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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  • USC Thornton Concert Jazz Orchestra: Kind of Blue

    Jason Goldman leads the Concert Jazz Orchestra in a program of original arrangements from the biggest jazz album of all-time, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Considered by most critics to be the greatest jazz recording, the album is comprised of five iconic pieces: So What, Freddy Freeloader, Blue in Green, All Blues, and Flamenco Sketches.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Musician's Wellness Initiative: Good Vibrations

    Emmy Award-winning composer and faculty member Richard Wolf presents a talk about mindfulness and meditation for musicians.

    USC Brain and Creativity Institute's Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall (BCI)

  • Music@RushHour: Oriana & Apollo

    The talented singers of the Oriana Women’s Choir and the Apollo Men’s Chorus present an hour of exquisite choral music by Puccini, Runestad, and Dr. Nick Strimple. 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)

  • New Jazz Showcase

    The Division of Contemporary Music presents an evening showcasing the new jazz sound evolving at USC Thornton, featuring original tunes written, arranged and performed by students.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Solo Bach Competition

    A panel of distinguished guest adjudicators will hear finalists from the Strings program perform complete sonatas, partitas and suites by Johann Sebastian Bach.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • USC Thornton Wind Ensemble: Made in America

    H. Robert Reynolds and Sharon Lavery lead the USC Thornton Wind Ensemble in a celebration of American composers, featuring faculty member James Walker in David Mairs' American Flute Salute. Other pieces include Morton Gould’s American Salute, Mason Bates’ Mothership, Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, Darius Milhaud’s La création du monde (Creation of the World), and Seep by Thornton student Stephen Cabell, winner of the Student Wind Ensemble Composition Contest. Program: Morton Gould – American Salute Stephen Cabell – Seep (winner of the Student Wind Ensemble Composition Contest) David Mairs - American Flute Salute (featuring James Walker, flute) Mason Bates – Mothership Leonard Bernstein – Prelude, Fugue and Riffs Darius Milhaud – La création du monde (Creation of the World)

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • The Met in HD: Verdi's “La Traviata”

    The USC School of Cinematic Arts hosts a broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera of Verdi's La Traviata. A pre-opera discussion, hosted by the USC Thornton School of Music, begins at 12:00 PM and a delayed satellite broadcast follows at 1:00 PM. Sonya Yoncheva sings one of opera's most beloved heroines, the tragic courtesan Violetta, opposite Michael Fabiano as her lover, Alfredo, and Thomas Hampson as his father. Nicola Luisotti conducts. Opera running time: 2 hours, 55 minutes. In Italian, with English subtitles. Presented by USC Visions and Voices; the Arts & Humanities Initiative.

    Norris Cinema Theatre (NCT)

  • JazzReach Concert

    Young student jazz ensembles from the Los Angeles community perform as part of the USC Thornton Community Engagement Programs, funded in part by the USC Good Neighbors Campaign. Reception: 6:00 PM Concert: 7:00 PM ADMISSION: $5 at the door. Children under 10 are admitted free.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • ALAJE

    Led by Aaron Serfaty, the USC Thornton Afro-Latin American Jazz Ensemble (ALAJE) presents an evening of jazz standards reinvented with a focus on the rhythmic traditions of Brazil and Cuba.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Music@RushHour: Solo Piano

    “One” is the lyrical number when pianists from Thornton explore repertoire 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 the 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.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Concert Choir: Music of Our Time

    The Concert Choir celebrates the music of renowned composers from around the globe with a unique collaboration. In preparation for the performance, each composer featured will interact with the ensemble in person, via Skype, or by recording. The concert features work from USC Thornton faculty members Morten Lauridsen and Frank Ticheli, as well as Nilo Alcala (Philippines), Alberto Grau (Venezuela), Randol Alan Bass (USA), Sarah Hopkins (Australia), Hyo Won Woo (Korea), Eric Whitacre (USA), Leo Brouwer (Cuba), and Robert Applebaum (England).

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • news archive

    News

    Peter Erskine quoted in LA Times article about “La La Land”

    March 24, 2017

    Peter Erskine, legendary jazz drummer and director of Drumset Studies at USC Thornton, was recently featured in a Los Angeles Times article about his work as a session musician for the award-winning film, La La Land. The film explores a musician’s crisis of conscience about performing music simply to earn… read more

    more news