Fellowship, applicants must apply for the Graduate Certificate (GCRT) program, indicate their interest in being considered for the Fellowship in the USC Thornton SlideRoom Application where prompted, and follow all of the GCRT application and audition requirements listed below. No additional fellowship application is required. A live audition and interview will be required of final-round candidates, which typically occurs in February. Some additional requirements may be communicated to final-round candidates later in the Fellowship selection process.

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.

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.

Applicants are highly encouraged to indicate on the application whether they have a teacher preference for their studies at the Thornton School, understanding that final studio placements are determined for admitted students at the discretion of the department chair in consultation with individual studio teachers.

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

All string applicants are required to submit an unedited video recording on the SlideRoom portal for prescreening purposes by the application deadline in order to receive an invitation to a live audition at USC. Audio recordings will not be accepted.

The results of the prescreening (as determined by the appropriate faculty) will determine whether an applicant will be invited to campus to perform a live audition. Applicants who do not provide the required prescreening materials by the stated deadline will not be considered for an invitation to audition in person.

Violin, Viola, and Cello applicants must submit a video recording for prescreening that contains at least 15 minutes of music, which includes:

  1. A movement of a solo Bach suite, partita, or sonata, no repeats
  2. Two movements with applicable cadenza from a major concerto
  3. One virtuosic piece or caprice of the applicants choosing

Double bass applicants must submit a video recording for prescreen that contains the following:

  1. One movement of a standard double bass concerto or comparable works from the standard double bass solo repertoire
  2. Two orchestral excerpts from the standard orchestral repertoire
  3. One movement of a solo Bach Suite in any key, no repeats

Harp applicants must submit a video recording for prescreen that contains the following:

  1. Two contrasting solo works
  2. Three orchestral excerpts

All music should be performed from memory, except sonata/duo works or contemporary works composed after 1970. All music must have been recorded within the last year. Comments regarding the prescreening material will not be released to the applicant.

Current USC Thornton students applying for a graduate program may not be required to submit an audition recording for the prescreen round. Applicants may be allowed to use a recital or jury as their audition, and some cases might allow current Thornton students to make special arrangements for an audition in lieu of uploading a recording. Please check with your teacher or department chair before you submit the SlideRoom form to determine what is possible in your case. In all cases, current Thornton students must indicate on the application that they are a current Thornton student or they may not advance to the live audition round. Current Thornton students are encouraged to consult the special Application Requirements for Current Thornton Students, here. Questions about advancing to the live audition round may be directed to your department chair or Kit Bellamy in the Thornton Admission office.

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.

Statement of Purpose (Optional)

Graduate applicants are encouraged to prepare a brief statement of their professional goals, as well as their purpose in applying for the Strings 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

1-3 recommendation letters are required from graduate Strings applicants. Recommendation letters are to be submitted online through the Thornton SlideRoom portal via the “References” section by December 1. We cannot guarantee the review of any material received after December 1.

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

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.

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.

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

Master’s of Music and Graduate Certificate:

Piano accompaniment is preferred, but not required. A suggested list of pianists available for hire (at the applicant’s own expense) is available through the Strings office at the Thornton School: (213) 740-7702. Applicants must provide a copy of piano scores to the pianist for the audition. All music should be performed from memory, except sonata/duo works or contemporary works composed after 1960. The live auditions will be held in 20 minute increments, though the faculty panel may decide that the student need not perform for the full 20 minutes. The presiding faculty will determine the actual music performed at the audition, choosing from the list of repertoire prepared by the applicant, according to the requirements as described below. Applicants with insufficient required repertoire may be disqualified at the discretion of the faculty panel.

It should be carefully noted that some members of the strings faculty may request private interviews and/or lessons in addition to the audition requirements detailed on this page in order for the applicant to be given the fullest consideration for placement in their studios. Typically, these additional meetings are scheduled around, but not during, the regular live audition dates. All specific arrangements for these meetings are considered and finalized by the faculty members themselves. Thornton faculty contact information can be found here.

Violin

  1. Two movements from a solo Bach Partita or Sonata or the D minor Ciaccona
    • B minor Partita Doubles are counted as part of one movement, Sonatas must include one fugue, no repeats
  2. Two movements from a complete major concerto (with applicable cadenzas)
  3. One virtuosic piece or Paganini Caprice
  4. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Viola

  1. Two contrasting movements from a solo Bach suite, partita, or sonata, no repeats
  2. Two movements from a sonata or other duo work for viola and piano
  3. Two movements from a concerto with applicable cadenzas from the standard repertoire
  4. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Cello

  1. Two contrasting movements of a solo Bach suite, no repeats
  2. Two movements of a concerto from the standard cello repertoire with applicable cadenza
  3. Two movements of a sonata or other duo work for cello and piano
  4. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Double Bass

  1. Two contrasting movements of a standard double bass concerto or comparable works from the standard double bass repertoire
  2. Three orchestral excerpts from the standard orchestral repertoire
  3. Two movements of a solo Bach Suite in any key, no repeats
  4. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Harp

  1. Two complete works comparable to the difficulty and scope of the Sonata of Hindemith or the Impromptu of Faure
  2. Three standard orchestral excerpts

Doctor of Musical Arts:

For DMA applicants piano accompaniment is required (at the applicant’s own expense), unless there are extenuating circumstances due to COVID. If there is a reason that does not allow for piano accompaniment for your live audition (whether live in person or live online), please contact the Chair of the Strings department, Lina Bahn (lbahn@usc.edu).

A suggested list of pianists is available through the Strings office at the Thornton School: (213) 740-7702. All music should be performed from memory, except sonata/duo works and contemporary works. The live auditions will be held in 20 minute increments, though the faculty panel may decide that the student need not perform for the full 20 minutes. The presiding faculty will determine the actual music performed at the audition, choosing from the repertoire list prepared by the applicant, according to the requirements as described below. Applicants with insufficient required repertoire may be disqualified at the discretion of the faculty panel.

It should be carefully noted that some members of the strings faculty may request private interviews and/or lessons in addition to the audition requirements detailed at this page in order for the applicant to be given the fullest consideration for placement in their studios. Typically, these additional meetings are scheduled around, but not during, the regular live audition dates. All specific arrangements for these meetings are considered and finalized by the faculty members themselves. Thornton faculty contact information can be found here.

Violin

  1. One complete solo Bach sonata or partita, no repeats
  2. One complete work from the sonata or duo repertoire
  3. One complete major concerto work (with applicable cadenzas)
  4. One virtuoso work or Paganini Caprice
  5. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Viola

  1. One complete solo Bach suite, sonata, or partita, no repeats
  2. One complete concerto (with applicable cadenzas) from the standard repertoire
  3. One complete major sonata for viola and piano.
  4. One virtuoso work
  5. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Cello

  1. One complete concerto with applicable cadenzas
  2. One complete solo Bach Suite, no repeats
  3. One complete major sonata for cello and piano
  4. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Double Bass

  1. One complete concerto with applicable cadenzas
  2. Two contrasting movements from a solo Bach Suite, no repeats
  3. An open/choice work or movement (the Strings department is dedicated to expanding exposure to works by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) composers. To see a sample list of some pieces, please click here.)

Harp

A full length recital with complete, contrasting works including one work written after 1970 (commercially published work), and a standard concerto with applicable cadenzas.

Graduate Academic Admission Examination (DMA only)


DMA applicants to Strings 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