The USC Thornton School of Music is proud to share the accomplishments of our outstanding alumni. These achievements represent only a small sampling of the great work our alumni are doing around the world.
The list below includes accomplishments submitted since Fall 2018. To submit your own accomplishments, please complete our handy web submission form.
Classical Performance & Composition
Michael Abels, ’84, Composition
Abels was recently profiled on NPR for his incredible score of Jordan Peele’s newest horror movie Us. His compositions were praised for being a balance of terror and empathy, which director Peele attributes to Abel’s empathetic and loving heart. The duo first collaborated together on the Oscar-winning 2017 film Get Out.
Sydney Adedamola ’18, Violin
Adedamola is a top-tier member of the Los Angeles Orchestra Fellowship’s first class. Launched in August of 2018, the program was designed to increase diversity in American orchestras. Through this prestigious program, Adedamola will have the opportunity to learn from LOCA and USC Thornton musicians and to mentor young ICYOLA musician. She was also welcomed as a Second Violin to the Long Beach Symphony’s violin section.
The Argus Quartet (Clara Kim, DMA ’15, Jason Issokson, MM ’10, Violin)
The quartet recently performed in Chico California at the Zingg Recital Hall on the Chico State University Campus. The group, including Thornton alumni Kim and Issokson, performed a dynamic repertoire of music from both modern composers and classical pieces.
Zhengyi Bai, GCRT ’18, Vocal Arts
Tenor and USC Thornton Vocal Arts alumnus, Zhengyi Bai, was named a 2019 Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera. Bai was chosen along with nine other singers in this multi-year performance-oriented residency offering advanced young artists intensive individual training, coaching and professional seminars as well as a wide range of performance opportunities.
Timur Bekbosunov GCRT ’06
Bekbosunov has a multitude of incredible projects coming up this year! He began 2019 with a sold out recital in DC at the Embassy of France, with songs by legendary Soviet entertainers of opera and cabaret stage and a performance of a chamber cantata One Body. Since becoming the VP of Creative Affairs for ACE Picture Entertainment, he has also spearheaded creative affairs in film and production. Upcoming musical shows include a production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Gerald Barry in Switzerland and France and Acquanetta by Michael Gordon at Bard SummerScape Festival.
Eva Beneke DMA ’12, Classical Guitar
She was just appointed to a new and highly coveted position as Associate Professor of Guitar at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Norway starting this fall.
Alex Biniaz-Harris ’15
Biniaz-Harris and Ambrose Soehn, who graduated in 2015 with a neuroscience degree at the USC Dornsife while minoring at USC Thornton, ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to perform in two Cambodian cities – Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – early next year. The duo composed a series of piano pieces based on traditional and popular melodies from Cambodia featuring electric guitar, voice, and other native instruments to tell the story of Cambodia’s music and culture from before, during, and after the Khmer Rouge. The composition, titled Garuda’s Song,aims to share the vibrant Cambodian musical culture with the world.
Anna Bosler MM ’05, DMA ’08, French Horn
She recently published a guidebook entitled College Prep for Musicians: A comprehensive Guide for Students, Parents, Teachers, and Counselors. The guide is aimed at helping young musicians decode the complex application process for music schools and conservatories and was written with the associate dean for enrollment management at Julliard, Kathleen Tesar.
Lucinda Carver ’89, Piano Performance
Carver received the Ramo Music Faculty Award. Established in 1971, this award is conferred by the faculty and students upon a faculty member at USC Thornton School of Music in recognition of outstanding contribution to music and education.
David Castillo MM ’13
Castillo made his Lincoln Center debut as a soloist in Bernstein’s Mass with the Mostly Mozart Festival and Maestro Louis Langrée. This is Elkhannah Pulitzer’s same production that Castillo previously performed in with the LA Philharmonic and Maestro Gustavo Dudamel in February 2018.
Gloria Cheng DMA ’91, Keyboard Studies
The renowned pianist recently released an album, entitled Garlands for Steven, in tribute to the later composer Steven Stucky who passed away in 2016. The two met at the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1988 and remained close friends since then. The project also includes works by other composers that knew him such as Donald Crockett and Julia Adolphe (MM ’12). The album is now available on Amazon and iTunes and all proceeds will be donated to the Steven Stucky Composer Fellowship Fund to aid in the training of aspiring young composers.
Chloe Chiu GCRT ’15, Violin
These incredible alumni were all recently welcomed into the Long Beach Symphony’s violinist section. Chloe Chiu will be joining the First Violin section, while YuEun Kim (GCRT ’15 ARTD ’17), 2nd prize co-winner of the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, Sakura Tsai (MM ’07 GCRT ’09 DMA ’13), and Sydney Adedamola (BM ’18), Los Angeles Orchestra Fellow, will join the Second Violins.
Erin Colwitz, MM ’04, DMA ’07, Choral Music
Colwitz has been elected president of the Michigan ACDA. In the past, Colwitz has occupied other revered positions such as the Director of Choral Activities at Northern Michigan University, the American Choral Directors Association as the AL-ACDA Repertoire & Standards Chair for Community Choirs and Youth and Student Activities, and Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, just to name a few, where she has enriched the success of each choral group she has worked with.
