Fall 2023 Live Events Preview

By Julie Riggott

From early music and opera to jazz and pop music, USC Thornton’s fall lineup of live music showcases the talents of students and faculty in performance and composition.

From Baroque Sinfonia concerts to Popular Music program showcases, from Jazz Nights at Carson to a fully staged opera featuring the USC Thornton Symphony, the USC Thornton School of Music has put together a calendar of live music events with something for every music lover this fall. Events will take place September through December on the USC University Park campus. Most are free and open to the public.

These events showcase the talents of Thornton undergraduates, graduate students and faculty in performance and composition across various genres. Thornton has also invited acclaimed guest musicians and conductors for concerts and masterclasses; among them are legendary guitarist Pepe Romero, PUBLIQuartet and celebrated conductor Tito Muñoz.

“I’m excited for audiences to return to campus and attend performances this fall,” said Jason King, Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music.

“Thornton students represent so many diverse areas of music, from early music to popular music, to orchestral performance, screen scoring, to jazz, composition, music industry, recording…. to name only a few. We have an amazing semester of performances ahead.” Following are highlights of USC Thornton’s fall live events. Explore the full calendar here, along with event times and campus locations.


Friday, Sept. 8
USC Thornton Symphony with Sharon Lavery

The season kicks off with a performance from the USC Thornton Symphony. Sharon Lavery, resident conductor of the USC Thornton Orchestra Program, leads the ensemble in a concert featuring Fanfare for Flora by Douglas Lowry, Caryatids by faculty member Veronika Krausas and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Opus 64. 

Friday, Sept. 22
USC Thornton Symphony with Tito Muñoz

Guest conductor Tito Muñoz leads the USC Thornton Symphony in Gabriela Lena Frank’s Elegia Andina and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan.” Muñoz is an internationally celebrated conductor, now in his ninth season as the Virginia G. Piper Music Director of the Phoenix Symphony. 

Friday, Oct. 6 
USC Thornton Winds with Michelle Rakers

The USC Thornton Winds is led by guest conductor Michelle Rakers, previously the senior assistant director for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and Marine Chamber Orchestra, in an evening performance. The program includes Robert Jager’s Esprit de Corps, Jennifer Higdon’s (arr. Nowlin) Blue Cathedral, Steven Stucky’s Funeral Music for Queen Mary and Alberto Ginastera’s (arr. Patterson) Estancia.

Wednesday, Oct. 11
Concerto Night with Carl St.Clair

The annual Concerto Night will spotlight three exceptional student soloists — pianist Man Ling Bai, cellist Quenton Blache and euphoniumist Arisa Makita — in a program led by Carl St.Clair, artistic director of the Thornton Orchestras.

Friday, Oct. 27
USC Thornton Winds with Sharon Lavery

The USC Thornton Winds, led by resident conductor Sharon Lavery, celebrates the career of Winds & Percussion faculty member Jim Self in this evening concert that features the tubist and composer’s acclaimed work, Tour de Force. The program also features Fanfare for Earth by Giovanni Santos, LA Tudes by Jules Pegram, Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger and Octet Partita in F Major, Op 57 by Franz Krämer.

Wednesday, Nov. 8
USC Thornton Chamber Orchestra with Grant Llewellyn

The USC Thornton Chamber Orchestra, which focuses on works from the 18th to 20thcenturies, will take on Francis Poulenc’s Sinfonietta and Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C, under the baton of guest conductor Grant Llewellyn, the acclaimed Welsh conductor in his eighth season as music director of Orchestre National de Bretagne and music director laureate of the North Carolina Symphony.


Wednesday, Sept. 13 

USC Thornton and USC Visions and Voices present the innovative and award-winning chamber music ensemble PUBLIQuartet in a public performance and pre-concert discussion of their latest album, What Is American. The album features creative and biting chamber improvisations on Oliver Wendell Holmes and Alice Coltrane, Vijay Iyer and Roscoe Mitchell, Tina Turner and Fats Waller, among others. This event is at capacity, but patrons can join a waitlist.

Monday, Nov. 27 – Thursday, Nov. 30 
Chamber Music Showcases

Showcases will feature student musicians in winds and percussion, strings, vocal arts, and classical guitar.


