Memories and Lessons Learned

As USC Thornton commences the spring 2022 semester, graduating seniors look back at their time as Thornton Student Ambassadors


Before they graduate on May 13, hear from 13 Thornton Student Ambassadors about the important lessons they learned during their last few years of training, their advice for new students and the memories only USC Thornton could provide, which these students will cherish forever.

Nina Tanaka

Music industry program

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“You already are anything you want to be. Don’t wait for any person or moment to tell you that you are!”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“Be open-minded and take advantage of every opportunity you have as a student! You never know what your future self will be thanking you for.”

Francesca Boerio

Classical guitar program

What will you miss most about USC?

“I will miss the community of campus. Being involved in various organizations, majors and activities makes campus feel so much smaller, and that is something I will miss. I really enjoy getting to know people that are doing different things than I am, in terms of academics and extracurriculars.”

What has been your favorite thing about going to school in Los Angeles?

“My favorite thing about going to school in LA has been taking advantage of going to shows, trying new restaurants, exploring new neighborhoods and so much more. LA has so much to offer, and all it takes is the desire to go explore.”

Dominic Anzalone

Popular music program

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at USC?

“I have always cherished my time studying under the legendary faculty that Thornton has to offer. One of my favorite moments with them is when, after a lesson with the iconic Will Kennedy, Peter Erskine walked in to talk to Will. It was just one of the coolest moments for me. I’ve studied both of them since I first started playing the drums, so it was just the coolest, geek out moment for me.”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“Don’t be afraid to try new things. Our time at Thornton is about experimenting. Sometimes, that means we fall on our faces, but there’s a community full of support who will help get you back up on your feet.”

Daniel Mangiaracino

Keyboard studies program

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“Academics and discipline are not there to replace your intuition; rather, they are there to add fuel to the rocket your intuition was already blasting off in!”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“The answer to ‘Could I do this?’ will, 99 times out of 100, be a full-hearted yes. You’ll never have to worry about limiting yourself or feeling narrowed in your career path, so try as much as you can that you think will benefit your path through music!”

Elise Haukenes

Strings department, violin

What three words would you use to best describe the Thornton School?

“Interdisciplinary, supportive and motivating.”

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“My teacher Margaret Batjer tells her students that when preparing for a performance, at a certain point, you have to trust and be confident in the technical work you’ve put in so you can be free to enjoy the music and be an artist.”

Claudia Giugni

Vocal arts department

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“The best advice I was given while studying at Thornton was from my professor Elizabeth Hynes: “When you are on stage, don’t analyze. Just create.”

What has been your favorite thing about going to school in Los Angeles?

“All of the cultural and musical opportunities both within USC and in the city! From LA Opera to LACMA, there are endless awesome places to experience.”

Hazle Thunes

Jazz studies department, jazz voice

What three words would you use to best describe the Thornton School?

“Warm, supportive and liberating.”

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“My vocal instructor Kathleen Grace told me, ‘You don’t have to know everything all the time.’”

Sophie Feldman

Popular music program

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“Telling the truth is a messy, uncomfortable, difficult thing to do in art, but that’s what art is for. Writing the easy songs can be fun, but it’s the truthful songs that will live in people’s brains and bodies long after they’ve left your show.”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“Initiate conversations and collaborations with people who intimidate you, who make music you’ve never imagined attempting to make and who work in ways you’ve never imagined working.  Build relationships outside of Thornton, too — there are film students and dancers and graphic designers and architects and engineers who can bring so much creative perspective to your life! USC is such an amazing ecosystem — you’ll all need each other at some point, so why not start now?”

Jamie Kim 

Winds & percussion department, flute

What three words would you use to best describe the Thornton School?

“Diverse, determined and collaborative.”

What will you miss most about USC?

“I will miss most the relationships that I have made and the people who I have grown to love. I remember coming into freshman year and being so overwhelmed by how many people were around me, forgetting everyone’s name left and right, and not knowing when I would find my people. Now in my last few weeks of my college life, I look back and I can tell myself that I definitely found them.”

Rachel Tan

Department of choral & sacred music

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“If you start to feel burnt out from pursuing music as a full-time student, listen to how you’re feeling. If you get discouraged on days you don’t feel your typical euphoria when practicing or performing, remind yourself that burnout is normal, and it’s okay to feel that way. Don’t be too hard on yourself and practice self-care more often than you think you need it.”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“It can be very easy to get caught up in practicing and homework (which are important, of course), so be sure to not miss out on educational and professional opportunities like concerts, lectures and masterclasses at Thornton and in the LA area. Seek out events that supplement your learning at USC and allow you to further enhance your growth as a musician and person.”

Alana Aquino

Music Industry program

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at USC?

“My freshman and sophomore year, I was able to work my first music festival, Tyler the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw! It was so cool meeting other workers and festival attendees, as well as being able to take a peek behind the scenes. I got the gig through an alum who had posted in a USC Music Industry Facebook group, and I was super grateful to her for the experience!”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“College is about finding balance, whether it be with school and work commitments or with the relationships you form. Through it all, never forget to put yourself first and acknowledge your humanity. You are allowed to learn, make mistakes, enjoy your time off and indulge in things that make you happy!”

Madeline Sheard

Strings department, cello

What is the best advice a Thornton faculty, staff or student gave you while studying at Thornton?

“A studio colleague told me during my sophomore year, ‘When you have a bad day in the practice room, that is not what defines you.’”

What advice would you give to new Thornton students?

“Take advantage of the fact that you are at a university and not a conservatory. There are many unique advantages such as taking a wide variety of classes, finding friends with different majors and attending football games at the Coliseum! Be involved, but try not to spread yourself too thin!”

Liza Monasebian

Vocal arts department

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at USC?

“Participating in USC Opera’s annual Opera Scenes program has been one of my favorite Thornton experiences.  Working alongside undergraduate and graduate students not only emphasizes the close and unique nature of the program — it reinforces how rewarding collaborative opportunities like these are throughout college.”

What will you miss most about USC?

“This beautiful, diverse community has supported me, challenged me and welcomed me in with open arms. I will miss creating music together the most!”