Rainer Crosett GCRT ’17
Crosett has won the 2018 Pierre Fournier Award, one of the top honors in the field. Crosett received a £5000 cash award, a recital engagement at London’s Wigmore Hall, a concerto performance with the London Philharmonia Orchestra, and an album recording.
Sue Elliott ’98, Clarinet
Elliot was appointed to a new position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as Director of their new Tanglewood Learning Institute. Following completion of her MM, she worked in different capacities for Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Etienne Gara, GCRT ’13
Gara recently spoke about the creation of Delirium Musicum, a 25-musician ensemble made up of several USC Thornton alumni and students, including himself. The ensemble prides itself on the individuality and spontaneity it breeds by breaking the traditional routine of a classical concert. The groups upcoming events include a collaboration with French Chef Laurent Quenioux for a gastronomy and music pairing, several concerts in June including one at the USC Brain & Creativity Institute, and a concert at the Boston Court in Pasadena today.
Graycen Gardner MM ’17, Vocal Arts
Gardner starred as Galatea in a production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. A member of the Central City’s Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, she was warmly reviewed for her “beautifully lyric heartfelt soprano.” The production was directed by USC Thornton faculty member, Ken Cazan.
Ross Garren, BM ’08, Composition
He is a harmonicist and Thornton alumnus that is currently co-headlining Ben Fold’s summer tour. In addition to Folds, Garren has also worked with artists such as Ke$ha, Lupe Fiastco, Empire of the Sun, and Keb Mo, to name a few.
Nick Gerpe, DMA ‘12, Piano Performance
He recently performed with USC Thornton faculty member in bassoon and 2016 GRAMMY nominee, Judy Farmer, at the 2019 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition and Bassoon Symposium held at the Colburn School. The program also consisted of works by Thornton alumnus Gernot Wolfgang (GCRT ’94).
Grant Gershon ’85, Piano Performance
Gershon, Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Wolf Trap Opera in Virginia. He also recently launched the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2018-19 season with a performance of Songs of Ascent by Shawn Kirchner featuring USC faculty members Rod Gilfry and JoAnn Turovksy. He is also conducting the LA Opera’s production of Philip Glass’s Satyagraha, which chronicles Gandhi’s early life.
Sarah Gibson MM ’10, DMA ’15, Composition
She has been selected as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s Sound Investment composer for the 2018-19 season. Gibson premiered a new work with the ensemble on January 26th and 27th, 2019, following several invitation-only salon performances for LACO patrons. She has also finished her newest composition, entitled warp & weft, during her year as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO)’s 2018-19 Sound Investment Composer. The composition was written with the input of other LACO musicians and donors during a series of salons and workshops. The composition will be premiered this upcoming weekend at the Alex Theatre and at Royce Hall. Also, Gibson has just been annouced as the winner of the 2019 Left Coast Competition Contest for her composition I prefer living in color. As a part of her prize, her composition will be performed by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble during their 2019-2020 season.
Andrew Goldman ’08, Piano Performance
Goldman recently published a research paper, Improvisation experience predicts how musicians categorize musical structures, in the Psychology of Music journal. Goldman, who earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge, is currently a Presidential Scholar in the Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University specializing in music cognition.
Reyna Gordon ’01, Vocal Arts
Reyna has been awarded the NIH Director’s New Innovator Research Award in the amount of $2.3 million, funding a series of new biomedical research projects on the relationship between musical rhythm skills, health traits, and childhood speech and language development. She states, “I am honored and thrilled to be a New Innovator recipient, as this particular project really speaks to my professional mission to work across disciplinary boundaries to enhance our understanding of how and why musicality is related to brain development and human health.” Gordon directs the Music Cognition Lab, based in the Department of Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University. She was one of the first cohorts of USC Renaissance Scholars in 2001.
Matthew Greif, MM ’92, Guitar
The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ), which consists of Greif and USC Thornton faculty mebers Bill Kanengiser, Scott Tennant, and John Dearman, are preparing to premiere a composition written for the group by composer Pat Metheny. The 25-minute piece, entitled Road to the Sun, was inspired by a majestic road in Montana’s Rocky Mountains.
Mak Grgić MM ’12, DMA ’16, Classical Guitar
Grgić is currently opening for pop singer k.d. lang during his Ingenue Redux Tour. Grgić has collaborated with many different musical sounds such as violin and flamenco guitar. He is slated to perform around the world in countries such as Bulgaria, Slovenia, Austria and London.
Samuel Grodin DMA ’16, Keyboard Studies
He was recognized, along with Regina Ngo (’15), at this year’s 50th annual California Association of Professional Music Teachers’ state conference. Grodin was selected as a finalist for his article Teaching Students to Verbally Engage Audience.
Saad Haddad, ’14, Composition
Haddad was announced by Young Concert Artists as the 2019-2021 Young Concert Artist-Composer-in-Residence last month. The honor comes with management services, publicity and two Young Concert Artist commissions that will premier at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Caroline Hales ’16, Harp Performance
Hales, a master’s candidate in the USC Thornton Strings program, recently won the Music Academy of the West’s 2018 Concerto Competition. Hales, who studies with JoAnn Turovsky, serves as principal harpist with the American Youth Symphony, the Debut Chamber Orchestra, and the USC Thornton Symphony. Winners of the Concerto Competition will perform as soloists with the Academy Festival Orchestra during the Music Academy’s summer 2019 season.