Jazz Nights at the Carson Soundstage will feature various groups in nine concerts throughout the fall. 

Monday, Sept. 25
Michael Stever’s Combos

Michael Stever’s combos will perform a blend of original compositions and standards this Jazz Night at Carson.

Monday, Oct. 2, and Monday, Oct. 30
ALAJE with Aarón Serfaty 

ALAJE, the Afro-Latin American Jazz Ensemble, led by faculty member Aarón Serfaty, will be featured in two concerts.

Monday, Oct. 9, and Monday, Nov. 6
USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra with Bob Mintzer and USC Concert Jazz Orchestra with Jon Hatamiya

The USC Thornton Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of faculty member Bob Mintzer, is at the forefront of large jazz ensemble music. The USC Concert Jazz Orchestra, led by trombonist Jon Hatamiya, features both original music and classic jazz.

Monday, Oct. 16, and Monday, Nov. 13
The Honors Combo with Jason Goldman

The Honors Combo, under the direction of faculty member Jason Goldman, will perform two concerts.

Monday, Oct. 23
Vince Mendoza’s Combos

Jazz Night at Carson will feature two combos led by faculty member Vince Mendoza and a combo led by faculty member Alex Hahn.

Monday, Nov. 20
CreSCendo with Katie Thiroux

Vocal jazz ensemble CreSCendo, under the direction of faculty member Katie Thiroux, headlines Jazz Night at Carson. The performance will include a combo led by faculty member Jon Hatamiya. 


Tuesday, Oct. 3
Thornton Edge with Donald Crockett

Thornton’s new music ensemble takes the spotlight. Thornton Edge, under the direction of faculty member Donald Crockett, presents the world premiere of faculty member Mark Weiser’s Lumina for eleven instruments and Frederic Rzewski’s iconic Coming Together for baritone reciter and large ensemble. 

Sunday, Oct. 8
Paderewski Lecture-Recital 

The USC Polish Music Center presents the Paderewski Lecture-Recital, an annual concert event commemorating pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski. 2023 marks the anniversaries of several leading Polish composers: Witold Lutosławski, Szymon Laks, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki. The annual Paderewski Lecture-Recital will celebrate these important milestones, with a particular spotlight on related materials from the PMC’s invaluable Manuscript Collection. This evening includes student performances by a USC Thornton string quartet and brass quintet as well as a lecture led by the director of the Polish Music Center, Marek Zebrowski.

Sunday, Nov. 5
Student Composition Debuts

At two concerts in this afternoon recital, students from the acclaimed USC Thornton Composition Program debut original works.

California Festival (Friday, Nov. 3 – Sunday, Nov. 19)

As part of the California Festival, a statewide celebration showcasing today’s most compelling and forward-looking voices in performances of works written within the past five years, Thornton has planned two concerts at Newman Recital Hall on the USC campus. 

Monday, Nov. 6

The USC Percussion Group, led by faculty member Joe Pereira, presents an evening of contemporary percussion works. This event features Alyssa Weinberg’s Ember II (2018), Juri Seo’s Wah (2014)Joseph Pereira’s Mallet Quartet (2013 rev. 2023) and George Crumb’s final work, Kronos-Kryptos (2020).

Tuesday, Nov. 14

Thornton Edge, Thornton’s new music ensemble led by faculty member Donald Crockett,presents an evening of recent works by Lithuanian composers in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Presented in conjunction with the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Los Angeles, the event features three U.S. premieres: Kristupas Bubnelis’s Ad Infinitum for string quartet (2020), Justė Janulytė’s Sleeping Patterns (2022), and Vykintas Baltakas’s Cladi II (2021), as well as the California premiere of Žibuoklė Martinaitytė’s Solastalgia (2020). Also on the program is faculty member Veronika Krausas’ Analemma for 11 Musicians (2006). 

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. 
Concerto Finals 

The Strings Department presents the Concerto Finals, in which students perform concertos as part of an annual competition.


Students from the USC Thornton Popular Music Program will demonstrate their talents in performance, songwriting, arranging and production in a series of showcase concert events.

