Jason King named Thornton dean

Jason King sitting, posed for a photo, wearing a lime suit.
Jason King, an inaugural member of the Kennedy Center’s Hip Hop Culture Council, is also a regular contributor to Pitchfork, publishing articles and reviews centered on rhythm & blues and pop. (Photo courtesy of Laylah Amatullah Barrayn)

Jason King will serve as the new dean of the Thornton School of Music, Interim Provost Elizabeth Graddy announced in a communitywide email Tuesday.

A self-described “multihyphenate,” King is the chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, and the Institute’s founding full-time faculty member. He also served as the Institute’s inaugural director of global studies, and previously its artistic director from 2006 to 2012. The website for the NYU Tisch School of the Arts labels the Canadian-American a “scholar, journalist, author, musician, DJ, performer, producer, songwriter, radio and video host, and event curator.” 

“We are excited that [King] will be able to leverage his strong network and interdisciplinary experience of performance, teaching, production, research, and business acumen to benefit the Thornton School of Music community,” wrote Graddy in the announcement, sent on behalf of President Carol Folt.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, King announced he would be resigning from his positions at NYU at the end of Spring 2023.

“I’ll be leaving NYU with only the highest respect for all my faculty, staff, and colleagues,” King wrote, “and for all the truly exceptional and gifted students I’ve been privileged to meet and work with over the past two decades. It’s been a dream.”

King, an inaugural member of the Kennedy Center’s Hip Hop Culture Council, is also a regular contributor to Pitchfork, publishing articles and reviews centered on rhythm and blues and pop. In 2016, he hosted and co-produced the NPR Music docu-series “Noteworthy,” consisting of interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage of big names in the music industry, including Alicia Keys and Dua Lipa. Under his leadership at NYU Tisch, he has invited Keys, among a slew of other celebrated musicians — such as Pharrell Williams, De La Soul and Nile Rodgers — to the school.

“I’m excited to take the [reins] at Thornton, an exceptional institution with a profound history,” wrote King in a tweet Tuesday. “In my new role, I will help lead the school and extend its legacy of creative and educational excellence, building on the monumental work of the program’s previous leaders and from brilliant Interim Dean [Josh Kun].”

King will succeed Robert Cutietta, who served as Thornton dean for 20 years, as well as the founding dean of the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance since 2011, before resigning from both positions in June. Cutietta oversaw the hiring process for all faculty and staff at Kaufman, as well as a 40% increase in Thornton’s physical size with new and renovated facilities — including The Music Complex, Songwriter’s Theater, Schoenfeld Hall and a practice-room facility at University Gateway. In August 2021, then-Provost Charles Zukoski wrote in an announcement to the USC community that Cutietta would be stepping down and taking a two-year sabbatical before returning as a faculty member. Josh Kun, chair in cross-cultural communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, stepped in as interim dean while a search committee decided on Cutietta’s successor. Kun will continue his position as interim dean for the remainder of Spring 2023.

“I’d like to express our deep gratitude to Josh, whose bold vision and passionate advocacy throughout his time as Interim Dean has continued to propel Thornton’s critical role in the arts at USC and in Los Angeles, and set a strong foundation for its new dean,” Graddy wrote in Tuesday’s announcement, thanking the search committee and the Thornton community for their contributions to the hiring process. “Our school is a thriving group of scholars, artists, performers, educators and more, and we look forward to continuing to advance our pursuit of musical excellence.”