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
Vice Dean, Division of Contemporary Music
Founding Director, Popular Music Program

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Spotlights

event calendar

Upcoming events

  • 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: 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.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • Popular Music: Senior Showcase

    The senior class of Thornton's Popular Music program returns to the famed Troubadour in West Hollywood for this annual showcase.

    The Troubadour Club

  • Latin Pop Showcase

    Faculty member Andy Abad and students from the Popular Music Program showcase songs in the styles of Juanes, Shakira, and Trio Los Pancho, among many others.

    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.

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe (TRO)

  • 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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    MUNA performs on Jimmy Kimmel Live

    February 7, 2017

    The band MUNA was featured on the February 6th episode of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, performing two songs from their latest album, “About U.” Formed by USC Thornton Popular Music alumni Katie Gavin (BA ’15) and Josette Maskin (’16), along with Naomi McPherson, the band caught the world’s attention with… read more

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