In the first of four profiles, meet a Thornton alum who combined creativity and passion to create their Young Artist Project.
Piano or dance? In high school, Daniel Mangiaracino (’22) started getting pressure to focus on one. But he didn’t want to choose. Instead, he found a school that encouraged him to pursue both and bring them together in cross-disciplinary projects — USC Thornton.
“Thornton is very focused on collaboration and really pressing the boundaries of what we can do,” said the keyboard studies major and dance minor. “The curriculum allows each student to find an individualized passion and path.
“And the Young Artist Project really showed that you can realize that individual passion even earlier on, pre-career.”
From the beginning, Mangiaracino’s piano professor Kevin Fitz-Gerald helped him to realize just how much each discipline can benefit the other. Mangiaracino combined multiple interests in his senior Young Artist Project, the capstone of USC Thornton’s Classical ReDesign curriculum. Taking advantage of his combined 1 million followers on social media and the web, he created a series of videos for his YouTube channel, Dein0mite.
For “Opus Sans,” he composed and performed three pieces of music and choreographed dancers for each. Each piece is considered a movement.
“Conceptually, the entire thing is in sonata form,” he said.
The videos were produced on Logic Pro 10 and edited in Adobe Premiere Pro.
“Technically I had all the knowledge needed to do the project. However, I had never actually combined them in this way before: the cinematography, the dance and the music,” he said.
“I don’t think I would have been able to hybridize things nearly as well had I not had the really, really good conservatory-esque classical music training, to be able to quantify what I want from the music, to be able to apply it to dance. And so, the really solid preparation work came from that honed learning from Thornton.”
Mangiaracino appreciated the lack of boundaries across genres and disciplines.
“It’s really rare to have such a strong encouragement of pursuing things that aren’t necessarily a part of Thornton, but in ways that can be connected to it. So rather than a bubble, they’re looking at it as more of a spiderweb,” he said.
He sees this project as just the beginning. In his current Thornton master’s degree program, he’s combining composition and dance, composing for video games and film, and exploring ways to use technology — like interactive visual effects, something he was introduced to at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance — to enhance the artistic experience and reach younger audiences.
“Thornton is really paving the way for young musicians to make it work for them,” he said. “It’s always difficult getting an ‘in’ on the scene, and Thornton really creates that network for students to be able to work with each other and bounce things off of each other and learn a lot not only just from the faculty, but from the environment around them. It’s a very special thing to have.”