The Hollywood Reporter ranked the Thornton School of Music the second best music school for composition in film and television in the country and highlighted the school’s Screen Scoring Program.
“Without sounding arrogant, we are used to these kinds of rankings,” Thornton Dean Robert Cutietta said. “I don’t take that lightly, but I also think it’s an extremely good reflection of the school. There is quality in every corner of this school.”
The Screen Scoring Program has changed since its creation in the mid-1980s. Cutietta said the Thornton school modifies to reflect the changes in the musical landscape, especially with the Digital Revolution. Additionally, Cutietta and program chair Daniel Carlin implemented several changes, including transforming the program from a graduate certificate into a one-year master’s degree program for a cohort of 20 graduates.
Students in the program take eight courses, receive individual lessons from faculty members and complete 10 recording sessions in different studios.
“It has far, far surpassed what I expected from the program in the most positive way,” said Austin Hammonds, a graduate student in the current cohort. “From the outside view, it’s this idyllic thing that everybody wants to achieve and get in and work hard and it’s a world-renowned program … transitioning to the inside view, when I’m here … it doesn’t feel like you’re this person that everybody [wants to be].”
Hammonds said he is constantly surprised by each member of the cohort because he thinks everyone is on the same level and brings brilliant ideas, which fosters a healthy competition that in turn increases everyone’s talent.
“They do a great job of finding a diverse group of people who are strong in a bunch of different areas,” said Matthew Thomas, a graduate student in the current screen scoring cohort. “When we actually go into this program, not only are we learning from our faculty, but we are learning from each other and building on each others’ strengths.”
Thomas said he enjoys the intensity of the program, which he believes mimics the fast pace of the music industry. He thinks the program places aspiring composers at the forefront of the industry, preparing them to find jobs or become freelance composers.
Carlin said the program’s location in Los Angeles has allowed participants to benefit from working with professional musicians and collaborating with the School of Cinematic Arts. All of the program’s faculty members, who also currently work in the industry, teach part-time and help recommend job opportunities and build networks for students.
Cutietta and Carlin expect the program to change more with the industry, but there are no plans to expand the program despite high demand from prospective students.
“I think USC students really are a very special breed,” Cutietta said. “They are coming in and wanting to really do something with their art form.”