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

    Led by professors Andy Abad and Patrice Rushen, first-year Popular Music program students explore the foundations of their craft in this showcase event. POPULAR MUSIC SHOWCASES: First Year - Wed., Feb. 28 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Mar. 2 at 8PM - Carson Center First Year - Wed., Apr. 25 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Apr. 27 at 8PM - Carson Center Third Year - Sat., Apr. 28 at 7:30PM - Carson Center Senior Showcase - TBD

    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. POPULAR MUSIC SHOWCASES: First Year - Wed., Feb. 28 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Mar. 2 at 8PM - Carson Center First Year - Wed., Apr. 25 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Apr. 27 at 8PM - Carson Center Third Year - Sat., Apr. 28 at 7:30PM - Carson Center Senior Showcase - TBD

    Carson Center (CTV)

  • 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 event. POPULAR MUSIC SHOWCASES: First Year - Wed., Feb. 28 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Mar. 2 at 8PM - Carson Center First Year - Wed., Apr. 25 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Apr. 27 at 8PM - Carson Center Third Year - Sat., Apr. 28 at 7:30PM - Carson Center Senior Showcase - TBD

    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. POPULAR MUSIC SHOWCASES: First Year - Wed., Feb. 28 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Mar. 2 at 8PM - Carson Center First Year - Wed., Apr. 25 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Apr. 27 at 8PM - Carson Center Third Year - Sat., Apr. 28 at 7:30PM - Carson Center Senior Showcase - TBD

    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. POPULAR MUSIC SHOWCASES: First Year - Wed., Feb. 28 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Mar. 2 at 8PM - Carson Center First Year - Wed., Apr. 25 at 8PM - Tommy's Place Second Year - Fri., Apr. 27 at 8PM - Carson Center Third Year - Sat., Apr. 28 at 7:30PM - Carson Center Senior Showcase - TBD

    Carson Center (CTV)


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    MUNA garners critical praise

    December 21, 2017

    2017 was a banner year for the band MUNA, which was formed by USC Thornton Popular Music alumni Katie Gavin (BA ’15) and Josette Maskin (’16), along with Naomi McPherson (BA ’15). In addition to dropping their debut album, About U, the band was invited to open for Harry Styles… read more

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