Arts Leadership

Drawing on the deep artistic and intellectual resources of USC and the vibrant cultural landscape of Los Angeles, the USC Thornton Arts Leadership program is an innovative, artist-centric graduate degree program for artists, arts administrators and cultural entrepreneurs who want to expand their personal vision to create a meaningful and sustainable life and career in the arts.

While it is situated in the USC Thornton School of Music, the arts leadership program is intentionally multi-disciplinary, drawing students from various artistic backgrounds, genres and ranges of experience. Self-directed learning and actual practice combined with mentorship from arts leadership faculty and guidance from working professionals in the field are hallmarks of the program’s unique design.

The central academic program is the one-year Master of Science in Arts Leadership which comprises a core of arts leadership courses, a focused program of electives chosen by the student in consultation with program faculty, internships with area arts organizations and a practicum project appropriate to each student’s aspirations and goals. The program begins in the late summer with a five-day intensive experience and continues as a cohort of arts leaders who are determined to make a difference in the world with their work.

Graduates of the program have pursued multiple career paths including creating and leading their own ensembles, programs and creative organizations, many of which they imagined or launched in the arts leadership degree program.

Graduate Programs

Master of Science

Arts Leadership

2 semesters | 31 units

The Arts Leadership Master of Science degree is designed for arts administrators and cultural entrepreneurs who want to expand their personal vision of leadership, and create a life and career for themselves in the arts.

Graduates have often gone on to create and lead their own ensembles, programs and arts organizations such as the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble, Sunset ChamberFest as well as innovative education and community engagement programs like Modern Maestro and Play the Groove.

Refer to the USC Catalogue for complete course descriptions and degree requirements.

The two-semester curriculum is designed for early and mid career arts leaders who recognize that the rapidly changing world of the 21st Century requires an innovative approach to arts leadership. The program is multi-disciplinary and self-directed, allowing students to create highly individualized courses of study that meets their particular needs and aspirations. Close faculty mentorship and guidance from working professionals in the field are a hallmark of this unique degree as well as a commitment to both theory and practice.

Graduate Certificate

Graduate Certificate

Arts Leadership

2 semesters | 18 units

The two-semester, minimum 18-unit program, is for artists, arts administrators and cultural workers who want to further develop the skills necessary to become successful leaders in the arts. With most of the courses scheduled in the evenings, the program is designed for working professionals in any of the arts disciplines who recognize that the rapidly changing world of the 21st century requires a new set of leadership skills.

Refer to the USC Catalogue for complete course descriptions and degree requirements here.

A Letter from the Director

“Welcome to Arts Leadership at USC, a graduate program that redefines how we think about and practice arts leadership in the 21st Century.”

Kenneth J. Foster

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this program only for musicians?

No, the Arts Leadership program is suitable for artists, professional arts administrators, and thought leaders in any artistic discipline.

I don’t live in California — will I have to move to LA if I want to enroll in this program?

Yes, all courses in the Arts Leadership program are taught on the USC campus.

What resources will I have access to during the program?

Arts Leadership students will have access to state-of-the-art facilities, mentorship, experiential learning, and a network of like minded colleagues.

My project has very specific needs — how can I be sure this program will address them?

Students have the freedom to take electives through USC’s Marshall School of Business, Price School of Public Policy, and others.

Do I need to have already started my project or idea to enroll in the program?

It’s not a requirement to have already started an organization or project, but we’re looking for proven artists and leaders with strong visions who are ready to bring their ideas to fruition.


Kenneth Foster, chair
Christian Chico, coordinator

MUS 314
(213) 740-6935