Memo from the Dean: Updates on the Spring 2021 Semester

Dear Students of the Thornton School,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful holiday break after what was an unprecedented semester. From our move to an entirely online model of education in August to the nine nights of performances in the Fall 2020 Festival, it was a semester that showcased the resiliency of the Thornton School—and, above all, the immense sense of community that has come to define all aspects of this year.

Our Spring ’21 semester begins this Friday, January 15, and I wanted to write to you with a few updates on where we are as a school and university.

Our Plan for the Spring ’21 Semester

Looking ahead to Spring ’21 semester, I want to reiterate that the Thornton School will remain online for all instruction (classes, rehearsals, lessons).

We are ready to begin to reopen the campus as soon as L.A. County and the university give their approval, and the following opportunities for in-person experiences will be the first actions undertaken, as they become permissible by County guidelines:

  • Opening our buildings and facilities, including the Gateway Practice Facility, for limited use by music majors.
  • Allowing in-person individual instruction on a case-by-case basis.
  • Allowing student degree-required recitals and capstone projects to take place in our facilities with audience restrictions.
  • Organizing project-based, in-person collaborative experiences that would not be required for course credit.

Regardless of when or if we are able to reopen parts of the campus, Thornton students who choose to remain remote will get their full instructional experience online.

Our best “intel” is that the earliest we might be allowed to reopen aspects of in-person education will be late March or April.

An Update on the Coronavirus Crisis in Los Angeles

On Friday, January 8, USC Chief Health Officer, Dr. Sarah Van Orman, provided an important update to the USC community about the state of the pandemic, details about USC’s testing protocols moving forward, and USC’s approach to vaccine dissemination.

For those following the daily news updates, it should come as no surprise that she identified Los Angeles as the epicenter for the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. The entire Southland health care system is officially overwhelmed, and the positivity rate for those who are tested is surpassing 20%.

This is, I’m afraid, the worst-case scenario long feared by health care professionals, and I urge everyone to be extra vigilant this semester in taking the necessary precautions to protect public health – wear your mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, and refrain from all unnecessary travel.

Final thoughts

This pandemic has consistently derailed every plan to reopen the Thornton campus this year, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are hopeful we will be back on campus in the fall, although it seems increasingly likely that we may still have lingering limitations and restrictions.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this crisis will end, and we will be a stronger community because of what we have continued to do together through this trying season. I want to express how proud I am to be the Dean of the Thornton School. The tireless response of the students, faculty, and staff this year has been remarkable.

Stay healthy and safe.

Rob Cutietta
Dean, USC Thornton School of Music