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Chamber Music at USC Thornton

By Jason S. Dennis

Chamber music is alive and well. And at USC Thornton, it’s a priority.

Students undergo many changes during their time here. But chamber music is a constant. From freshmen to doctoral students, it plays an integral role in their development, culminating every year in a chamber music festival, where each department participates.

This is not simply a requirement to satisfy on the way toward graduation. It’s something students embrace. Working in small groups with other committed musicians, they form friendships and gain vital professional training. “I really love chamber music,” says Madeline Sheard, an undergraduate student in cello. “It’s the highest form of collaboration.”

Ensembles form with and without faculty input. They run the gamut in terms of size, style, and types of instruments. The program is led by faculty from across USC Thornton, from Classical Guitar to the Winds & Percussion programs, but students do the bulk of the work on their own, rehearsing together, shaping their sound, reaching consensus among the group.

Cameron Wilkins Quote

Cameron Holt is earning his master’s degree in tuba. “Through these years of quintet,” he says, “I’ve learned how to kind of refine my own thinking and communication skills to get to the root of an issue, clearly communicate my view on it, and then be receptive to the rest of the group.”

Communication. Problem solving. Flexibility. Openness. Musicians need these skills and traits to succeed as professionals. Chamber music empowers students to grow in these areas, to build baselines of musical and personal excellence that will carry them forward in a changing career landscape.

Doctoral student Cameron Wilkins, who plays trumpet in a brass quintet, understands what he faces: “In this new classical world, you really have to show versatility and the ability to work in various settings.”

Likewise, Anne Ranzani, an undergraduate bassoon student, adds, “To make a career as a classical musician, you have to be comfortable gigging with other people, taking outside work, freelancing. You have to do a whole assortment of work.”

USC Thornton’s focus on chamber music helps students learn this kind of versatility, so they can take charge of their careers and excel in today’s classical music environment.

“USC has put that emphasis on the program since day one,” says Cameron Holt. “It’s just been phenomenal for my own personal growth and development.”

TAGS: Chamber Music, Classical Division, Classical Performance and Composition, Keyboard Studies, Strings, Winds and Percussion,

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