At the USC Thornton School of Music, we celebrate our location in Los Angeles, the nation’s center for creativity and innovation. As the music profession changes, we are at the forefront of a forward-thinking educational model that prepares students for careers at the highest level as performers, composers, educators and industry leaders. Explore stories from our Divisions of Classical Performance & Composition, Contemporary Music, and Research & Scholarly Studies below.
On the Horizon: Bright Futures
Classical music is as vibrant as it has ever been, but the profession is changing as musicians develop multifaceted careers. Our curriculum challenges students to develop a distinct artistic voice and create a thriving life and career in music. Our goal? To train artists who will expand classical music’s influence and impact, now and in years to come.
Recent USC Thornton classical performance alums are forming groups that expand how music is made and presented. A quartet of Strings students created “The Mixtape Series,” bringing curated playlists to the concert hall.
USC Thornton is a key part of a rigorous multiyear training program for musicians of color that works to improve diversity in American orchestras from coast to coast.
Thornton graduates take the podium at Disney Hall and lead their own choirs beyond the concert hall, with Jenny Wong (MM ’13, DMA ’17) now the associate artistic director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Alexander Lloyd Blake (DMA ’19) leading his own ensemble, Tonality.
After sending a classical guitar to a talented Nigerian musician, Mircea Gogoncea realized it would cost less to send a second guitar if he delivered it in person. He did, also delivering eight masterclasses, six lectures, several jam sessions and one concert — all in three days.
Female composers at USC Thornton excel at securing career-launching fellowships and premiering their work in renowned festivals nationwide.
After meeting through a Thornton faculty-led field trip to Disney Hall, famed organist Cameron Carpenter would later share the concert stage with Thomas Mellan, an alum in Composition and Organ Studies.
Pianist and baritone Joshua Tan was supported by his mentor and USC Thornton faculty member Bernadene Blaha to wear many hats during his time as a student.
The Concerto Chamber Orchestra, a student-run ensemble which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020, ventured into new territory with cross-genre collaborations and animated video performances, including a season-long residency with USC Thornton’s Jazz Studies program.
“If you monitor the New York arts press, you will quickly understand that Los Angeles is hot. The coast-to-coast current has changed course: young painters, writers and musicians are flocking here.”
— Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times music critic
Always Innovating, Always Collaborating
From Popular Music to Screen Scoring to Jazz Studies, the programs in the Division of Contemporary Music are among the industry’s best and most celebrated. They have always been musical pathfinders and are also known for their embrace of new technology and creative collaborations with new media, dance, theater and musicians located around the world.
Justin Lubliner (BS ’12) started a marketing and PR firm while still at Thornton. Two years after graduation, he had his own record label, having signed a then unknown Billie Eilish. Helping her continue her dazzling rise, Lubliner remains on a fast track.
Music Industry students used their classroom training to produce two big events: a philanthropic music festival, as well as a networking event using the online platform Degy World. Both were shepherded by Associate Professor Kevin Lyman, creator of the Vans Warped Tour.
“The students are fearless, and I try to encourage that. I say, ‘Hey no one’s done this, so we can’t be measured against anyone but ourselves.’”
— Kevin Lyman, Music Industry associate professor
Making Research Matter
USC Thornton integrates leading-edge research in our coursework, from an award-winning podcast on pop, to deep dives into early music and jazz, the nation’s only Polish Music Center, and innovative strategies in arts leadership. Alumni are working on and off the stage — in higher education and K–12 classrooms, archives, studios, and leadership positions throughout the arts. No one career looks like another, and we train students for success in multiple career paths.
Musicology faculty frequently publish and present their research at national conferences. Lisa Cooper Vest released her first book, Awangarda: Tradition and Modernity in Postwar Polish Music, late in 2020. Bruce Alan Brown presented papers on the use of vaudevilles, or popular tunes, in an opéra-comique by Gluck and a ballet by Mozart.
Acting on student and faculty input, the USC Thornton Board of Councilors created The Voices Fund to amplify the voices of musicians of color in our courses.
“It’s really important for us as students to get involved in our community, particularly with programs that go into schools and develop lasting relationships with the kids.”
— Rose Campion, USC’s 2018 valedictorian, double majoring in music and history