Rethinking Virtuosity

Rethinking Virtuosity

As the USC Thornton School of Music upholds our legacy as one of the top music schools in the world, we continue to grow our programs and provide students with the tools they need to revitalize the music profession and revolutionize our communities. This is a thrilling year for Thornton as we redefine what it means to study music in the 21st century.

The New Classical

The classical music profession has changed. We’re changing with it. In our continuing commitment to a virtuosic education for our musicians, we are unveiling a radical new educational model, launching this fall, for undergraduates in the Classical Performance & Composition Division. USC Thornton is thrilled to present “The New Classical.”

“USC Thornton’s new curriculum was designed with the 21st-century musician in mind, and musical excellence remains the core,” said Robert Cutietta, Dean of USC Thornton. “We want students to rethink virtuosity. It’s all about making students better, and lifelong, musicians.”

This new degree structure offers more flexibility, allowing students to chart their own musical path, and take electives in any area they wish. The program is built around eight guiding principles aimed at helping students develop distinctive musical voices and embark on fulfilling musical careers.

Innovative musicians are already redefining how classical music is performed and consumed. Everyone, from the most storied institutions of classical music to aspiring young musicians, are embracing the change. The next generation of classical musicians are leveraging their digital upbringings to create and share music in exciting new ways across digital media.

Take the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, for example. Founded by USC Thornton alumnus Benjamin Mitchell (GCRT ’17, arts leadership), Kaleidoscope is a conductorless chamber orchestra that’s attracting new audiences in the fast-growing Los Angeles music scene.

The Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra in performance. (Photo by Kathryn Nockels)

Piano Performance major, Shelby Wong, has undoubtedly benefitted from the diverse opportunities now available to her. Besides playing the piano, she enjoys collaborating with USC students at the School of Cinematic Arts and the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. And not to be limited to just piano, she is also enrolled in viola and organ lessons, “an opportunity I had never thought would be possible,” she says.

Whether competing for coveted orchestral positions or launching their own ensembles, USC Thornton classical students not only have a wider range of opportunities, but will be able to create their own. Just as boundaries are quickly disappearing across the entire music profession, the new curriculum will encourage a cross-genre approach to music training.

Music-Making in the Digital Age

Also in keeping with the commitment to a virtuosic education for our students, USC Thornton’s cutting-edge Music Production program just graduated its first class this past spring. In 2015, the Division of Contemporary Music introduced a new bachelor’s degree in Music Production that encompasses the creative, technical and business aspects of professional music.

“Knowing how to use a studio is an art form in itself ... it is awesome that Thornton has created an infrastructure to teach people how to get good at it.”

— Alex Pachino, Popular Music graduate

The major reflects the current and evolving nature of music making in the digital age, where the job description of today’s contemporary musician often includes composing and arranging live and studio performances, audio engineering/editing and mastering, music synthesis and programming, as well as most or all of the business aspects related to music. The students that graduate from the program develop new skills using technology in live performance and multimedia.

The Contemporary Triple Threat

3 Schools. 3 Disciplines. One Degree.

USC Thornton has joined forces with USC School of Dramatic Arts and USC Kaufman School of Dance to create a contemporary triple threat degree program. The BFA in Musical Theatre offers unparalleled opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity by blending the extraordinary resources of three of the nation’s leading arts schools.

This new degree program was foreshadowed by the 2018 performance of West Side Story, which marked the inaugural collaboration between the three schools. The production, directed by USC Thornton’s Vocal Arts & Opera faculty member Ken Cazan, featured students from all three schools.

USC students performing West Side Story, Spring 2018

With its expert faculty, modern curriculum, and proximity to the country’s entertainment capital, this degree provides optimal training for those students whose destination is the stage, the screen, and beyond.

Our Goal:

Cutting-edge degree programs, radical education models, and innovative student experiences are just some of the reasons USC Thornton is one of the world’s top music schools. The unbelievable opportunities that our students have at Thornton would not be possible without scholarship support from generous donors like you. Every gift to Thornton, no matter the size, directly impacts the lives of our students and ensures Thornton is a leading force in music for the 21st century.

Together, we can make a lasting impact that will forever change the landscape for the USC Thornton School of Music, the community and the world of music.