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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  • Alexander Technique Masterclass with Babette Markus

    Babette Markus, a faculty member of the USC School of Dramatic Arts, offers insight for vocalists wishing to incorporate the Alexander Technique. Markus is a founding member of the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles.

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • USC Thornton Symphony: Revolutionary Dance

    Conductor Sharon Lavery and the USC Thornton Symphony present 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)

  • Music@RushHour: The Works of Hanna Kulenty

    Students Alexander Zhu, piano and Xander Knecht, violin present a program of music by renowned Polish composer, Dr. Hanna Kulenty, who will also speak about and perform her own music during the concert. A leading gure on the contemporary music scene, Dr. Kulenty is a laureate of the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers and her works are championed by such ensembles as the Kronos Quartet, among others. Skip the traffic and enjoy a free concert of music by USC Thornton students. A free reception follows the 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)

  • 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)

  • Jazz Night

    Students from Thornton's jazz programs showcase contemporary jazz works at Carson Center. Please note that, due to the closure of Ground Zero Performance Café, this event has been relocated to Carson Center (CTV).

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • Vocal Masterclass with Ana Maria Martinez

    Soprano Ana Maria Martinez, currently appearing in LA Opera's production of Carmen, presents a masterclass for Thornton Vocal Arts majors. Martinez enjoys an international performing career that spans the world's most important opera houses and concert halls.

    Newman Recital Hall (AHF)

  • Music@RushHour: The Amicus Duo Celebrates Gay Composers

    Students Alin Melik-Adamyan, piano, and Coleman Itzko, cello, bring their award- winning duo back to Music@RushHour to present a program of all gay composers. Included in the program will be works from Ethel Smyth, Benjamin Britten, Liebermann, and Tchaikovsky. Skip the traffic and enjoy a free concert of music by USC Thornton students. A free reception follows the performance.

    Ramo Recital Hall (BMH)

  • Strings Open Performance Evening

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

    MacDonald Recital Hall (MUS)

  • news archive

    News

    Paul Young profiled in the Daily Trojan

    September 19, 2017

    Paul Young (MM ’06, DMA ’09, Jazz Studies), director of USC Thornton’s Music Industry program, was recently profiled by the Daily Trojan on the launch of the school’s new Master of Science Degree in Music Industry. The article, “Paying it forward: Paul Young to lead Thornton program,” describes how Young… read more

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