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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  • Vocal Masterclass with Lisa Popeil

    Vocal coach Lisa Popeil leads USC Thornton students in an "Introduction to Commercial Styles: Belting & Musical Theater for the Classical Singer." Creator of the Vocalworks Method, Popeil coaches vocalists in film, TV, musical theater, and recording worlds. This event is sponsored by SNATS at USC and will feature complimentary sandwiches provided by Seeds.

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • University Chorus: Revolutionary Road

    Join the USC Thornton University Chorus and narrator Brian Lauritzen of KUSC on a journey through America’s rich history of choral music including selections from the California Missions, The Sacred Harp, American spirituals, music of the Civil War, jazz standards, and the Great American Songbook.

    St. John's Episcopal Cathedral

  • USC Thornton Opera presents George Frideric Handel's "Alcina"

    Love reigns supreme on the lush island of the sorceress Alcina in George Frideric Handel’s dazzling Baroque opera seria, Alcina, a vividly-rendered tale of power and obsession. Handel’s brilliant score depicts a seductive tale of selfishness undone by true love, as a pair of mortals breaks the spells that hold Alcina’s lovers captive. Encounter this moving, but long-neglected work in a new production by the USC Thornton Opera. Thursday, November 16, 8PM* Friday, November 17, 8PM Saturday, November 18, 8PM Sunday, November 19, 2PM (Pre-performance lecture, 1PM) A pre-performance discussion on Sunday, Nov. 19 between maestro Brent McMunn and resident stage director Ken Cazan will consider Handel’s operatic setting of Ludovico Ariosto's 16th Century epic poem. Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative. For more information and additional performance times, visit music.usc.edu/opera. *Please note that the original performance dates listed in USC Thornton's printed Events Calendar have since been updated to the dates you see here.

    Bing Theatre (BIT)

  • Thornton Edge

    Donald Crockett leads Thornton Edge new music group in a program of contemporary works for large ensemble.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Chamber Music Festival: Winds & Percussion

    As part of a three-day festival, USC Thornton’s Winds & Percussion students present an afternoon of chamber music under the direction of Kristy Morrell.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Latin Pop Showcase

    Popular Music students showcase their skills in a variety of exciting Latin musical styles.

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Classical Guitar Masterclass with Pepe Romero

    Classical guitar master and Thornton faculty member Pepe Romero offers an up-close glimpse into his renowned artistry in three masterclasses. Romero is the second son of "The Royal Family of the Guitar." His contributions to the field of classical guitar have inspired a number of distinguished composers to write works specifically for him, including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Rev. Francisco de Madina, Lorenzo Palomo, and Celedonio Romero. Please note that Pepe Romero's fall masterclasses have been rescheduled to the following times: Tuesday, November 28, 12:00 PM - Ramo Recital Hall Tuesday, November 28, 8:00 PM - Ramo Recital Hall Wednesday, November 29, 7:00 PM - MacDonald Recital Hall

    Ramo Recital Hall (BMH)

  • Chamber Music Festival: Vocal Arts

    Lisa Sylvester leads students in the Vocal Arts department in an evening of vocal works from across the centuries in collaboration with instrumental performers. CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL EVENTS: Winds & Percussion Monday, November 27 at 4:30PM Vocal Arts Tuesday, November 28 at 5:30PM Strings Tuesday, November 28 at 7:30PM Strings Wednesday, November 29 at 5:00 & 7:30PM All events take place in Newman Recital Hall.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Chamber Music Festival: Strings

    Karen Dreyfus, director of chamber music at Thornton, leads students from the Strings department in two days of chamber works as part of this newly-revamped three-day festival. CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL EVENTS: Winds & Percussion Monday, November 27 at 4:30PM Vocal Arts Tuesday, November 28 at 5:30PM Strings Tuesday, November 28 at 7:30PM Strings Wednesday, November 29 at 5:00 & 7:30PM All events take place in Newman Recital Hall.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Classical Guitar Masterclass with Pepe Romero

    Classical guitar master and Thornton faculty member Pepe Romero offers an up-close glimpse into his renowned artistry in three masterclasses. Romero is the second son of "The Royal Family of the Guitar." His contributions to the field of classical guitar have inspired a number of distinguished composers to write works specifically for him, including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Rev. Francisco de Madina, Lorenzo Palomo, and Celedonio Romero. Please note that Pepe Romero's fall masterclasses have been rescheduled to the following times: Tuesday, November 28, 12:00 PM - Ramo Recital Hall Tuesday, November 28, 8:00 PM - Ramo Recital Hall Wednesday, November 29, 7:00 PM - MacDonald Recital Hall

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • 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.

    Tommy's Place (TCC)

  • Classical Guitar Program Recital

    Students of USC Thornton’s renowned Classical Guitar department present an enthralling evening of chamber music for guitar.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

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