Thursday, Oct. 5; Wednesday, Nov. 29

Second-year students from the USC Thornton Popular Music Program 

Wednesday, Oct. 11; Thursday, Nov. 30

First-year students from the USC Thornton Popular Music Program

Thursday, Nov. 9

Students from USC Thornton’s Popular Music program present the Latin and Popular Music Strings Ensemble Showcase.

Friday, Dec. 1

Third-year students from the USC Thornton Popular Music Program


Thursday, Nov. 2

Students in the USC Thornton Studio Guitar program offer a series of performances in small ensembles.


Friday, Oct. 6; Friday, Dec. 1

USC Thornton’s early music ensemble, the Baroque Sinfonia, will present two evening concerts led by faculty members Rotem Gilbert and Jason Yoshida.

Wednesday, Nov. 15
USC Collegium Musicum

The USC Collegium Musicum honors the 400th Anniversary of Renaissance composer William Byrd’s death with “Sing Joyfully: The Music of William Byrd.”


Friday, Oct. 20
USC Thornton Chamber Singers with Tram Sparks and USC Thornton Concert Choir with Cristian Grases

The USC Thornton Chamber Singers and USC Thornton Concert Choir share the bill. The USC Thornton Chamber Singers, USC Thornton’s longstanding choral ensemble, is led by Tram Sparks, chair of the Choral & Sacred Music department. The USC Thornton Concert Choir, under the leadership of vice dean of the Classical Performance and Composition Division Cristian Grases, explores the music and traditions of countries from the Pacific Rim in this concert.

Friday, Oct. 27
USC Thornton Apollo Chorus and Oriana Choir 

The USC Thornton Apollo Chorus and Oriana Choir perform highlights from the choral literature for low-voice ensemble and treble chorus, respectively.

Friday, Nov. 17
University Chorus 

The University Chorus, an ensemble of USC students, alumni, staff and faculty, presents a choral music program at St. Vincent de Paul Church. 

Saturday, Dec. 9
Choral Winter Gala

The USC Thornton School of Music and its Choral & Sacred Music department present their annual winter gala. Celebrate the holidays in elegant style with Sounds of the Season, a scholarship gala that features 250 singers and instrumentalists ringing in the season with carols and songs in an evening of pageantry that provides support for student scholarships. Tickets required.

OPERA: Massenet’s Chérubin
Wednesday, Nov. 15; Friday, Nov. 17; Sunday, Nov. 19

The USC Thornton Opera and the USC Thornton Symphony presents Chérubin, a 1905 Jules Massenet opera which builds on the story of Figaro in Beaumarchais’ plays. This fully produced presentation will feature the singer-actors of Thornton’s Vocal Arts department and musicians of the Orchestras program. Tickets will be available soon.


Tuesday, Oct. 17
Masterclass with Frøydis Ree Wekre  

Renowned Norwegian teacher and performer Frøydis Ree Wekre leads a masterclass with the exceptional horn students of USC Thornton. Wekre, Horn and Wind Chamber Music professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music, has given masterclasses and workshops around the world, and her book, Thoughts on Playing the Horn Well, has been translated into several languages.

Monday, Nov. 6; Tuesday, Nov. 7
Masterclass with Pepe Romero

Pepe Romero, the legendary guitarist and adjunct professor in the USC Thornton Classical Guitar program who has performed at the White House and the Vatican for Pope John Paul II, will present three masterclasses for Thornton guitar students on two days in November.

Check Thornton’s online Events Calendar as additional masterclasses will be published throughout the semester. To stay up to date on events at Thornton, sign up for the school’s digital newsletter, This Week @ USC Thornton. 

Check Thornton’s online Events Calendar as additional masterclasses will be published throughout the semester. To stay up to date on events at Thornton, sign up for the school’s digital newsletter, This Week @ USC Thornton. 

TAGS: Arts Leadership, Choral and Sacred Music, Classical Guitar, Composition, Early Music Performance, Jazz Studies, Keyboard Collaborative Arts, Keyboard Studies, Music Teaching and Learning, Music Technology, Musicology, Organ Studies, Popular Music, Screen Scoring, Strings, Studio Guitar, Vocal Arts and Opera, Winds and Percussion,

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