Thornton professor gives ’SC $3 million

Long time professor and classical violinist Alice Schoenfeld donated $3 million to fund a new symphonic hall, the USC Thornton School of Music announced Monday.

The 3,700-square-foot symphonic hall will be named after Schoenfeld and her late sister, Eleonore. Previously used by the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the hall was refurbished this summer. It now has complete audio and video recording capabilities, lighting and suspended flooring for sound isolation and flexible acoustic design. This new design will better accommodate larger performing groups, such as the symphony and wind ensembles.

Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, Robert Cutietta, emphasized the importance of a new symphonic hall.

“It’s time the USC Thornton Symphony and Wind Ensemble have a custom designed space where they can rehearse,” Cutietta said in a press release. “These two ensembles are recognized as among the best collegiate groups in the country, and it is essential that we have a dedicated orchestral rehearsal hall.”

The USC Thornton School has one of the strongest strings departments in the country, along with being consistently ranked among the finest conservatories and international music schools.

The dedication of the hall occurred Sunday and included performances from Schoenfeld’s former students. The dedication was followed by an open house and student concert on Monday.

Schoenfeld, the holder of the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Endowed Chair in String Instruction, has been teaching violin instruction and performance at Thornton for more than half a century. She remains active with classical music instruction with students and additionally practices between two and four hours each day.

The Schoenfeld sisters comprised the Schoenfeld Duo and were internationally acclaimed classical performers who toured music halls around the world.

Before her death in 2007, Eleonore Schoenfeld was also a professor at USC Thornton and the holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello.

Schoenfeld wanted to contribute to Thornton because of her and her sister’s dedication to the school and its program.

“I thought I’d leave a legacy,” Schoenfeld said in a statement. “I’d like to perpetuate the name of my sister, as she was very active here for so long.”

USC President C. L. Max Nikias recognized the Schoenfelds’ influence at the university and abroad.

“Through their dedication as teachers, and their generosity as philanthropists, they have nurtured some of the greatest musicians in the world, while creating an extraordinary legacy for themselves and for USC Thornton,” Nikias said in a press release.

The donation from Schoenfeld aligns with the goals for the Campaign for the University of Southern California, an initiative to raise at least $6 billion from private donations, foundations and corporations that will grow the university’s endowment and extend its influence in the world. The university plans to use $1 billion toward capital projects.

Earlier this month, another donor contributed money to benefit the USC Marshall School.