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Alumni

Alumni Accomplishments

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 July 2020. To submit your own accomplishments, please complete our handy web submission form.

Classical Performance & Composition

Michael Abels ’84, Composition
7/1/20 – Multiple alumni of USC Thornton received awards and nominations for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 2020 Screen Music Awards, honoring the accomplishments of composers for film, television and video games from 2019. Abels was nominated for Film Score of the Year for “Us,” and received a Top Box Office Films award.

7/22/20 – USC Thornton alumni and award-winning composers Michael Abels and Ludwig Göransson were recently featured in an LA Times article looking ahead to the 2020 Emmy Awards and the standout composers for television who may be poised for top honors. Abels is highlighted for his score for the HBO series Bad Education.

Sarkis Baltaian ’99, MM ’01, DMA ’07, Piano Performance
7/20/20 – Derek Polischuk and Sarkis Baltaian’s new CD Latin American Music for 2 Pianos was reviewed by James Harrington in the July/August 2020 American Record Guide. Harrington raved that Polischuk and Baltaian had a great time with the music and cannot imagine anyone listening to this and not being drawn in.

Juhi Bansal ’06, MM ’08, DMA ’12, Composition
Los Angeles area students will learn and perform an opera by Composition alum Juhi Bansal in the upcoming season of LA Opera’s Secondary In-School Opera program. The remote workshops are an opportunity for students to sharpen their theatrical skills with a contemporary work.

Bokyung Byun DMA ’20, Classical Guitar
7/27/20 – A group of entrepreneurial alumni and students of USC Thornton’s Classical Guitar program have launched Guitarlab, a new international online classical guitar intensive and competition for guitarists ages 12-21. Alumni Byun, Tomasz Fechner (MM ’16, DMA ’20), and Jaxon Williams (DMA ’20) along with doctoral students Mircea Gogoncea and Brendon Grabowski built the robust learning platform to offer a wide variety of courses to students interested in honing their skills and preparing for a career in classical guitar.

Sung Chang GCRT ’17, Piano
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including pianist Sung Chang. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Claire JaeYoun Chung GCRT ’15, DMA ’20, Clarinet
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including clarinetist Claire JaeYoun Chung. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Sérgio Coelho GCRT ’16, MM ’18, AD ’20, Clarinet
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including clarinetist Sérgio Coelho. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Luis Reyes Duarte DMA ’20, Keyboard Collaborative Arts
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including pianist Luis Reyes Duarte. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Tomasz Fechner MM ’16, DMA ’20, Classical Guitar
7/27/20 – A group of entrepreneurial alumni and students of USC Thornton’s Classical Guitar program have launched Guitarlab, a new international online classical guitar intensive and competition for guitarists ages 12-21. Alumni Bokyung Byun (DMA ’20), Fechner, and Jaxon Williams (DMA ’20) along with doctoral students Mircea Gogoncea and Brendon Grabowski built the robust learning platform to offer a wide variety of courses to students interested in honing their skills and preparing for a career in classical guitar.

Christopher Goodpasture ’11, Piano
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including pianist Christopher Goodpasture. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Coleman Itzkoff MM ’16, Cello Performance
7/13/20 – Alumni of USC Thornton will appear as artists in residence at Yellow Barn this summer and perform in the organization’s first-ever virtual concert series: cellist and graduate certificate student Coleman Itzkoff; cellist Gabriel Martins; and clarinetist and artist diploma student Yasmina Spiegelberg. The three musicians will appear in a number of virtual concerts throughout the summer. The series premiered on July 10, and the final event will stream on August 8.

Andrés Jaramillo DMA ’20, Piano
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including pianist Andrés Jaramillo. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Jae Uk Jeon GCRT ’20, Flute
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including flutist Jae Uk Jeon. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

YuEun Kim GCRT ’15, AD ’17, Violin
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including violinist YuEun Kim. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Isaac López MM ’14, DMA ’18, Saxophone
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including saxophonist Isaac López. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Javier Iglesias Martin GCRT ’18, Cello
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including cellist Javier Iglesias Martin. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Gabriel Martins ’19, Cello Performance
7/13/20 – Alumni of USC Thornton will appear as artists in residence at Yellow Barn this summer and perform in the organization’s first-ever virtual concert series: cellist and graduate certificate student Coleman Itzkoff; cellist Gabriel Martins; and clarinetist and artist diploma student Yasmina Spiegelberg. The three musicians will appear in a number of virtual concerts throughout the summer. The series premiered on July 10, and the final event will stream on August 8.

