USC Thornton School of Music’s Redesigned Curriculum Trains Undergraduate Students for the Music Gig Economy
The USC Thornton School of Music is preparing students by training them to succeed in the gig economy. Musicians have long earned a living off short-term and freelance contracts. However, musicians typically learn how to navigate the gig economy after graduation. USC Thornton is changing that.
In a continued commitment to rethinking music education, USC Thornton redesigned its undergraduate curriculum for classical music. The redesign focuses on developing virtuosic musicians with artistic vision and black entrepreneurial skills to lead a vibrant career in the 21st Century.
“Often, musicians earn a living through multiple income streams. Unfortunately, traditional undergraduate classical music programs do little to prepare students for success in the current musical landscape,” said Robert Cutietta, Dean of USC Thornton. “Our goal is to equip students with professional skills before they graduate so they can lead a fulfilling career in music.”
USC Thornton’s curriculum change reflects a fundamental shift in classical music. Classical musicians are performing and monetizing music in exciting new ways, and traditional conservatories, clinging onto century-old curriculums, are failing to prepare students for the realities of life in classical music after school. Many conservatories are hesitant to change, which has led to many schools adopting almost identical curricula for classical music students.
“As one of the world’s premier music schools, we didn’t have to change,” said Cutietta. “Our students are highly successful in all the traditional ways. They are winning auditions, competitions, and finding fulfilling careers. It’s exactly because we are successful that we feel an obligation to lead a change to ensure a vibrant future for our profession.”
The heart of the degree still emphasizes musical excellence—students maintain a robust core of performance, history, and theory classes, including a senior recital and individualized project. What separates USC Thornton’s new model for classical music education from its predecessors is that it gives every student the flexibility to shape their artistic path, discover their unique voice, and graduate as a well-rounded artist.
“We’ve designed our curriculum to develop multi-dimensional musicians,” said Cutietta. “There are a million paths to success in the world of music. We’re showing students how to thrive in today’s diverse music profession and find their unique place in it.”