Jessica Hall MM ’09, GCRT ’11, DMA ’14, Keyboard Collaborative Arts
She was recently appointed principal coach/pianist and orchestral pianist on William Bolcom and Mark Campbell’s opera Dinner at Eight at the Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland. The piece was first created in 2016 and premiered at the Minnesota Opera the following year. She has also been on the music staff at the Portland Opera for the past 3 summers, playing continuo for their production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.
Andrew Harley, DMA ’97, Piano Performance
Harley was recently appointed the Director of Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music at Eastman School of Music. Harley has occuppied a number of prestigious teaching positions at institutions such as Julliard, UNC Greensboro, and UC Santa Barbara.
Matthew Harriman MM ’08, Trumpet
Harriman and Erika Loke (BM ’12, horn) performed for the memorial, funeral procession, and burial services of Senator John McCain, held in Annapolis, Maryland as members of the United States Naval Academy Band. The USNAB is one of two Washington DC premier bands in the United States Navy and regularly performs for past and current Presidents of the United States, foreign dignitaries, and other high ranking state officials.
Andrew Harrison DMA ’15, Saxophone
Harrison performed at the premier of Jim Stephenson’s Mobius Trip: Concerto for Saxophone and Wind Ensemble at La Sierra University on top of presenting Fantasia sur un theme original by Jules Demmersseman with the Cerritos College Wind Ensemble.
Sara Hiner, BM ’04, MM ’06, Bassoon
She was appointed director of the Germantown Branch of the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. Settlement is one of the oldest and largest community schools of the arts in the nation and provides financial aid to more than 60% of their students in music, dance and the creative arts.
Annie Jacobs-Perkins, ’18, Violincello
She is currently touring Holland and Bratislava with the Callisto Trio, which also features violinist Geneva Lewis and USC Thornton undergraduate Katelyn Vahala. Formed in 2011, the Callisto Trio is the youngest ensemble ever to win a medal in the Senior Division of the prestigious Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Cheri Jamison ’06, Vocal Arts
Jamison will perform at the Parliament of World Religions in Toronto in November 2018, performing a one-hour opera recital, Anne Frank and Mirabai: Women’s Spiritual Legacy in Opera.
Tianyun Jia, GCRT ’18, Violin
Both Jia and Michelle Tseng (BM ’13, GCRT ’17) were recently selected from 400 candidates to fill only 3 violin vacancies for the LA Philharmonic. This is the first orchestral job for both women.
Daniel Keller DMA ’12, Cello
Keller was recently appointed Dean of Curriculum at Los Angeles Community College District. As the Dean he is now responsible for overseeing curriculum development for the nine colleges in the district. Once settled, he plans on teaching a course or two in music and leading or playing cello for a community orchestra or choir.
Nick Kennerly ’17, Violin and Pop Music
Kennerly was recently featured in College Magazine’s recent article, “Meet 10 Outstanding College Music Students.” He touched on the critical opportunities and mentoring he received at USC. Kennerly’s resume includes performances with Sir Elton John, Rostam (formerly of Vampire Weekend), and Blackbear, who he joined for concerts at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
YuEun Kim GCRT ’15 ARTD ’17
These incredible alumni were all recently welcomed into the Long Beach Symphony’s violinist section. Chloe Chiu (GCRT ’15) will be joining the First Violin section, while YuEun Kim, 2nd prize co-winner of the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, Sakura Tsai (MM ’07 GCRT ’09 DMA ’13), and Sydney Adedamola (BM ’18), Los Angeles Orchestra Fellow, will join the Second Violins.
Victor Labenske, DMA ’93, Piano Performance
Labenske was comissioned by the Music Teachers National Association to write a chamber work for intermediate level players. The work, “A Walk Through the Valley,” was premiered at the MTNA National Conference on March 10, 2019.
Morten Lauridsen, ’66, MA ’68, DMA ’74, Composition
Dr. Lauridsen has a number of upcoming albums and concerts in celebration of his music. In October 2018, the Chamber Choir of Europe and I Virtuosi Italiani chamber orchestra released an album of his music, titled Eternal Light. The Philharmonic Orchestra will also be releasing a disc, titled Mirror in Mirror, featuring one of Lauridsen’s compositions. A new recording by the Oregon Repertory Singers was also released in October, featuring a number of Lauridsen’s pieces.
He was also recently awarded the Half Century Trojans Hall of Fame Award from the USC Alumni Association in celebration of alumni who graduated over 50 years ago and still exemplify the ideals of a true Trojan. The three time alumnus, composer, and National Medal of Arts recipient was also invited to speak at the luncheon which took place on October 23, 2018.
Lauridsen recently presented his celebrated music with Thornton faculty and alumni alike, including Rod Gilfry, Carin Gilfry, Dana Gioia, and more. The event, Red Hen Press: An Afternoon of Poetry & Performance, took place at The Broad Stage on December 16. The spiritual depth of Morten Lauridsen’s music, paired with the stunning voices of Rod Gilfry and Carin Gilfry, in conversation with the lyric poetry of Blas Falconer and the works of California State Poet Laureate Dana Gioia will make for a thrilling venture into the radiant beauty of soul language.
