Fall 2017 Admission

USC Thornton applicants are strongly encouraged to audition live on campus rather than via recording (where permitted). Typically for live auditions, certain instruments are scheduled on Saturday and other instruments are scheduled on Sunday. Specific determinations regarding this are not made until audition scheduling begins after the prescreening review is complete. Therefore, it is recommended that applicants planning to audition live in Los Angeles keep their schedule open for the full weekend until their audition appointment is confirmed. For programs auditioning on more than one weekend, scheduling preference is given to undergraduate applicants for the first weekend and graduate applicants for the second weekend.

Please Note: Undergraduate applicants who wish to be considered for academic scholarships MUST audition live by the first audition weekend held in January. Undergraduate applicants who choose to audition only by recording are not eligible for academic scholarships.

Because of the prescreen requirement for most Thornton programs, please do not make travel plans or purchase tickets until you have received official notification that your audition has been scheduled.

2017 audition dates are as follows:

  • January 21 & 22, 2017: All programs except Keyboard Collaborative Arts
  • January 24, 2017: Artist Diploma Final Round (tentative)
  • February 3 & 4, 2017: Keyboard Collaborative Arts only
  • February 4 & 5, 2017: Piano, Popular Music, Strings, Vocal Arts, French Horn, and Percussion (Graduate)

2017 overflow audition dates are as follows:

  • February 11 & 12, 2017: In the event that auditions fill up for classical Piano or Vocal Arts, additional audition times will be scheduled for this weekend, however appointments are assigned for the previous two dates before this final weekend is opened.

Applicants are urged to carefully review audition requirements for their particular major in the application requirements section of this website. Applicants who indicate during the application process that they plan to perform an audition in Los Angeles will automatically be scheduled for an audition appointment until the schedule is full. Some exceptions to this standard procedure are listed below. Email confirmation of the audition appointment will be issued to the applicant at the email address provided in the application from the Thornton admission office once it is scheduled.

Recorded auditions (where applicable): For applicants wishing to audition with a recording rather than a live audition, your recording must be uploaded to SlideRoom by Monday, January 16th, 2017. Applicants auditioning for programs that require a pre-screen review are still required to send a pre-screen recording by December 1. The applicant may use the pre-screen recording for the audition (as long as the pre-screen recording also contains the live audition repertoire requirements) or submit a second recording by the January 16th deadline as desired. Undergrad-uate applicants who choose to audition only by recording are not eligible for academic scholarships.

Please also note the following policies which affect many Thornton programs.

  • Some Choral and Sacred Music applicants, based on review of the required audition tape, will be invited by the faculty to perform an audition in Los Angeles. These auditions will not be held on the regular Los Angeles audition dates, but will take place on dates to be arranged at the time of invitation. All applicants to the Choral and Sacred Music program, that pass the pre-screen round, are REQUIRED to perform a live audition.
  • Auditions are not automatically scheduled for Organ applicants. Applicants are encouraged to contact the organ department at (213) 740-7703 to make arrangements for the required audition.
  • All Popular Music applicants who pass the prescreen review are required to perform a live audition in Los Angeles.
  • DMA applicants who pass the prescreen review are required to perform a live audition in Los Angeles. Similarly, all Vocal Arts applicants applying for a Graduate Certificate are required to perform a live audition in Los Angeles.

Undergraduate Theory Test

Undergraduate applicants are required to complete a theory test while on campus for a live audition. The test will measure proficiency in basic theory and aural skills. Students are given up to 60 minutes to complete the test. Test 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 actual exam. Inquiries regarding the content of the exam will not be answered.

Written Examination for DMA Applicants

All DMA applicants who perform a live audition must sit for a written examination on the weekend of their live audition (Exception: Applicants to programs in Choral Music, Early Music, and Sacred Music are not required to take this written examination).

In order to allow for sufficient time to both perform the audition and sit for the examination, DMA applicants who are invited for a live audition must plan to be available for the full weekend of auditions (i.e., all day Saturday and all day Sunday).

The written 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.

Applicants will be given a total of three hours to complete both sections of the examination. The examination will be administered in a computer lab, where applicants will type their responses on the computer terminals provided. Online access will be disabled during the examination and use of personal electronic devices will not be permitted. Applicants may use an unmarked hard-copy dictionary (English/foreign language), which the examination proctor will inspect at the start of examination.

The written examination will be assessed by academic faculty in the DMA program as a measure of an applicant’s readiness for the academic rigors and multi-disciplinary structure of the DMA program. This assessment will be considered together with the faculty’s assessment from the live audition of the applicant’s music performance ability.


Audition confirmation comes via EMAIL ONLY. Please do NOT make travel plans or reservations for a Thornton audition until you have received this email confirmation. Students traveling to Los Angeles for an audition may wish to make reservations at the following facility:

Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Midtown at USC

Rooms include complimentary continental breakfast, computer dataport and complimentary high speed internet, in room safe box, refrigerator (all rooms), 24-hour business center, fully equipped 24-hour fitness facility, heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi.

Spring 2017 Admission

Applicants for the spring semester of 2017 must make arrangements for an audition by directly working with the department of their major. Applicants must contact the appropriate department by October 10 to make/confirm audition arrangements. For contact information of various Thornton departments click here.

Last updated: July 20, 2016