As the USC campus gears up for this weekend’s Commencement ceremonies, it’s the perfect time to look back on the many accomplishments and accolades garnered by USC Thornton students and faculty during the 2013-2014 school year.
Major successes for Thornton started early in the year, when GRAMMY and Academy Award-winning artist Elton John performed at Bovard Auditorium in September with members of the USC Thornton Symphony, USC Thornton Chamber Singers, and students from Thornton’s Brass Program. Two weeks later, the USC Thornton Chamber Singers and Thornton Brass students reprised their role onstage with Sir Elton John — this time at the 65th annual Emmy Awards.
USC Thornton students would share the stage with another legendary act when Popular Music students Rees Finley, Divya Maus, Anna Schulze, Austin Smith, and Jimmy Villaflor were selected to open for The Beach Boys during an October 25th concert at Bovard Auditorium. Each student performed an original composition inspired by the band’s iconic California sound.
The Thornton faculty grew this year, with renowned figures from the music world joining its ranks. Michael Tilson Thomas — one of the world’s most prominent musicians, conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and a two-time alumnus of the USC Thornton School of Music — was named a Judge Widney Professor of Music at USC. Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton, a GRAMMY Award-nominated engineer and producer best known for his work with rapper Jay-Z, joined the faculty as an Artist-In-Residence.
Also joining the Thornton Faculty were: Daniel Carlin, former chair of film scoring at Berklee College of Music; Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic; violist Michael Tree, founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet; and Kenneth Foster, executive director of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
In April, USC Thornton School of Music Dean Robert Cutietta traveled to Sydney, Australia to participate in the inaugural Asia Pacific Music Summit. The four-day event brought together educators from top music schools from Asia and the Pacific, and resulted in the new Pacific Alliance of Music Schools (PAMS).
Thornton was named the first official university affiliate of The GRAMMY Museum this spring — but that wasn’t the only time Thornton and GRAMMY shared headlines this year. Three Thornton representatives were winners at the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards, and faculty and alumni received seven nominations for this year’s awards ceremony in all.
Midori Goto, Chair of the Strings Department, was the featured soloist on “Best Classical Compendium” winner Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik (conducted by Christoph Eschenbach). Alumnus Herb Alpert won “Best Pop Instrumental Album” for his album, Steppin’ Out. USC Thornton Board of Councilors member Thomas Newman, who also studied at USC, won the “Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media” category for his work as composer of the James Bond film, Skyfall.
Student accomplishments were plentiful throughout the year, with several garnering top awards at international competitions. Percussion student Ethan Ahmad became the first USC student to win the prestigious Kerope Zildjian Scholarship for percussion, while sophomore classical pianist Evan Pensis won the Grand Prize and Audience Award at the 9th International Siegfried Weishaupt Piano Competition in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany. Pensis was also selected as a Grand Prize Winner for the Kennedy Center VSA International Young Soloists Competition.
Classical Guitar students Ines Thomé and Michael Gratovich both won international competitions. Thomé won First Prize in the Walnut Creek Guitar Competition and will perform a four-concert tour in 2015. Gratovich won First Prize in the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Competition. The prize includes a recital at the 2015 Philadelphia Festival where Classical Guitar faculty William Kanengiser will also perform.
This summer, Popular Music student Lilliana de los Reyes will be the featured vocalist and percussionist in George Benson’s band.
Numerous achievements by Thornton professors highlighted the strength and versatility of USC Thornton’s world-class faculty.
USC Distinguished Professor and Composition faculty Morten Lauridsen was named the new Honorary Artistic President of INTERKULTUR and the World Choir Games. Peter Webster, Vice Dean of the Division of Scholarly and Professional Studies and Scholar-in-Residence of Music Education, received music education’s highest honor by being named the 2014 National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Senior Researcher for the Society for Research in Music Education (SRME).
Winds and Percussion faculty H. Robert Reynolds was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the College Band Directors’ National Association, while Strings faculty Alice Schoenfeld received the Humanitarian Award from the Young Musician Foundation at the organization’s 59th Annual Benefit Gala in March.
Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television faculty Garry Schyman won both a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award and a D.I.C.E Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences for his work on the video game, Bioshock Infinite.
Despite all the excitement of the past year, Thornton students and faculty show no signs of slowing down this summer. Many students will remain on campus to continue working with Thornton’s world-class faculty, while others will find themselves performing and studying around the world. There’s bound to be lots to celebrate when classes resume in August!