The USC Thornton School of Music has recently unveiled five new master’s degree programs; the contemporary teaching practice and music industry programs will begin in May 2018, while the community music, screen scoring and arts leadership will commence the coming fall. Created largely due to the changing music industry and climate of music education, many of these new programs go against the grain and focus on expanding a student’s breadth of topics and specialties through flexible electives and final projects. Some master’s programs are accepting students without a previous music degree, instead focusing on students who have finished their undergraduate degree but still have a lingering passion for music that they want to explore.
For students who aspire to lead their own music program, the arts leadership program is the degree to pursue. Classes revolve around leadership in the contemporary arts world as well as the different dimensions associated with leadership in the field, from alternate structures for organizations to the environmental trends affecting the art world.
To gain personalized field experience, students may choose between three options: an internship to acquire hands-on experience, a 10-day summer program detailing the essentials of orchestra management or directed research to explore aspects of fields that catch the student’s interests. Finally, students will undertake a practicum of a real world leadership position that will mirror their creative interests. As a two semester program with diverse electives, it is perfect for any student interested in any leadership position in the arts.
As a combination of social advocacy, education and community involvement, the creative music degree is for students with diverse interests looking to bring their talents outside of the sound booth or concert stage. The two-year intensive program will help students diversify possible career pathways, including teachers, facilitators and mentors for growing artists. The classes mirror these varied goals with electives in philosophy, arts leadership, public policy and social work.
Events hosted across Los Angeles and the USC Thornton community engagement programs promote outreach into neighboring communities, with work mainly within non-traditional settings such as hospitals, prisons, senior community centers and areas geared toward the marginalized or disadvantaged. The focuses in music teaching, arts leadership and other programs make this degree well-suited for those looking for ways to give back to the community.
Contemporary Teaching Practice
Diverging from traditional instruments, a more culturally diverse classroom, and a changed academic environment, students who wish to teach in K-12 schools, either public or private, will be well armed with the master’s degree in contemporary teaching practice. Along this pathway, students will take classes from both the Thornton School of Music and Rossier School of Education, with classes detailing both general education principles and courses specifically designed around teaching music. In addition to the degree, the program assists in certifying graduates with five-year preliminary credentials from the state of California, as well as certification through the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the California Department of Education. The three-semester program’s capstone project is a full-time student teaching guided practice to further develop teaching skills in a real-world environment.
The screen scoring master’s degree, a highly competitive, 20-student cohort and two-semester program, will teach students the mechanics of composing, conducting and producing music for any medium shown on a screen, from video games and live-action films to video games and virtual reality systems. A partnership with the School for Cinematic Arts will allow for collaboration with fellow students in filmmaking and game design to compose up to 10 scoring projects. Given their interconnectedness with other industries, classes aren’t limited to solely music; students may also choose related topics in technology, business and the movie industry. The goal is for students to develop a portfolio of original scores over the course of the program.
Spearheaded by Thornton’s new music industry program chair, this three-semester program is geared toward those who have a lifelong passion for music and the program accepts those without a previous degree in the music field. The first semester details the basics of business, the music industry and entrepreneurship, while the second semester mainly consists of planning, producing and pitching their individually crafted master’s degree campaign. The third semester’s online night courses are designed to save time for working students, who will also begin executing their prepared campaign, whether that be running a live music event, creating an online web series, or collaborating with local artists for a passion project. The small, 15-to-25 student cohort will keep discussions centered and inspire collaboration, and the four emphasis options in music supervision/visual media, applied music performance, live music touring and musical entrepreneurship allow students to tailor the program to their interests.