Studio Guitar

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

Graduate Fall Application Deadline

December 1

Looking for Spring Admission?
Click here for your requirements

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 Studio Guitar program.

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.

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 a graduate program in Studio Guitar must submit a video recording (audio only will not be accepted) to be prescreened by the faculty. The results of this prescreen will determine whether an applicant will be invited to perform a live audition on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Both the prescreen recording and the live audition may be performed on electric or acoustic guitar, or both if necessary. (Note: If you travel by air to the live audition, it is only essential for you to bring an electric guitar.)

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.

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. Do not use corrective studio effects such as pitch or timing correction, and each selection should be performed in one take and not edited.

For all Grad applicants, the prescreen recording should include the following:

Twenty minutes of solo and ensemble pieces, including a minimum of two standard songs such as All the Things You Are or jazz classics such as Take the “A” Train, and a minimum of one original composition. Applicants may include other styles such as contemporary pop/rock, blues, folk-rock, R&B/urban, country, fusion, or any genre that best showcases your abilities.

Current USC Thornton students applying for a graduate program are not required to submit a prescreen recording, however they must indicate on the application that they are a current Thornton student or they will not automatically be scheduled for a live audition. Current USC students are encouraged to contact Kit Bellamy (keb@usc.edu) in the Thornton Admission office with any questions or concerns regarding audition scheduling.

Introduction Video

All applicants must include a one-minute verbal introduction video to be uploaded to the Thornton SlideRoom portal, 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 and Guitar programs?
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 Studio Guitar 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 Studio Guitar 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

Live auditions are typically 15 minutes long. Prepare selections for this audition according to the instructions provided below. The pieces performed may be the same as submitted on the prescreen video recording or entirely different selections. The faculty panel may wish to hear pieces in their entirety or excerpts. The faculty reserves the right to modify the audition format in order to effectively evaluate each candidate’s potential.

The live audition may be performed on electric or acoustic guitar, or both if necessary. (Note: If you travel by air to the live audition, it is only essential for you to bring an electric guitar.)

USC Thornton will provide amplifiers and audio playback equipment (CD and iPod inputs) at the live auditions. Please bring your instrument cable and tune your instrument before entering the room. You are welcome to bring your pedals, but keep in mind that any additional setup will cut into your audition.

Applicants should be prepared for the following at their live audition:

  • Sight-reading of a selection to be provided by a USC Thornton representative at the audition.
  • Solo performance of a standard song or a jazz classic (standard song such as All the Things You Are or jazz classics such as Take the “A” Train) played in chord-melody style (harmonized in the solo guitar style of Joe Pass or George Van Eps).
  • Performance of a standard song or a jazz classic. Applicants should be prepared to play the melody, play an improvised solo on the form, and then play rhythm accompaniment for another soloist. This selection will be performed either in a duo setting with a faculty member or a trio setting with bass and drums.
  • A bassist and a drummer from the program will be present to assist with your audition.
  • Performance of jazz blues selection with the bassist and drummer.
  • Optional: additional material that demonstrates any other specific areas of expertise and interest, including styles such as contemporary jazz, fusion, pop, rock, bluegrass, blues, etc., performed with rhythm section (if possible) or with pre-recorded accompaniment in the event of a more elaborate arrangement.
  • 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 strings sets, seventh chord voicings, and extended harmonies (at the discretion of the faculty and time permitting).
Graduate Academic Admission Examination (DMA only)


DMA applicants to Studio Guitar 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