Lauridsen recently sat down with KUSC’s Jim Svejda to discuss his music as well as his newest album, The Light Eternal: The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen.
And finally, Lauridsen’s composition, Lux Aeterna was showcased at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday, April 14 as a celebration of Lauridsen’s more than half a century with USC. The concert showcased USC Thornton talent with three student ensembles, four faculty ensemble leaders, and two USC faculty composers.
Michael Lee DMA ’17, Composition
Lee’s chamber work for strings and piano, Echoes for Strings and Piano, received its world premiere at the Marigny Opera House by the New Orleans Chamber Orchestra. Lee was the winner of the ensemble’s Spectri Sonori Composition Competition. Lee’s 2015 work for classical guitar, Unmasked, earned a prize at the 2018 ICC The Contemporary Guitar Composition Competition and will be performed by guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou next year. Lee previously received the Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of the Arts and Letters as well as the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award.
Sara Leib ’09, Jazz Studies
Leib announced the release of Voxercise, a groundbreaking voice-training mobile app. The app will allow users to engage in an extensive array of exercises to help improve their singing tone, range, note accuracy, and even pitch accuracy. The app, Voxercise, is available in the App Store and Google Play.
Daniel Newman Lessler ’14, MM ’17, Choral Music
Daniel has taken on three new executive positions in music: music director of the UCSB Chamber Choir, co-music director of the newly founded Music Academy of the West Children’s Choir, and preparatory conductor for Santa Barbara Symphony’s choral-orchestral concerts. Daniel is also spearheading The Music Academy’s new children’s opera which is currently partnered with the London Symphony Orchestra. The group is preparing to perform in London along with London youth. Daniel will also be preparing the choir for Santa Barbara Symphony’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem and a live orchestra film screening of Amadeus.
Erika Loke ’12, Horn
Loke and Matthew Harriman (MM ’08, trumpet) performed for the memorial, funeral procession, and burial services of Senator John McCain, held in Annapolis, Maryland as members of the United States Naval Academy Band. The USNAB is one of two Washington DC premier bands in the United States Navy and regularly performs for past and current Presidents of the United States, foreign dignitaries, and other high ranking state officials.
Lansing McLoskey MM ’92, Composition
McLoskey won the GRAMMY for Best Choral Performance for his album, “Zealot Canticles: An oratorio for tolerance.” The 80-minute oratorio, with words by Nobel Prize-winning author and humanitarian Wole Soyinka, features conductor Donald Nally and was released on Innova Records. McLoskey is currently a professor of music composition at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. He’s the recipient of nearly three-dozen national & international composition awards, including two awards from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the 2018 Copland House Award & commission, the 2016 American Prize, and a 2019 Bogliasco Foundation fellowship.
Angela Meade, MM ’04, Vocal Arts
Meade established the Angela Meade Vocal Competition at Pacific Lutheran University. The competition has since selected three winners from six finalists who will receive up to $1,000 and a trip to the east coast to watch Meade perform and to take a vocal lesson with the amazing opera singer.
Donald Miller DMA ’80, Choral Music
Miller’s compositon “Here Rests in Honored Glory,” was signed into law this past December by Governor Andrew Cuomo as the Official New York State Hymn of Remembrance in honor of all American Veterans. The title of the song is inspired by an inscription on the tomb of an unknown soldier. Miller saw the piece as a way to give back to those who served since he was not drafted into the Vietnam War. He earned the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Force for the composition. The song has been played on the anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy and will be played at ceremonies remberbeing the 100 year anniversary of the armstice that ended WWI.
Hank Mou ’06, Double Bass
Mou has been named the Associate Dean for Artistic Administration at the New England Conservatory. He is currently teaching double bass at their Preparatory and Continuing Education program while also serving as managing directing for the East Coast Chamber Orchestra.
Regina Ngo ’15, Keyboard Studies
Regina was recognized, along with Samuel Grodin (DMA ’16), at this year’s 50th annual California Association of Professional Music Teachers’ state conference. Ngo earned the Outstanding Service for the association’s Greater Pasadena Chapter.
Andrew Norman ’02, MM ’04
Composer and USC Thornton faculty member, Andrew Norman, recently debuted his new children’s opera, A Trip to the Moon. It was warmly reviewed in the Los Angeles Times following its U.S premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on March 2nd at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Norman will premier his new music world wide at the LA Philharmonic this October.
Dee Dee Panero Paakkari ’80
Paakkari, the director of the John Marshall High School music program in Los Angeles, was awarded a Grammy Signature Schools Grant for 2018-2020. The Music Education alum accepted the award after conducting her mandorchestra at a gala ceremony at the GRAMMY Museum in October.
Jules Pegram ’13, Composition
He had his composition, L.A. Glows, performed by the Naples Philharmonic on a series of eight concerts conducted by Radu Paponiu at Hayes Hall in September. He also received the ninth bi-annual American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) Frederick Fennell Prize award for his piece Concerto for Alto Saxophone & Wind Ensemble. The piece was written for saxophonist and Thornton alumnus Andrew Harrison (DMA ’15) and commissioned jointly by Mt. San Antonio College and the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble. It will premier with conductor Gregory Xavier Whitmore at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall on March 10, 2019.
