Popular Music

Overview

Hailed by Rolling Stone as “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes,” the Popular Music Program at the USC Thornton School of Music is a unique music degree program for the rock, pop, R&B, folk, Latin and country artist. The program addresses the dynamic and changing landscape of the music profession, serving the needs of musicians who do not fit the traditional classical and jazz offerings that are typical in most university music programs.

The Popular Music Program at USC is an immersion into a creative environment that stresses the musical skills required for the successful, professional 21st century musician. Classes emphasize the respect for traditions, techniques and nuances of feel and groove through the examination of the various eras and forms of popular music repertoire. Students collaborate in small performance group settings, while simultaneously addressing their particular area of interest via private lessons. Career aspects — including performance, songwriting and arranging, recording studio efficiency, music production, and entrepreneurship — are also taught.

We offer to our students the idea that the values of musical skills, artistic aesthetics and commercial sensibilities are not mutually exclusive.

Patrice Rushen
Chair, Popular Music Program

Chris Sampson
Founding Director, Popular Music Program

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Spotlights

event calendar

Upcoming events

  • Popular Music: First-Year Showcase

    Patrice Rushen and Andy Abad lead first-year Popular Music students in an exploration of the foundations of their craft.

    Tommy's Place (TCC)

  • 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)

  • Popular Music: Senior Showcase at El Rey Theatre

    Back by popular demand, the senior class of the celebrated Popular Music program return to the iconic El Rey Theatre for a showcase performance.

    El Rey Theater

  • Popular Music: First-Year Showcase

    Patrice Rushen and Andy Abad lead first-year Popular Music students in an exploration of the foundations of their craft.

    Tommy's Place (TCC)

  • 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)

  • Popular Music: Third-Year Showcase

    Third-year Popular Music students present original music written, arranged, and performed under the direction of professors Patrice Rushen and Richard Smith.

    Carson Center (CTV)


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    Cooper Bell

    Two recent USC Thornton grads featured in College Magazine

    January 10, 2019

    College Magazine included two recent USC Thornton alumni – Cooper Bell and Nick Kennerly – in their recent article, “Meet 10 Outstanding College Music Students.” A Popular Music major, Bell discussed his dedication to writing and performing music and how his USC instructors helped him grow as an artist. He… read more

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