Jul 15, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Popular Music Teaching and Learning (MM)


The Master of Music in Popular Music Teaching and Learning is a professional degree that prepares graduates for the growing teaching opportunities in the private, public and community sectors in popular music through a curriculum that balances professional practice, scholarship and research. The degree is designed for: 1) working/performing popular musicians wanting to transition into teaching, 2) musicians with a bachelor’s degree in music performance or music education looking to expand their knowledge base into popular music and 3) musicians seeking to advance into doctoral level work in Teaching and Learning. Course work addresses issues specific to popular music, including blending informal and formal teaching strategies, songwriting, music production, small ensemble/band coaching, vocal coaching and program development. Additional courses in music teaching and learning provide foundational work in research, teaching philosophies, music psychology, technology, community music and assessment.


Admission to Thornton programs is granted through the USC admission process. Applicants are screened by appropriate faculty selection committees. Specific entrance requirements are reviewed on an annual basis and published online at music.usc.edu.

Unit and Grade Requirements

Students must complete at least 26 semester units at USC, including a capstone and comprehensive review. A grade point average of not less than 3.0 (A = 4.0) is required for all graduate courses in music, and a grade of B or higher is required for all courses in the major department. Students who transfer credits must achieve this average on all combined transferred and residence units.

Transferred Credits

All credits transferred must be the equivalent of corresponding current work at USC. Course work completed at another institution that has been approved by the Thornton School for transfer credit must have been completed within seven years from the date of admission to a master’s degree program to be applied toward that degree. Transfer credit petitions must be filed with the appropriate Thornton adviser during the first semester in residence.

Time Limit

The time limit for completing the Master of Music degree is five years. Progress is measured from the beginning of the first course at USC applied toward the degree. Extensions will be granted by petition to the Thornton School for only the most compelling reasons.

Music Graduate Entrance Exams

All students entering this graduate-level degree program at USC Thornton, who have not previously completed a degree at USC Thornton, must take a series of entrance exams in core music subjects. These exams are called Music Graduate Entrance Exams (MGEEs). Information regarding which exams are required for specific majors is available from the Thornton Student Affairs office. Also see the USC Thornton School of Music Admission to Graduate Standing  section of this catalogue for specific policies relating to these exams.

Capstone and Comprehensive Review

A final project is required for candidates as a capstone for the Master of Music in Popular Music Teaching and Learning. The project will consist of a scholarly document written on a topic approved by the Music Teaching and Learning department and include elements of supervised applied teaching. Candidates must also submit a comprehensive portfolio of representative work product consistent with their work in classes and in the field.

Guidance Committee

Before registering for MTAL 592 , a student must establish a guidance committee composed of three members of the faculty, approved by the department chair, of which at least two are from the home department. The chair of the guidance committee directly supervises the preparation of the project. The final acceptance of the project and portfolio is based upon the unanimous recommendation of all three members of the committee.

Curriculum Requirements

Program Intensive Courses (11 units)

Applied Music (4 units)**

Select four units from the following areas of musical study:

Courses in popular music performance, songwriting, music production or individual instruction in popular music. Courses must be at the 400-level or higher.

Capstone and Comprehensive Review (2 units)

Total Units: Minimum of 30

*Students with significant professional teaching experience may substitute a different MTAL 500 level or above course in consultation with their faculty adviser.

**Per faculty advisement.

*** If not selected as part of Core Academic Courses.