Bear McCreary ’02, Composition
7/1/20 – McCreary was named TV Composer of the Year as part of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 2020 Screen Music Awards. He also received a Top Box Office Films award and a Top Television Series award for his work on the long-running show “The Walking Dead.”

Garrett McQueen MM ’12, Bassoon
6/21/20 – Bassoonist, radio host and Thornton alum Garrett McQueen discusses the origins and work behind his classical music podcast, Trilloquy, in a recent interview with Rewire. Hosted by McQueen and his collaborator, Scott Blankenship, the podcast takes on subjects not often addressed in conversations around classical music, such as the intersection of classical music and race.

James Moursund MM ’20, Sacred Music
7/9/20 – Sacred Music alum James Moursund has been appointed as the Full time Director of Music and Liturgy at St. Paul’s Catholic Community in Leesburg, Florida. He will begin October 1, 2020.

Roger Neill ’86, Composition
7/1/20 – Composition alum Roger Neill has been invited into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Neill is known for his work on the Amazon television show “Mozart in the Jungle,” and for films such as “20th Century Women” and “Don’t Think Twice.”

Derek Polischuk ’01, MM ’04, DMA ’06, Piano Performance
7/20/20 – Derek Polischuk was promoted to Full Professor of Piano at Michigan State University.

7/20/20 – Derek Polischuk and Sarkis Baltaian’s new CD Latin American Music for 2 Pianos was reviewed by James Harrington in the July/August 2020 American Record Guide. Harrington raved that Polischuk and Baltaian had a great time with the music and cannot imagine anyone listening to this and not being drawn in.

Yasmina Spiegelberg GCRT ’17, Clarinet
7/13/20 – Alumni of USC Thornton will appear as artists in residence at Yellow Barn this summer and perform in the organization’s first-ever virtual concert series: cellist and graduate certificate student Coleman Itzkoff; cellist Gabriel Martins; and clarinetist and artist diploma student Yasmina Spiegelberg. The three musicians will appear in a number of virtual concerts throughout the summer. The series premiered on July 10, and the final event will stream on August 8.

7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including clarinetist Yasmina Spiegelberg. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Katelyn Vahala ’18, MM ’20, Piano
7/26/20 – Winners of the 2020-2021 Beverly Hills National Auditions (BHNA) were recently announced, and among them are a long list of 12 students and alumni of USC Thornton, including pianist Katelyn Vahala. Each year, the BHNA selects winners to be presented the following season in a series of monthly concerts across Southern California. In consideration of restrictions on in-person events, the 2020-2021 season will begin with live streamed concerts.

Jaxon Williams DMA ’20, Classical Guitar
7/27/20 – A group of entrepreneurial alumni and students of USC Thornton’s Classical Guitar program have launched Guitarlab, a new international online classical guitar intensive and competition for guitarists ages 12-21. Alumni Bokyung Byun (DMA ’20), Tomasz Fechner (MM ’16, DMA ’20), and Williams along with doctoral students Mircea Gogoncea and Brendon Grabowski built the robust learning platform to offer a wide variety of courses to students interested in honing their skills and preparing for a career in classical guitar.

Austin Wintory ’07, Composition
7/1/20 – Wintory was nominated in the Video Game Score of the Year category as part of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 2020 Screen Music Awards.

Contemporary Music

Jongnic Bontemps GCRT ’12, Screen Scoring
7/24/20 – On Sunday, July 26, three USC Thornton alumni appeared on a panel event for this year’s online-only Comic-Con, Comic-Con@Home. The live online event is a game show-style panel called Composer Squares Game Show, in the style of Hollywood Squares, and featured alumni composers Bontemps, Christopher Lennertz (BM ’95), and Giona Ostinelli (GCRT ’11) alongside other composers for film and television to answer trivia questions about popular entertainment.

