Contemporary Music

By bringing together jazz, industry, technology, popular music, studio guitar, and film scoring into a single learning environment, USC Thornton’s Division of Contemporary Music has created the foundation of a professional network for our students.

“Through interaction, collaboration, and a dynamic curriculum, students in the Contemporary Music Division have hands-on experiences designed to prepare them for careers in music. All under the direction of a truly remarkable faculty, each one dedicated to our student’s development as artists, professionals, and human beings.

USC Thornton has a long tradition of innovative programs. We were among the first in the nation to offer degrees in jazz studies, studio guitar, film scoring, and music industry. This tradition continues with the recent addition of our Popular Music program. Along with our outstanding classical and academic programs, we are one of the most distinctive and comprehensive music programs you will find in the world.


The results of this experience can be found in the success of our alumni. Current and former students are Grammy nominees, in-demand producers, established film composers, touring musicians, recording artists, and accomplished educators.

So, I invite you to come to the USC campus to visit the Division of Contemporary Music and see for yourself—meet with our staff and faculty, sit-in on a class, attend a showcase or concert. As you get to know more, I believe you’ll understand why we take enormous pride in our programs and in USC. I hope to meet you soon!”

Christopher Sampson
Vice Dean
Contemporary Music

event calendar

Upcoming events

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  • Music@RushHour: Classical Masterminds

    Thornton Keyboard Studies students perform masterworks of Mozart and Haydn for solo piano. Skip the traffic and enjoy an hour of extraordinary USC Thornton talent with Music@RushHour. After the concert, stick around for free refreshments!

    Ramo Recital Hall (BMH)

  • Jazz Night featuring ALAJE

    ALAJE, the USC Thornton Afro-Latin American Jazz Ensemble led by Aaron Serfaty, headlines this ongoing series featuring USC Thornton student jazz ensembles.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • USC Thornton Symphony: Concerto Night

    Guest conductor David Lockington leads the USC Thornton Symphony in Concerto Night, featuring outstanding student soloists on clarinet, cello, and piano. Yasmina Spiegelberg performs Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A minor (K.622), Gabriel Martins performs Hindemith's Violoncello Concerto, and Vijay Venkatesh performs Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58. This concert will be live-streamed to the USC Thornton website on Friday, February 24th. Visit music.usc.edu/livestream

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • Popular Music: Second-Year Showcase

    Sean Holt leads second-year Popular Music students in this showcase, focusing on stylistic nuance, groove, and ensemble technique.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Drum Day

    The USC Thornton Community Engagement Programs celebrates the diversity and universality of the percussion family of musical instruments. The day-long event will offer clinics, demonstrations, and participatory drumming sessions in a variety of different styles and traditions.

    Ramo Recital Hall (BMH)

  • Electro-Acoustic Showcase

    The Composition department presents the annual electro-acoustic showcase, led by DMA student Eric Pham, featuring works by student composers that combine electronic instruments and signal processing with acoustic instruments

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Jazz Honors Combo

    The Jazz Honors Combo, a select group of USC Thornton jazz musicians led by Jason Goldman, presents an evening of standards and original compositions.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Thornton Edge

    Thornton Edge presents a program of works by Stephen Hartke, Barbara White, and Magnus Lindberg, as well as Jeffrey Holmes' virtuosic microtonal work for nine players, Hagall. Composition chair Donald Crockett conducts. PROGRAM: Gradūs (1999) by Stephen Hartke (b. 1952) Nick Davies, clarinet Richard An, piano Ethan Ahmad, percussion Mann-Wen Lo, violin Peter Myers, cello Rebecca Lawrence, bass Learning to See (2000) by Barbara White (b.1965) Elissa Brown, flute Frederik von Wurden, clarinet Richard An, piano Ethan Ahmad, percussion Mann-Wen Lo, violin Peter Myers, cello Ablauf (1983) by Magnus Lindberg (1958) Nick Davies, clarinet Tyler Eschendal and Ethan Ahmad, percussion Hagall (2015) by Jeffrey Holmes Emma McCartney, flute Theodosia Roussos, oboe Sérgio Coelho, e flat clarinet Taylor Eiffert, contra clarinet Weston Mccall, horn Tyler Eschendal and Thomas Kolakowski, percussion Ali Can Puskulcu, violin Diana Wade, viola Peter Myers, cello Rebecca Lawrence, bass Free and open to the public. Seating is first-come, first-served, and RSVPs are not available.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Popular Music: First-Year Showcase

    Led by professors Andy Abad and Patrice Rushen, first-year Popular Music program students explore the foundations of their craft in this showcase.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Jazz Night

    Students from Thornton's Jazz Studies department present an evening of contemporary jazz as part of an ongoing series.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Griot! African and European Improvisations with Jalli Lamin Kuyateh and the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia

    African musician Jalli Lamin Kuyateh joins music director Adam Gilbert and the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia for a fascinating meeting of musical styles, time periods, and instruments. The improvisational concert will blend Gambian and Baroque songs to create a riveting fusion of African griot and Euro-Baroque music. Kuyateh stands in a long tradition of Gambian bards, performing the African gourd harp (or kora) while singing birimintingo and kumbengo, improvised songs and stories that tell history, sing in praise and love, and offer sage advice. Kuyateh lives in the Netherlands, where he blends traditional and modern African music to collaborate with European ensembles. Presented by USC Visions and Voices; the Arts & Humanities Initiative.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Popular Music: Senior Showcase

    The senior class of Thornton's Popular Music program returns to the famed Troubadour in West Hollywood for this annual showcase.

    The Troubadour Club

  • news archive

    News

    Alumnus Ray Zepeda presents a Milton Babbitt tribute concert

    February 17, 2017

    Saxophonist Ray Zepeda (MM ’98, Jazz Studies), founder and artistic director of the Bakersfield New Music Collective, recently organized a tribute concert for the serial composer, Milton Babbitt. The free event, entitled “Re-Imagining Milton Babbitt: A Centennial Celebration for an Exceptional American,” took place at The Mark in downtown Bakersfield… read more

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