Lucinda Carver

Vice Dean of Division of Classical Performance and Composition

Professor of Practice

  • Program:
    Keyboard Studies, Early Music, Conducting
  • Division:
    Classical Performance and Composition, Scholarly and Professional Studies
  • Instrument:
    Piano, Harpsichord


“Carver makes musical thought manifest.”
– Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times

Lucinda Carver is a much beloved and highly acclaimed musician who is equally at home on the podium, at the keyboard or in the lecture hall. As Music Director and Conductor of the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra for 11 years, Carver garnered critical praise for her stylistic interpretations of music from the Classical era. Active in both the symphonic and operatic arenas, she has been proclaimed “a find … a first-rate conductor” by Bernard Holland of the New York Times and “an important emerging conductor” by Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times.

Carver is also a highly acclaimed pianist and harpsichordist whose performances as soloist and recitalist have met with equal glowing praise. “What made this one of the waning season’s special Mozart performances was the pianist’s ability, by means of perfectly gauged dynamics and subtly enhancing rubatos, to project the poignancy and resignation lurking behind the placid surface of the music. She seemed to capture the very essence of this elusive, unearthly music of parting.” – Los Angeles Times

As a Fulbright Fellow to Austria, she concertized extensively throughout Europe. She has performed as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, Capella Salisburgensis, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Manhattan Philharmonic and Symphony Augusta. She frequently undertook the dual roles of soloist and conductor in Mozart piano concerti with the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra. Carver has been featured in solo and chamber music recitals at the Carmel Bach Festival, San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Prince George Music Festival, and under the aegis of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Her performances have been broadcast across the United States on National Public Radio, WNYC, WGBH, and locally on KUSC and KMZT. In fall of 2009 she was named Artistic Director of the Centrum Port Townsend Chamber Music Festival.

Carver’s symphonic credits include appearances with the National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Richmond Symphony, and Hong Kong Philharmonic. She has conducted at major music festivals including: Wolf Trap; Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival; the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s Eclectic Orange Festival; and San Francisco Symphony’s “Great Performers” Series.

In the operatic realm she has conducted productions of Don Pasquale with New York City Opera, Don Giovanni with Minnesota Opera, Die Zauberflöte and Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Le nozze di Figaro with Virginia Opera. With the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, she conducted two critically acclaimed recordings on the RCM label featuring Haydn Symphonies Nos. 43 & 48 and Mozart Symphonies Nos. 17, 29, and 34. She also led the orchestra on two North American tours under the aegis of Columbia Artist Management, highlights of which were featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Carver holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the USC Thornton School of Music, an Artist Diploma from the Salzburg Mozarteum, and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Her teachers include renowned pianists Murray Perahia, Gary Graffman, Hans Leygraf, John Perry, and Gwendolyn Koldofsky, with harpsichord studies under Malcolm Hamilton and conducting studies with Gustav Meier and William Schaefer.

In 1998 she joined the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music where she is currently Vice Dean of the Division of Classical Performance and Composition and a professor of piano, harpsichord, and conducting.

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Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy can best be summarized by two overarching goals: 1) To nurture and support young artists and scholars who will have a profound impact in furthering and fostering our art form. 2) To provide them with the foundation that will not simply give them a range of correct answers, but enable them to ask the most enlightened and probing of questions.

In doing so, I am rigorous and, according to my students, most demanding in the quest for excellence, refinement and thoughtfulness in approaching our repertoire. The saying goes in the Carver studio that ‘nothing gets past her’. This is the method with which I provide students with answers (without their quite knowing it) so that they can later ask the questions when they are on their own.

In my estimation there is no higher calling than the cultivation of young talented minds in post-secondary education. This phase, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, is absolutely critical in the formulation of well-rounded musicians, scholars, and above all else, human beings. I consider it my highest honor to foster these extraordinary young people towards their bright futures.

I teach in three areas at the Thornton School of Music: piano, harpsichord and conducting. Given this diversity, it is only natural that the teaching is highly customized according to each discipline. Yet the three have a great deal in common, for they all require the ability to recreate a work of music as a living, breathing, vital piece of art. In order for this to happen, the pianist/harpsichordist/conductor must have the musical, technical, and intellectual skills to act as a conduit or vehicle through which the music is brought to life.

The role of the performer is one of constant probing and curiosity. Why did the composer make certain choices in form, key, affect, articulation, nuance, etc.? What were the underlying factors in society, politics, religion, literature, art, philosophy or the individual’s life that played a part in the creation of the work? What were the characteristics of the instruments of the period for which the work was conceived? How does that affect the choices that we make on modern instruments?

My approach in teaching the piano is to enable the student to attain a relaxed and natural ease at the instrument in which the use of touch, arm weight and fingers is intrinsically linked to sound quality and a wide array of tonal colors. The arms, fingers and ears work in complete tandem and harmony whereby the ear is the directing force. I emphasize phrasing, nuance and musicality above all else, for I believe there is nothing more frustrating than a pianist with a massive technique and nothing to say.

My goal is to give my students the rigorous training that is required for them to find their own voice and have the confidence to answer the most probing musical questions with intelligence, style and imagination. In teaching the harpsichord, I stress the development of a clean and even technique, with truly overlapping legato and a heightened awareness of articulation as a vital coloristic tool in making the instrument speak.

Much attention is given to historical practice and the development of the ability to realize a continuo accompaniment from figured bass. Students are highly encouraged to play off 17th and 18th century editions whenever possible and both solo and ensemble repertoire are emphasized.

As a professor of instrumental conducting, I strive to endow my students with the ability to communicate musical nuance and language clearly and effectively through gesture. I place great emphasis on systematic score study in such a way that the student attains a profound and thorough knowledge of the score on all levels. A rigorous study of baton technique is taught for clarity, musicality and grace. Careful attention is given to rehearsal technique, podium presence and communicative skills. Students are not only taught orchestral repertoire but are given thorough training in conducting accompanied recitative.