Katie Gavin, a junior in the Popular Music Program, first began working with the USC Thornton Outreach Program as a sophomore. She currently serves as a music instructor at 32nd Street School, where she teaches elementary school students songwriting and beginning guitar.
Thornton Outreach is a diverse and extensive music education-oriented program that provides unique learning opportunities for children in the local community, as well as significant service-learning opportunities for Thornton students. Each year, over 50 Thornton students and over 6,000 children in the community participate in the program.
Since becoming involved with Thornton Outreach, Gavin believes that she has grown to understand the emotive and political power behind song through the insight and experiences shared by her students. After a classroom songwriting lesson prompted a discussion about racism and discrimination, Gavin’s students were inspired to write a song addressing the issue in a positive manner.
“Music as social power is something that I really have come to believe in since I’ve been at USC,” Gavin said. “The Outreach program is something that’s really enlightening in that respect, because I started to see how music could be a tool to connect different communities and people that wouldn’t have connected otherwise.”
Gavin also finds encouragement when her students show a demonstrated interest in music making not only inside the classroom, but outside the classroom as well.
“Something that’s really inspiring for me is when I see somebody starting to take their own initiative to create,” she explains. “I’ll have students come up to me after class and show me a song they wrote during the week outside of class. So, when they take what we do together in the classroom and use it to start developing themselves, I think that’s really exciting.”
To hear more of Gavin’s insights about the USC Thornton Outreach program, and to hear a song performed by her students, watch the audio slideshow above.