Tram Sparks

Chair, Department of Choral & Sacred Music

Associate professor of practice

Tram Sparks (she/her) is Chair and Associate Professor of Practice at the USC Thornton School of Music. Prior to her work in Los Angeles, Sparks was Associate Professor and Associate Director of Choral Activities at Temple University Boyer College of Music & Dance, where she taught from 1999-2009. Dr. Sparks taught graduate and undergraduate courses in choral literature, conducting, and aural theory, and conducted the Concert Choir, University Chorale, Women’s Chorus and University Singers over the course of her ten years at Temple University. In addition to her appointment at Temple, she has served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Dordt University (Sioux Center, Iowa) and Director of the Choral Program at St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

A native of Vietnam and a child refugee of the Vietnam War, Sparks’s earliest musical training was in Okinawa, Japan and subsequently, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College Division where she studied piano, solfege, and eurythmics and sang in a children’s choir. Sparks earned the Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and the Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Temple University. Her piano training with Harvey Wedeen and David L. Stone follows in the pedagogical lineages of Adele Marcus, Isabelle Vengerova, and Josef Lhevinne.

Sparks holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting from Yale University. At the Yale School of Music and working with conducting mentor Marguerite L. Brooks, she completed the interdisciplinary certificate program in Music, Worship and the Arts at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

In the community, Sparks has served on the Board of Directors of Tonality and as music director at churches and synagogues in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. She is a frequent choral clinician, adjudicator, and guest conductor. Recent artistic collaborations include an appearance as guest conductor of the festival chorus and the New England Symphonic Ensemble, performing Gabriel Faure’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage.

Sparks’s research interests include conducting technique rooted in modern dance theory (specifically, Graham Technique® and Laban movement analysis) and cheironomy – its forms and functions in contemporaneous early communities of worship.

Professional experience

Honors, Awards & Competitions:

  • Merit Award for Teaching and Creative Activity (Temple University)
  • Presidential Summer Research Fellowship (Temple University)
  • The French Award (Yale Institute of Sacred Music)
  • The Richard De Long Prize (Yale Institute of Sacred Music)
  • Edward Stanley Seder Scholar (Yale Institute of Sacred Music)

Academic degrees