Photo of Composition student with dancers

The composers on the USC Thornton School of Music 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 USC Thornton 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, as well as 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, Thornton Winds 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, counterpoint and electro-acoustic composition. Students who complete the BM, MM or DMA in composition at USC Thornton are given priority consideration for admission to the MM Screen Scoring program, if they apply to the USC Thornton Screen Scoring program within one year of completing the degree in composition. Those wishing to pursue this opportunity 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 (typically 7 units or less) they must successfully complete and what other steps they must take, including but not limited to submission of an application.

Undergraduate Programs

Bachelor of Music


4 years | 132 units

The BM in composition is a four-year, 132-unit program consisting of course work in the major (composition, orchestration, counterpoint), core music studies (theory, aural skills, music history, keyboard instruction, conducting, large ensemble) and USC’s general education and writing program. A senior recital is required.

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

Graduate Programs

Master of Music


2 years | 30 units

The MM in composition is a two-year, 30-unit program consisting of individual instruction in composition, special topics in graduate composition, course work in music history, ensemble participation and individual instruction in any performance medium. A graduate recital and composition portfolio are required.

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

Doctoral Programs

Doctor of Musical Arts


65 units

The DMA in composition requires a minimum of 65 units beyond the bachelor’s degree and consists of the following areas of study: the basic DMA curriculum, course work in the major, an academic field and two elective fields. One recital and a Dissertation is required.

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

Celebrating Morten Lauridsen

Composer Morten Lauridsen, National Medal of Arts recipient and distinguished professor of Composition at USC Thornton, has carved out a place in the choral repertoire of the 21st Century. His beloved works have been recorded on more than 200 albums and the National Endowment for the Arts has named Lauridsen an “American Choral Master.”

In this revealing series, Lauridsen will discuss his student days at USC, the inspiration he draws from the quiet of his simple retreat on Washington’s Waldron Island, the influence of poetry in his music, and his relationship with USC Thornton, both as a faculty member and three-time alumnus. Lauridsen also offers an intimate glimpse into the creation of some of his most beloved pieces, including “O Magnum Mysterium” and “Sure on this Shining Night.”


Donald Crockett, chair
Gordon La Cross, coordinator

MUS 317
(213) 740-7416