Arts Leadership

Create a meaningful, sustainable life and career in the arts.

The USC Thornton Arts Leadership program is an innovative, artist-centric graduate degree program designed for artists, arts administrators and cultural entrepreneurs.

While 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. 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. 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 pursue 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 through self-directed learning and practice.

Graduate Programs

Master of Science

Arts Leadership

2 years | 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.

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, and Sunset ChamberFest. Innovative education and community engagement programs like Modern Maestro and Play the Groove were also developed by alumni.

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

The two-year curriculum (which can be accelerated in some cases to two semesters) is designed for early and mid-career arts leaders who recognize that the rapidly changing world 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 meet their 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 years | 18 units

The two-year curriculum (which can be accelerated in some cases to two semesters) requires a minimum of 18 units. 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 a rapidly changing world requires a new set of leadership skills.

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

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