Four bands. Twelve songs. One midterm. On Wednesday night, USC Thornton School of Music’s freshman class performed its first showcase, a live event featuring performances of pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s. For the performers, the recital doubled as a midterm assessment for their pop music class. For the audience, the concert was a display of the talent that Thornton consistently produces.
At 8 p.m., professor and popular music program chair Patrice Rushen introduced the show. Rushen expressed her excitement regarding the student performances. She explained that the show is split into four sets from bands consisting of Thornton students in a pop music class. She did caution that as this was a midterm, some bands might be playing the same songs, but that did not take away from the show’s excitement.
The first band opened the show with Ben E. King’s classic “Stand by Me,” a fitting welcome to the world of ’60s pop music. The influences in modern pop music remain intact, but the students brought a fresh, new energy to the music by infusing it with their personal flair. The first group closed its four-song set with a riveting performance of “Hit the Road Jack,” featuring a solo from songwriting student Cole Mitchell.
“[The show consists of] ’50s and ’60s classics, so it’s a great way to learn the traditions of pop that current music is built off of,” Mitchell said.
Next, the second group started with an encore performance of Sam Cooke’s “What A Wonderful World.” This time around, soloist Noa Zimmerman, a freshman majoring in songwriting, took the spotlight. Zimmerman expressed her excitement about the program before the performance began.
“The class is a great way to get to know people as a freshman,” Zimmerman said. “You get to meet people from different backgrounds.”
Zimmerman was one of many students who exhibited versatility, as she switched to playing guitar for the remaining songs after her vocal solo.
In fact, each group brought a distinctive and different energy to the same songs, proving that pop music’s flexibility and ability to produce different performance styles.
The final two bands thrilled with their performances, including highlights such as Elvis Presley’s “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” and Chuck Berry’s infamous “Johnny B. Goode.” Those who performed earlier could be seen in the crowd supporting their peers’ performances.
Although the Thornton Pop Music Showcase was technically an assessment, the student performers’ enjoyment and passion for the music became obvious once they approached the stage.