Derek Polischuk ’01 MM ’04 DMA ’06, Piano Performance
Polischuk released two CD’s on the Blue Griffin label, It’s About Time, with trombonist Ava Ordman and Anxiety Attack with soprano Melanie Helton which features the Dichterliebe by Robert Schumann and Craigslistlieder by Gabriel Kahane. In addition, Derek’s book Transformational Piano Teaching: Mentoring Students from All Walks of Life will be available on December 3, 2018 from Oxford University Press.
Michael Powers, MM ’05, Conducting
Powers was recently appointed the Orchestra Director of the Westridge School in Pasadena, California. He will be taking his orchestra students to Italy in March 2019 in an Italian/American Cultural Exchange to learn more about cultural exchange and educational experience through music, art and architecture. Additionally, Powers led the Orange County Youth Symphony in a Philharmonic Society of Orange County subscription concert for families called “Professor Planethead’s Symphonic Space Adventure” this past weekend.
Vicki Ray DMA ’88, Piano
Ray received a rave review from SF Classical Voice for her January 16 performance at CalArts REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. Ray performed a solo concert featuring two works with the accompaniment of visual projections by artist Carole Kim. The review described Ray as “stealing the show.”
Greg Reitan ’96, Composition
Reitan won this year’s Aaron Copland House Residency Award. The new Residents were selected out of eighty-two applicants from twenty-six states, the District of Columbia, and two foreign countries by this year’s eminent composer jury. The new works these Residents plan to create or develop while at Copland House run the gamut from solo instrumental and small ensemble to chorus, symphony, and jazz orchestra. Reitan also released a new jazz album, West 60th, on Sunnyside Records on April, 19th–his 5th for the NYC label. His trio features two additional Thornton Alumni, Jack Daro, acoustic bass (MM ’99) and Dean Koba, drums (MM ’93). Greg is also performing a west coast CD release concert with his trio at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Saturday, May 10th at 6pm.
Carlos Rafael Rivera MM ’04, DMA ’10, Composition
Rivera won his first Emmy Award for his original score for the Netflix series, Godless. Rivera’s music was nominated in the categories of Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music and Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score).
Sara Rommel, GCRT ’14, MM ’16
Rommel was recently given a glowing review by the Hans India Newspaper for her performance with the ‘State of the Art’ Resonance Festival presented by British Airways at the Trident in India.
Shani Rose ’10, MM ’11
Rose was featured in the finals of the 2019 Romanian National Eurovision selection for her song “Right Now,” performed by Olivier Kaye. The song is now on national radio in Germany, Belgium, and Romania.
Giovanni Santos MM ’07
The United States Naval Academy Band’s Brass Ensemble recently premiered a work by Santos, written for and performed by trumpeter Matt Harriman (MM ’08, trumpet). Voyages was performed on January 28th at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., under the baton of Lieutenant Commander Diane Nichols. Also performing in the ensemble was horn player and alumna Erika Loke (BM’12, horn). His latest work, Fanfariaat, will premiere at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa this November. He is also preparing to begin a project with the principal trumpet of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He will also be giving a presentation at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, entitled Don’t Burn Out! Ideas and techniques for a lasting career in music education. This January, Giovanni will be giving a clinic at the annual Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association in Orange County.
George Shaw ’04, Composition
Shaw, Layla Minoui (GCRT ’08), Jongnic Bontemps (GCRT ’12), and Jermaine Stegall (GCRT ’04) are finalists selected for the Universal Film Music Composer Initiative, whose goal is to nurture up-and-coming composers. The composers will create original scores for two DreamWorks Animation short films, and will have the opportunity to continue mentorship opportunities with Universal Film Music and/or DreamWorks Animation executives for a period of one year from the Initiative commencement date.
Geetha Somayajula ’18, Choral Music
Somayajula has been a participant in the Fulbright program to research in Visakhapatnam in India, at Vidyadhari School of Music. She had her first concert for Janmashtami, a holiday commemorating Lord Krishna’s birthday, in September. So far she’s sang at multiple concerts and assisted music study abroad students with integrating into Indian culture.
Marek Szpakiewicz MM ’01 DMA ’08, Violoncello Performance
Szpakiewicz, Director of String Studies and Chamber Music at Azusa Pacific University, is currently embarking on a two-week tour in Japan in October and November 2018. The tour will support children in Fukushima, a city that was ravaged by both an earthquake and a nuclear disaster in 2011. The tour includes recitals at the Yamaha Hall in Tokyo and the inaugural Tsuruga International Culture Festival. Before embarking on his tour, he was featured in a recital at APU to support the Soma Children’s Orchestra in Fukushima, Japan, which he has been supporting and raising funds for since 2012. He has also held benefit concerts in both Los Angeles and Japan to support the purchase of half-sized cellos for the Orchestra. His instrument of choice for the upcoming tour? A customized cello crafted using debris from the 2011 disaster.
Rémy Taghavi ’12, Bassoon
Taghavi was just announced as New Haven Symphony’s new principal bassoonist. Along with this high honor, Taghavi has been working with a number of chamber groups such as the Julliard Orchestra and is currently lecturing at both The Julliard School and UMass Amherst.