Eli Brueggemann MM ’03, Jazz Studies
7/28/20 – USC Thornton faculty and alumni were nominated in the 72nd Emmy Awards, announced on July 28. Brueggemann, the musical director for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” was nominated in the category of Outstanding Music Direction for the episode, “SNL At Home #1” along with Lenny Pickett and Leon Pendarvis.

Varqa Buehrer GCRT ’15, Screen Scoring
7/1/20 – Varqa Buehrer received a Top Box Office Film award at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 2020 Screen Music Awards, which honors the accomplishments of composers for film, television and video games from 2019.

Chanda Dancy GCRT ’04, Screen Scoring
7/7/20 – Screen Scoring alum Chanda Dancy has been invited into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Dancy is an orchestral and film composer known for movies such as “Everything Before Us.”

Josh Goldberg ’15, Popular Music
7/8/20 – Pop alum Josh Goldberg recently released a new album entitled Anchors and Balloons. An album of Jewish and inspirational music co-produced by LA session musician Ross Garren, was released via a virtual concert on July 5, 2020.

Ludwig Göransson GCRT ‘08, Screen Scoring
7/22/20 – USC Thornton alumni and award-winning composers Michael Abels (BM ’84) and Ludwig Göransson (GCRT ‘08) were recently featured in an LA Times article looking ahead to the 2020 Emmy Awards and the standout composers for television who may be poised for top honors. Göransson receives mention for his much-talked-about score for “The Mandalorian.”

7/28/20 – USC Thornton faculty and alumni were nominated in the 72nd Emmy Awards, announced on July 28. Göransson was nominated for his score for Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.” Göransson received a nomination in the category of Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score). 

Renée Goldsberry MM ’97, Jazz Studies
7/9/20 – Tony Award-winning Jazz Studies alum Renée Goldsberry was interviewed in the LA Times about her role as Angelica Schuyler in the hit musical Hamilton after the film version of the musical was recently released on Disney+.

Gordy Haab GCRT ’02, Screen Scoring
7/1/20 – Gordy Haab received top honors in the Composers’ Choice categories as part of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) 2020 Screen Music Awards. Haab was awarded Video Game Score of the Year for his score for “Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order.”

Christopher Lennertz ’95, Screen Scoring
7/24/20 – On Sunday, July 26, three USC Thornton alumni appeared on a panel event for this year’s online-only Comic-Con, Comic-Con@Home. The live online event is a game show-style panel called Composer Squares Game Show, in the style of Hollywood Squares, and featured alumni composers Jongnic Bontemps (GCRT ’12), Lennertz, and Giona Ostinelli (GCRT ’11) alongside other composers for film and television to answer trivia questions about popular entertainment.

Justin Lubliner ’12, Music Industry
7/14/20 – On July 28, Music Industry alum Justin Lubliner will be the keynote speaker at the Music Business Association’s #NEXTGEN_NOW Virtual Summit. The event brings together young professionals in the music industry for discussions about industry innovations and career building.

Tish Oney DMA ’07, Jazz Studies
8/3/20 – Tish authored a critically-acclaimed biography as part of the official, international “Peggy Lee 100” celebration, Peggy Lee: A Century of Song. The book earned a Starred Review from Library Journal and praise from several other media outlets. The book will be released August 20 via a virtual book launch on Facebook Live @TishOneyFan.

Giona Ostinelli GCRT ’11, Screen Scoring
7/24/20 – On Sunday, July 26, three USC Thornton alumni appeared on a panel event for this year’s online-only Comic-Con, Comic-Con@Home. The live online event is a game show-style panel called Composer Squares Game Show, in the style of Hollywood Squares, and featured alumni composers Jongnic Bontemps (GCRT ’12), Christopher Lennertz (BM ’95), and Ostinelli alongside other composers for film and television to answer trivia questions about popular entertainment.

Jaimie Pangan MM ’19, Screen Scoring
7/10/20 – Jaimie Pangan has been invited to be a voting member of the Recording Academy. The Recording Academy extended membership invitations to more than 2,300 established music professionals. The invitation is a reflection of their important contributions to music and potential to influence progressive changes within the music industry.

Jermaine Stegall GCRT ’04, Screen Scoring
7/1/20 – Screen Scoring alum Jermaine Stegall has been invited into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Stegall has composed for films and television, and is the composer for the upcoming film “Coming 2 America,” a sequel to the 1988 film “Coming to America.”