Composition

Overview

The composers on the USC Thornton faculty are outstanding members of the international musical community, with major commissions, awards, recordings and residencies among the faculty’s many accolades. Composition students, among the finest in the country, regularly win national awards and commissions, including: ASCAP and BMI awards, New York Symphony Orchestra First Music commissions, Aspen and Tanglewood fellowships, American Composers Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra reading sessions, among many others.

The Composition Program strongly emphasizes performance opportunities for student composers. Student works are premiered at Thornton Edge new music ensemble concerts, student department showcases and recitals, and at the annual New Music for Orchestra concert with the USC Thornton Symphony – an event which has premiered over 150 USC Thornton student orchestral works. The USC Thornton choruses, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble and chamber music program provide composition students with significant reading and performance opportunities as well.

Our Program’s curriculum offers thorough training in composition, musicianship, theory, analysis, orchestration and counterpoint. Electives in electro-acoustic composition are also available. Students who complete the BM, MM, or DMA in composition at USC Thornton are given priority status for admission to the MM Screen Scoring program. Those wishing to pursue this option are required to meet with the director of the Screen Scoring program as early as possible in their composition studies at USC Thornton in order to determine which additional courses they must successfully complete (typically 5 units or less), and what other steps they must take (including but not limited to submission of an application), to secure their spot in the Screen Scoring program.

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Michael Abels

Michael Abels lauded for score of Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’

April 16, 2019

Composer and USC Thornton alumnus Michael Abels ’84 was recently profiled on NPR for his score of Jordan Peele’s new horror movie, Us. NPR praises Abel for balancing terror with empathy, and Peele claims it is Abels’ heart that makes him a great horror scorer. Abels and Peele first collaborated on… read more

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