Dale Trumbore, MM ’11, Composition
Trumbore’s composition How to Go On was performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale on March 17 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. She was also recently profiled in National Sawdust, where she spoke about her ability to switch from composing to writing in other mediums. He also won the American Choral Director Association’s first ever Raymond Brock Competition for Professional Composers for her piece entitled In the Middle. It will be performed by the Aeolians at the upcoming ACDA national conference in Kansas City. She has been praised by the New York Times, AXS, and her album debuted at #6 On Billboard’s Traditional Classical Chart.
Michael Tilson Thomas ’67 MM ’76
Thomas, Thornton alumnus and a Judge Widney Professor of Music at USC, received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Orchestral Performance for his celebrated work as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and their album, Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1-4.
Robert Thies ’93 MM ’95, Piano Performance
He has been appointed the new Artistic Director of the South Bay Chamber Music Society, an organization founded 55 years ago, which provides free admission concerts to audiences in the Southern Los Angeles area. Thies has been appointed Artistic Director of the South Bay Chamber Music Society, which presents about fifteen concerts each season in venues across the South Bay. Thies won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in 1995 and maintains a busy career as an orchestral soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and recording artist, in addition to serving on the faculty of the Colburn School. Thies published an article entitled I Am Not An Accompanist for the Fall 2017 edition of California Music Teacher magazine. The article discusses the misunderstood role of a pianist in chamber music, with particular focus on the chamber sonata and art song.
Sakura Tsai MM ’07 GCRT ’09 DMA ’13, Violin
These incredible alumni were all recently welcomed into the Long Beach Symphony’s violinist section. Chloe Chiu (GCRT ’15) will be joining the First Violin section, while YuEun Kim (GCRT ’15 ARTD ’17), 2nd prize co-winner of the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition, Sakura Tsai, and Sydney Adedamola (BM ’18), Los Angeles Orchestra Fellow, will join the Second Violins.
Michelle Tseng BM ’13, GCRT ’1, Violin
Both Tseng and Tianyun Jia (GCRT ’18) were recently selected from 400 candidates to fill only 3 violin vacancies for the LA Philharmonic. This is the first orchestral job for both women.
Ryan Williams ’17, Bassoon
Ryan, a devoted teacher of 18 music classes at three schools, recently came back to USC to complete a K-12 Contemporary Teaching Practice course. The course explores the sociocultural reality of music and seeks to create platforms for creativity an engagement. Williams hopes to bring this information back to his school district to better engage students in music and to allow them to incorporate their own cultures into the work.
Gernot Wolfgang, ’94
Wolfgang recently announced his new chamber music album Vienna and the West on Albany Records. The album was recorded in May 2018 and features Thornton faculty members Judith Farmer, Ben Hong and Andrew Shulman, as well as numerous Thornton alumni.
Jaco Wong MM ’16, Choral Music and Composition
He is the music director of the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church and one of the founding members of LORE Vocal Ensemble. His latest project includes a collaboration animation artist Evan Tedock to compose Psithaura, an interactive experience about our relationship with nature. The project premiered at the USC Firehouse art gallery in April and is currently being exhibited at the V2 lab for Unstable Media in the Netherlands. Wong’s other work with Tedlock includes a piece titled Collective Reflections on Temporality which also included alumni Sarah Gibson (MM ’10, DMA ’15) and Thomas Kotcheff (MM ’12).
Jenny Wong MM ’13, DMA ’17, Choral Music
Jenny is currently an associate conductor of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and has received outstanding reviews for her conducting of Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrine di San Pietro at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in Australia. As the tour progresses, Wong will be conducting around in the world in places such as Mexico, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and New Mexico.
Guang Yang, MM ’18, Composition
Yang recently showcased a composition created in collaboration with Paula Cizmar, a faculty member at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. The performance was a part of the USC Thornton Opera Program’s Opera Scenes concert.
Sunny Yang MM ’10, GCRT ’12, Cello
Yang received a GRAMMY nomination as part of her pioneering work as current cellist for the Kronos Quartet. The ensemble was nominated for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for their album Anderson, Laurie: Landfall.
Michael Arrom, BM ’17, Popular Music
Arrom has returned to USC as a new member of the Popular Music faculty team. The keyboardist has worked with an impressive list of artists such as guitarist Steve Vai, country icon, Keith Urban, and has appeared on the television series, Glee.
Cooper Bell, ’18, Pop Music
Bell was recently featured in College Magazine’s recent article, “Meet 10 Outstanding College Music Students.” He touched on the critical opportunities and mentoring he received at USC. Bell, who graduated last fall has already opened up for CityCoast and rapper Alvaro Diaz in Silverlake.
Jongnic Bontemps GCRT ’12, Screen Scoring
Bontemps, Layla Minoui (GCRT ’08), George Shaw (BM ’04), and Jermaine Stegall (GCRT ’04) are finalists selected for the Universal Film Music Composer Initiative, whose goal is to nurture up-and-coming composers. The composers will create original scores for two DreamWorks Animation short films, and will have the opportunity to continue mentorship opportunities with Universal Film Music and/or DreamWorks Animation executives for a period of one year from the Initiative commencement date.
