Tram Sparks

Chair, Department of Choral & Sacred Music

Associate professor of practice

Tram Sparks is an Associate Professor of Practice at the USC Thornton School of Music. Prior to her work in Los Angeles, Sparks was an Associate Professor and Associate Director of Choral Activities at Temple University Boyer College of Music and Dance, where she taught from 1999 to 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 a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Dordt College (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 studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Pre-College Division, where her studies included lessons in piano, solfege, eurythmics and choral music (singing in a children’s choir). Sparks earned her Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance and a Master’s of Music in Choral Conducting from Temple University. Her piano training with the late Harvey Wedeen and David L. Stone follows in the pedagogical lineages of Adele Marcus, Isabelle Vengerova, Josef Lhevinne and Nicholas Slonimsky.

Sparks holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting degree from Yale University. While at Yale, she completed certificate program studies in Music, Worship and the Arts at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and thereafter served as music director in various churches and synagogues in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Sparks’s research interests center around two areas and the subtle interplay between them – conducting technique rooted in modern dance theory and movement analysis and a contextual understanding of 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