The New Classical

We’ve created a new model of classical music education for undergraduates by rethinking what it means to be a virtuoso in the 21st century.

The music profession has changed, and we’ve changed with it. In our continuing commitment to rethinking how we train musicians for successful careers, USC Thornton unveiled a new educational model that launched in Fall 2019 for undergraduates in the Classical Performance & Composition Division. We call it the ReDesign.

“USC Thornton’s new curriculum was designed with the 21st-century musician in mind, and musical excellence remains the core,” said Robert Cutietta, Dean of USC Thornton. “We want students to rethink virtuosity. It’s all about making students better, and lifelong, musicians.”

Rethinking Virtuosity

What it means to be a classical musician in the 21st century has changed. Musicians are erasing boundaries and reimagining how music is presented and received.

USC Thornton is located near downtown Los Angeles, a hotbed of this creative renaissance, where professional organizations and Thornton students alike are expanding the idea of what a performance, a composition or a career in classical music can be. The school is poised to expand the idea of the new virtuoso.

A New Model

Our new degree structure offers more flexibility, allowing students to chart their own musical path and take electives in any area they wish. They maintain a robust core of performance, history, and theory classes, including a senior recital and an individualized project. And of course, students will invest plenty of time honing their musical craft in the practice room.

Because career development is integrated into the four-year curriculum and not relegated to a separate course, students work toward their professional goals from day one. Whether competing for coveted orchestral positions or launching their own ensembles, they have a wider range of opportunities and are able to create their own.
Just as boundaries are quickly disappearing across the entire music profession, the new curriculum encourages a cross-genre approach to music training. In the first year, classical, jazz, and popular music students take theory and aural skills classes together. In the second year, they begin their music history sequence together in a class called Music & Ideas that challenges them to rethink music history, from Mozart to Miles Davis, in themes rather than chronology.

Eight Components of the New Curriculum

Our new model restructures lessons, rehearsals, and classes, themselves. Our faculty has identified eight components that define professional virtuosity and consider what it means to have a fulfilling musical career. The eight components, or through-lines, are addressed in every class, lesson, and rehearsal across a student’s four years of study.

Each aspect of our new curriculum helps students create a distinctive musical voice by…

  1. Developing musical excellence
  2. Connecting scholarship to music making
  3. Interrogating the relevance of music to a diverse and inclusive society
  4. Erasing performance boundaries between different genres of music

And create a fulfilling musical career by…

  1. Navigating their way into the music profession to monetize their skills
  2. Mastering skills to share music through digital platforms and non-traditional venues
  3. Building a lifelong, global professional network
  4. Leading a healthy life as a musician

The Young Artist Project

At the heart of the new program is the Young Artist Project, which students begin working on in their junior year, providing an opportunity to specialize, collaborate, and shape work that reflects a distinct musical voice.

Students might visualize a composition, develop a hybrid performance, conduct research, or even explore new creative technologies – the Young Artist Project is about developing a unique voice to make their art powerful and relevant today.