Bontemps also conducted excerpts of his score for the new HBO documentary, United Skates in a concert sponsored by the Television Academy to celebrate the launch of its new category for Best Documentary Score. The amazing documentary, produced by John Legend, was premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and is centered around the underground subculture of African-American roller rinks and the struggle to keep them alive.
Peter Boyer GCRT ’96, Screen Scoring
Boyer premiered his Grammy-nominated work, Ellis Island: The Dream of America, nationwide on PBS’ Great Performances series with Pacific Symphony on June 29th. The show was carried by nearly all PBS stations across the United States, and many repeat performances are scheduled.
Ben Bransford ’16, Music Industry
Bransford and Eric Dubbury (BS ’16) recently co-spearheaded the revival of a country music festival called Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, grossing hundreds of tickets in a matter of hours. The two were introduced by USC faculty member Bruce Forman during their undergraduate studies. They remained friends after college and reconnected years later with Forman who told them about the Monterey Festival, in danger of being disbanded in its 19th year due to the passing of its founder. In the future, the duo plan on creating a scholarship fund in the founder’s name that will donate $10,000 to local music students.
Ilana Broad, Esq. ’11, Music Industry
Broad was recently recognized by Super Lawyers as a 2018 Rising Star for her work representing musicians, screenwriters, comedians, and other entertainment and media professionals through her solo practice, Ilana Broad Esq. PLLC.
Eli Brueggemann, MM ’03, Jazz Studies
As musical director and composer of Saturday Night Live, Brueggemann won hist first Emmy in the category of Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the song, Come Back Barack.
Paul Cornish ’18, Jazz Studies
Pianist Paul Cornish was recently accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. The program awards a full scholarship to seven jazz musicians from all over the globe every other year. Among his other achievements is a gold medal in the 2013 NAAPC ACT-So Competition and the Grand Bohemian Prize in the American Jazz Pianist Competition.
Rozzi Crane ’13, Pop Music
Crane’s new single “Bad Together” from her debut album of the same name was recently featured on MTV, who praised the singer for her “soaring yet raw vocals on the track.” Rozzi explains that the song was written after an emotional breakup; thus, she wanted her music video to be just as personal and heartbreaking.
Jack Daro MM ’99, Jazz Studies
Thornton Alumni Greg Reitan ’96, Jack Daro MM ’99 and Dean Koba MM ’93 just released a new album, West 60th, on Sunnyside Records. The trio is performing a west coast CD release concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Saturday, May 10th at 6pm.
John Daversa DMA ’09, Jazz Studies
Daversa won 3 GRAMMY awards this year for his album “American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom,” which features faculty member Paul Young on trombone, in the categories of Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Improvised Jazz Solo, and Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella. Daversa won for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for the track “Don’t Fence Me In” as well as Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella for “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Additionally, the ensemble won for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
David Deedwania ’15, Screen Scoring
Deedwania recently collaborated with students from the USC School of Cimenatic Arts to create a short animated film entitled, Trailblazer. Deedwania scored the piece and worked with student filmmakers who developed Ollie, a 3D animation and VR tool. The film will premier at USC’s Norris Cinema Theatre on May 11.
Karina DePiano ’16, Popular Music
DePiano has been touring with a multitude of artists such as Troye Sivan, Rita Ora, Daya, Fifth Harmony, and Miley Cyrus. DePiano will be touring with Sivan on his U.S. tour this October and November. She has also performed at events such as Saturday Night Live, The Today Show, and the Billboard Music Awards.
Eric Dubbury ’16, Music Industry
Dubbury and Ben Bransford (BS ’16) recently co-spearheaded the revival of a country music festival called Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, grossing hundreds of tickets in a matter of hours. The two were introduced by USC faculty member Bruce Forman during their undergraduate studies. They remained friends after college and reconnected years later with Forman who told them about the Monterey Festival, in danger of being disbanded in its 19th year due to the passing of its founder. In the future, the duo plan on creating a scholarship fund in the founder’s name that will donate $10,000 to local music students.
Kait Dunton, DMA ’13, Jazz Studies
Dunton will be releasing her sixth album this weekend, a collaboration with several musicians including two former teachers, trumpeter John D’earth, and saxophonist Bob Mintzer, the chair of the Jazz Studies program at USC Thornton. She is also the Chair of the Piano department at the Los Angeles College of Music in Pasadena and leads trioKAIT, a genre-defying jazz trio.
Luudwig Göransson GCRT ’08, Screen Scoring
He took home 3 awards this year at the GRAMMY Awards including two for his collaboration with Childish Gambino. The duo won Record of the Year and Song of the Year for This is America as well as being nominated for best R&B Song for the trach Feels Like Summer. Göransson also won the GRAMMY for Best Score Sountrack for Visual Media for the movie, Black Panther. Gorransson is the first to win song of the year and best score soundtrack for projects in entirely different music genres.
Göransson also rounded out award season by winning his first Oscar for Best Original Score for Black Panther. Göransson first met Black Panther director, Ryan Cooogler MFA ’11, at USC Thornton in the Screen Scoring program, where they solidified a strong friendship. Now, 12 years later, the duo has succeeded in scoring and directing one of the most successful and lauded superhero movies of all time.
