Popular Music seniors ready to take center stage

"You’re given the tools you need to go into any sort of situation in the music industry.”


The University of Southern California Thornton School of Music’s Popular Music program will celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2014 with the second-annual senior showcase Monday, April 7 at The Troubadour in West Hollywood.

The showcase, which features a variety of student performers and bands, is the capstone performance for graduating seniors.

This year’s graduating seniors represent a diverse selection of performing styles and musical genres, including folk rock, R&B and pop. Performers at the showcase will include: Caitlin Notey, a singer-songwriter who fronts the folk pop outfit, Huxlee; Aman Alem and James Brownstein, members of the student-formed indie rock band House Fire; and Anna Schulze, a songwriter and guitarist who performs acoustic pop.

“I’ve always wanted to play the Troubadour,” said Schulze. “It’s very exciting to play in the same venue that James Taylor and Carole King made famous.”

Founded in 2009 and hailed by Rolling Stone as “the cutting-edge department that’s become the site of Los Angeles’ most productive new music scenes,”  the Popular Music Program is a unique music degree for the rock, pop, R&B, folk, Latin and country artist.

Each class is highly selective and limited to 25 talented songwriters, vocalists, and instrumentalists who enroll from all regions of the United States. The size of the program allows for close collaboration between students, many of whom have not performed with other musicians before arriving at USC Thornton.

“I’ve done a little bit of everything with everyone,” said Alem. “The program makes it very easy to find people to collaborate with. I now have an amazing network of musicians and friends that will be my peers and colleagues for the rest of my life.”

USC Thornton Popular Music senior Aman Alem (Photo: Kylie Nicholson)

USC Thornton Popular Music senior Aman Alem (Photo: Kylie Nicholson)

Brownstein, Alem’s bandmate, echoes this sentiment, adding that the program’s exclusive nature forces students to produce work of the highest caliber.

“The program tries to recognize potential in the students who are admitted,” he said. “It’s incredibly competitive, but in the most supportive way possible. We all push each other. The competition brings out the best in everyone.”

Current students and alumni of the program have secured recording and publishing contracts, won competitions, released well-regarded EPs and albums, placed songs in films and television, launched successful national tours, and received a Latin GRAMMY nomination. Students attribute the success of the Popular Music program’s alumni to the skills taught in the program’s courses.

“I feel the program has prepared me for than just performing as Huxlee,” Notey explained. “I now feel comfortable going into a session and writing for another artist. You’re given the tools you need to go into any sort of situation in the music industry.”

“It teaches you a craft and an approach,” added Schulze. “I hadn’t done a lot of performance before I came to the program, and my classes forced me to step into a different role and tap into something I didn’t know existed within me. It’s very empowering.”

The USC Thornton Popular Music program Senior Showcase is free and open to the public. For more information on the event and to see a full lineup of performers, please visit the Senior Showcase page.

TAGS: Contemporary Music, Popular Music,

Never miss a story

Subscribe to USC Thornton’s e-newsletter