A Message from Dean Cutietta to the Students, Faculty, and Staff of USC Thornton

March 20, 2020

Our world has changed quickly in the last week, and more changes are to come. What is clear is that the proactive efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus is upending all of our lives.

On Monday morning, March 23, we begin a new era. Our entire educational mission will move online. Students, faculty and staff will have new limitations placed on their interactions, lectures and lessons, rehearsals and performances. This is true not only for USC Thornton, but for music schools and conservatories across the world, and for the profession of music in general.

Now is not the time for debates about whether teaching online will be as good as what we’ve done before. Let’s put this point in perspective. When the first digital cameras and phones were introduced, we all agreed that they were not as good as our familiar 35 mm cameras. In hindsight, those comparisons and debates missed the point. What we could not have anticipated is how digital pictures opened up new possibilities of sharing our creative potential.

So, too, with our current situation. It is not whether we are providing the same quality of instruction, measured using our traditional metrics, but instead what possibilities we can explore that might actually enhance what we will do when we return to “normal.” And, let’s face it, we have no choice but to try our hardest. Our focus for the remainder of the semester is to give our students the best education possible. So, let’s make the most of it. With that spirit in mind, it will be enlightening to see what creative solutions we come up with.

New Policies

I am in active conversation with the Associate and Vice Deans and the chairs of Faculty Council and Staff Council on new guidelines and policies that will help you prepare for the start of our new reality. You will hear from various school leaders regarding key updates related to new policies. Students, we encourage you to reach out to your faculty with questions. Faculty, we encourage you to reach out to your Chairs, and Chairs, reach out to your Vice Deans.

A Final Thought

In moments of great change, it is artists who step forward and offer a glimpse of our possibilities. This is a time to be considerate, creative, and compassionate — with ourselves and with each other.

I am meeting remotely on a regular basis with the President and Provost, and with other leaders of music schools around the world. The senior leadership of Thornton also is in constant conversation to answer the many questions we all have about what this new era will mean for your education, your rehearsals, your recitals and concerts. We’ll be providing resources and answers to help us all through this transition.

There are more challenges ahead, make no mistake. But I believe this remarkable community can help lead the way for everyone. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Our students aren’t preparing for the real world. They are preparing to change the world. That’s what artists do.


Robert Cutietta
Dean, USC Thornton School of Music