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: Senior Showcase at El Rey Theatre

    Catch the rising stars of USC Thornton’s Popular Music program as the senior class performs at L.A.’s legendary El Rey Theatre. More than just a culmination of four years of hard work, the Senior Showcase is an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate these extraordinary young artists as they embark on professional music careers.

    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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    News

    Patrice Rushen interviewed by Reverb

    March 19, 2019

    Reverb recently featured Patrice Rushen, Chair of the Popular Music program, in an article titled, “Mastery Over Marketing: An Interview With Patrice Rushen.” In this article, the pop music icon and Thornton faculty member discusses her love for piano, her relationship to Quincy Jones, her compositional style and what it… read more

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