Modern Guitar Ensembles

The USC Thornton modern guitar ensembles Superaxe, TU2 and TU4 strongly emphasize jazz and popular music skills and techniques.


Modern guitar ensembles Superaxe, TU2 and TU4 generally consist of four electric guitarists with bass and drums. Their wide-ranging repertoire includes student arrangements created for study and performance. The music of seminal artists such as Frank Zappa, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Vulfpeck, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and D’Angelo can be found in the ensembles’ libraries.

Alumni from the modern guitar ensembles are teachers, department chairs and deans at institutions around the world. Many have performed or recorded with notable acts such as John Legend, Vampire Weekend, Gwen Stefani, Thundercat, Elton John, Madonna, U2, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira as well as on hit television programs such as American IdolDancing with the Stars and Glee.

Ensemble Information

The USC Thornton modern guitar ensembles are directed by faculty member Richard Smith. The bass and drum chairs are typically filled by Jazz Studies students and Popular Music Performance students, with an ensemble guitarist occasionally doubling on bass.

Headshot of Richard Smith holding an electric guitar.

Critically acclaimed guitarist Richard Smith has a plethora of solo recordings that have established him as a veteran of the contemporary music world.

Student guitarist poses with instrument at an outdoor market in Los Angeles.

With a faculty of world-class touring and recording guitarists, the USC Thornton Studio Guitar program is considered one of the finest guitar graduate programs in the world. 

Ensemble Performances

USC Thornton’s modern guitar ensembles have won first-place awards at over a dozen jazz festival competitions on the West Coast and in the Southwest. In the past, these ensembles have hosted Guthrie Govan, Carl Verheyen, Scott Henderson, Robben Ford, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour and others in a concert, recording or master class setting.

USC Thornton musician performs on an electric guitar.

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