Dean Koba MM ’93, Jazz Studies
Thornton Alumni Greg Reitan ’96, Jack Daro MM ’99 and Dean Koba MM ’93 just released a new album, West 60th, on Sunnyside Records. The trio is performing a west coast CD release concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Saturday, May 10th at 6pm.
Qingnan Ma MM ’17, Screen Scoring
He is the composer of the film Spring Flower directed by Hua Tong and the recent winner of the Gold Award under the category of Narrative in the 45th Student Academy Awards competition, hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The awards are given to student winners from colleges and universities around the world and the ceremony takes place at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills in October.
Naama Melumad GCRT ’15, Screen Scoring
She has recently been nominated for two “Hollywood Music in Media” awards, alongside some of the most respected and best known names in the film music world. Her score for Miss Arizona is nominated for Best Score- Independent Film, and her score for Passage is nominated for Best Score – Short Film. Having completed a total of six feature films in 2018 and with commitments already penned for 2019, she is quickly becoming a highly in-demand composer in Los Angeles.
Molly Miller ’11, DMA ’16, Studio Guitar
She was recently published in Premier Guitar, in the first article of an ongoing series. Her piece, entitled “Dr. Molly’s Guitar Lab: The Badass Riffs of Sister Rosetta Tharpe,” breaks down the compositional patterns behind the “Original Soul Sister’s” distinctive riffs, while providing basic instruction on this style of guitar playing. She is currently on tour with singer-songwriter Jason Mraz. At 28, Miller is currently the chair of the guitar department at the Los Angeles College of Music and is the youngest in the country to hold such a position. She will also be performing with Sammy Miller and the Congregation and her own trio, the Molly Miller Trio, for the remainder of the year.
Layla Minoui GCRT ’08, Screen Scoring
Minoui, Jongnic Bontemps (GCRT ’12), George Shaw (BM ’04), and Jermaine Stegall (GCRT ’04) are finalists selected for the Universal Film Music Composer Initiative, whose goal is to nurture up-and-coming composers. The composers will create original scores for two DreamWorks Animation short films, and will have the opportunity to continue mentorship opportunities with Universal Film Music and/or DreamWorks Animation executives for a period of one year from the Initiative commencement date.
MUNA (Katie Gavin ’15, Josette Maskin ’16, and Naomi McPherson ’15, Pop Music)
The trio was recently featured on B-sides and Badlands’ Hook & Reel, a series of showcasing music. MUNA’s debut album, About U continues to be praised as a “queer-pop masterpiece.”
Cole Pham ’18, Music Industry
Pham released his second studio album, LA 2 LA, at the end of 2018. The album chronicles Pham’s journey from his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana to Los Angeles, where he felt USC helped him to musically “take the training wheels off”. Pham is now currently a Financial Management Intern for Parr3 LLC.
Steven Robinson ’18, Jazz Studies
Robinson is currently on tour with singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Fogerty. Robinson and current students, Ethan Chilton and Nathan Collins perform five songs on the tour, including Proud Mary, and they also get to march through the audience with a Bayou favorite, When the Saints Go Marching In.
Jermaine Stegall GCRT ’04, Screen Scoring
Stegall, George Shaw (BM ’04), Layla Minoui (GCRT ’08), and Jongnic Bontemps (GCRT ’12) are finalists selected for the Universal Film Music Composer Initiative, whose goal is to nurture up-and-coming composers. The composers will create original scores for two DreamWorks Animation short films, and will have the opportunity to continue mentorship opportunities with Universal Film Music and/or DreamWorks Animation executives for a period of one year from the Initiative commencement date.
John Storie BM ’06, Studio Guitar
John was featured on Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer’s Orchestra, an upcoming album slated to be released on November 9th. He has been lending his musical talent to the group since 2012. The album will also include features from artists and such as Haley Reinhart, Till Bronner, Imelda May, and comedian Sarah Silverman. Along with this accomplishment Storie is also the founding member of a guitar group and was a semi-finalist for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition.
Jej Vinson, Popular Music
Vinson won a spot on NBC’s The Voice with a performance of Drake’s “Passionfruit” that stunned the judges, earning him 4 chair turns. The video of his performance has since gone viral, earning over one million views on Youtube in less than 24 hours.
Matthew Jay Warren ’00, Music Industry
Warren was selected for key positions in entertainment law. Jones joined the Music Row Law Office of Russell A. Jones Jr. as an associate attorney, and Warren was appointed head of Clinton & Clinton’s new sports entertainment department.
Scholarly & Professional Studies
Isabella Cho ’97
She recently founded a music school in Austria using an innovative technique involving study of piano, which allows children to learn both music and English. The program is open to any child of any age and language. She is now opening the project to undergrad students through USC’s study abroad program.
Alison Maggart PhD ’17, Musicology
Maggart has been named assistant professor of instruction at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music. Maggart previously taught at California State University, Northridge, the Colburn Conservatory, and the KM Music Conservatory in India. Maggart’s research is focused on twentieth-century and contemporary American music. While at USC, she was a recipient of a University of Southern California Endowed Arnold Fellowship and won the prestigious Ingolf Dahl Award in Musicology from the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the American Musicological Society.