Paying it forward: Paul Young to lead Thornton program


After working for Universal Music Group for the better part of the past decade, Paul Young, the Thornton School of Music’s new music industry chair, had an epiphany.

“I wasn’t chasing my own passions anymore, even though I had previously defined them,” Young said. “I met every objective I set for myself, but they weren’t necessarily the passions driving me.”

Young walked away from his corporate job in the licensing department at UMG at a point in his career that many of his peers would view as the pinnacle. For him, it was time to chase those passions once more and redefine his future.

“I walked away from it all because I felt disconnected as a musician,” Young said. “I came to USC to get a master’s and doctorate degree in music [by] choice. If you follow your passion, you’re going to wake up every morning with a smile on your face, even if you’re fighting uphill.”

It is this passion and empathy for music that Young instills into his students each and every day. Since being named department chair of Thornton’s music industry program this semester, Young thoroughly emphasizes the interconnectivity of each major within Thornton’s Division of Contemporary Music.

“We have four different degrees within the program, but I fundamentally believe that we all have the same passion for music and it is this that drives us,” Young said. “It is my goal to create a shared experience, because we are all working toward a common outcome. It comes back to the same foundation again and again and again — this industry is based on not only who you know, but who you connect with.”

Young understands the importance of collaborating with likeminded and passionate peers, looking to past relationships for guidance and solitude throughout his career within numerous facets of the music industry.

“I was responsible for millions of dollars every year [while working at UMG], but it always boiled down to what kinds of relationships and what kinds of trusts I built,” Young said. “There should be no hierarchies within relationships, because even when careers are on the line, [the industry] will still lean toward relationships.”

As for the future of Thornton’s music industry, or MUIN, program, Young looks to build a network of inspired leaders of all ages within the Trojan community. Integrating esteemed USC alumni with current MUIN students, Young hopes to generate the next wave of industry heavyweights.

“It’s important for Music Industry students to understand that they are part of something — the MUIN Trojan community,” Young said. “We have a beautiful alumni network already in place, and it’s really important that these connections are made the right way. We’re going to give the industry that extraordinary candidate who can go into a job with humility and contribute; we’re going to own this town.”

Apart from cultivating the knowledge of MUIN students on a four-year Bachelor of Science track, Young has recently crafted the curriculum for a Master of Science Music Industry degree at USC that will launch in Fall 2018. As a three-semester program, this path is designed for students who did not previously receive a BS degree through Thornton’s music industry program.

“I’m looking forward to building a program apart from our four-year music industry track that has an entirely independent set of goals,” Young said. “It’s not a continuation degree, rather a completely differing experience that will ultimately enable growth at USC and be of value to a lot of people. USC, Thornton and Music Industry are all brands of excellence to me, and I expect my students to be the same — excellent.”

  • Jon Parssinen

    Without knowing what I am talking about, do you guys have a commercial recording studio right there on campus, inside of your teaching facility, with possibilities of going more or less 24 hours a day?