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

[localist-calendar details_page="https://music.usc.edu/events/details/" distinct="true" get="events" group_id="7336" days="365" start="today" pp="12" template_multiple="slider block"]
  • USC Thornton Symphony: The Triumph of Life

    Carl St.Clair leads the USC Thornton Symphony in Mahler's vivid tone poem, Totenfeier, and Prokofiev's joyous Fifth Symphony. Two profound works, born amidst conflict, highlight the endurance and nobility of the human spirit. PROGRAM: Gustav Mahler: Totenfeier (Funeral Rites) Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5, Op. 100 in B-flat major USC Thornton will pay tribute to the memory of Daniel Lewis, Emeritus Professor and longtime leader of the USC Thornton Symphony who passed away in July, with a few words of remembrance before the concert from Robert Cutietta, Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • USC Thornton Symphony: Revolutionary Dance

    The USC Thornton Symphony presents Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe: Suite No.2 and Stravinsky's legendary The Rite of Spring. Revolutionary scores for two icons of modern dance remain as fresh today as at their premiere. PROGRAM: Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe: Suite No.2 Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • USC Thornton Concert Jazz Orchestra: Swing Night

    Music director Jason Goldman leads the Concert Jazz Orchestra in an evening of big band standards and original compositions.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Classical Guitar Masterclass with Tilman Hoppstock

    German guitarist Tilman Hoppstock, noted for his interpretations of Bach, presents a masterclass in classical guitar performance.

    Ramo Recital Hall (BMH)

  • PPP+: Paganini, Popper, Piatti, and more

    Strings students perform virtuosic solo works, including Paganini caprices, Ernst caprices, Popper etudes, Piatti caprices, and other showpieces. Students showcase their talents in a friendly and social environment, followed by a reception.

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • Jazz Night

    Students from Thornton's jazz programs showcase contemporary jazz works at Ground Zero Performance Café.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Three Laureates: Poets of the New California

    U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, California Poet Laureate and Arts Leadership faculty member Dana Gioia, and Los Angeles Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis come together on the Bovard stage for a reading and discussion about poetry and the role of place—in particular, the many places of California—in their creative work. The son of farmworkers, Herrera spent his early years living from crop to crop in California’s San Joaquin and Salinas valleys, went to high school in San Diego, attended college at UCLA during the Chicano movement, and now lives in Fresno, California. Dana Gioia grew up in Hawthorne, California, and spent his college years at Stanford. And National Book Award winner Robin Coste Lewis is from Compton. In a rare joint event, these three highly decorated and deeply rooted California poets will reflect upon how poetry and the written word contribute to our shared yet varied sense of place and community. Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • Vive La France: A Collaborative Chamber Music Recital

    Karen Dreyfus, director of chamber music at Thornton, leads faculty and students of the Division of Classical Performance and Composition in a program of French chamber music, featuring the Poulenc Trio, Saint-Saens Septet, and Franck Piano Quintet. Faculty performers include Bernadene Blaha, Glenn Dicterow, Kevin Fitz-Gerald, Ben Hong, Thomas Hooten, Bing Wang, and Michele Zukovsky. They will be joined by Thornton students Lieza Hansen, Coleman Itkoff, Mann-Wen Lo, Sam Shukan, Justin Woo, and more.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Strings Open Performance Evening

    Students of Thornton's Strings program present an evening of solo and chamber performances.

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • Thornton Edge

    Donald Crockett leads Thornton Edge, Thornton’s new music group, in a program featuring recent music for voice and ensemble, including works by David Lang and Thornton student composer and vocalist, Tamzin Elliott.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Jazz Night featuring the Thornton Jazz Orchestra

    The USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra, led by music director Bob Mintzer, presents an evening of standards and original compositions as part of an ongoing series of contemporary jazz.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • USC Thornton Wind Ensemble: Scenes and Serenades

    H. Robert Reynolds and Sharon Lavery lead the USC Thornton Wind Ensemble in a performance featuring A Glimpse of the River by Kenny Regan, co-winner of the Wind Ensemble Composition Contest. The evening also includes Dzubay’s Fanfare, Verne Reynolds’ Scenes, Strauss’ Serenade, Op.7, and Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy.

    Bovard Auditorium (ADM)

  • news archive

    News

    Alan Pasqua featured in Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize lecture

    June 8, 2017

    Jazz pianist and USC Thornton faculty member Alan Pasqua recently received an extraordinary request – to contribute improvisational background music for Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize lecture, which was released as a video this week. Pasqua, who played in Dylan’s band in the 1970’s, had just one day to record… read more

    more news