Thornton Dean Position Description

Position Title: Dean Thornton School of Music

Reports To: Provost, University of Southern California

The USC Thornton School of Music is a dynamic, collaborative and visionary school committed to excellence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and creativity. We welcome applications for a progressive and charismatic Dean dedicated to advancing the power of music for change in individuals and society, and to preparing and empowering a diverse generation of musicians, scholars, industry professionals and artist-entrepreneurs.

The Dean will inspire creative and intellectual risk-taking and champion the work of students, faculty and staff. This Dean, an ethical community builder and civic leader, will be committed to upholding the highest standards of academic excellence, diversity, inclusivity, integrity, governance, and professionalism. This leader is a believer in activating Thornton’s power and potential in the arts to make an impact for social good through artistic excellence and innovation. The Dean will commit to enhancing the Thornton School of Music’s investment in the music profession, the Los Angeles music and arts community, and beyond.


Founded in 1884, and today the oldest continually operating cultural institution in Los Angeles, USC Thornton consistently ranks among the top one percent of the nation’s music schools and conservatories. Graduates of the school attain positions with major orchestras, ensembles, recording studios, schools, universities, community organizations, and music industry firms. They perform on stages and in studios around the world and are the artist-entrepreneurs who are shaping the field of music.

With a commitment toward Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) as central guiding principles, the Thornton School is dedicated to evolve, learn, and change. Recent endeavors include a re- examination of all departmental course-content to address historical injustices, more stringent looks at hiring practices, mentoring of student BIPOC groups, overhauling undergraduate scholarship strategies, and a resolve for racial inclusivity of composers, authors, performances, and resources. Thornton is dedicated to continuing improvements on this mission of weaving JEDI issues throughout Thornton and into the greater community.

The Thornton School is an influential and ground-breaking institution which provides students a thorough music education in a real-world context. An integral participant in the rich cultural life of Los Angeles, USC Thornton engages in on-going relationships with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy, to name a few. Thornton faculty, students and alumni are a visible presence in the community, reaching out to the next generation of artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers through performances, workshops, events and courses in schools, performance venues, and online. With its faculty, staff, students, events and work, the USC Thornton School of Music is an anchoring cultural resource in Los Angeles.

Thornton’s leadership in music is evidenced by recent sweeping curricular changes. Since 2008, a myriad of new programs have been added to the programmatic portfolio, substantially expanding the breadth and reach of the School. From undergraduate offerings in Popular Music Performance, Music Production, and Musical Theatre, to graduate programs in Arts Leadership, Music Industry and Community Music, to an array of Global Initiatives, the Thornton School has arguably become the most comprehensive and broadly-based school of music in the nation. As an outgrowth of this rapid programmatic expansion, the School adopted its current three-division structure, organizing its unique programmatic components into the Division of Classical Performance and Composition, the Division of Contemporary Music, and the Division of Research and Scholarly Studies.

The new Classical ReDesign Curriculum, adopted in 2019, invites students to step across traditional boundaries into interdisciplinary paths and challenges them to make fundamental connections between music-making and current social issues. This new curriculum aims to address the context of music in a diverse and inclusive society, to erase performance boundaries between different genres of music, and to learn new technologies to share music through digital platforms and non-traditional venues.

The location of the campus is in the center of the music and entertainment industries, and in one of the country’s most vibrant cities, makes the Thornton School of Music distinctive among colleges and universities in the United States.

The Thornton School acknowledges its presence
on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Tongva Indigenous Peoples and their neighbors


The University of Southern California was founded in 1880 and currently enrolls over 46,000 students. USC is one of a select number of universities the United States depends upon for a steady stream of new knowledge, art and technology. USC’s commitment to the arts, humanities and the community has a long history. The commitment to research has broad social impact, including operating an integrated academic medical center that serves a million patients a year. USC has an endowment of $8.1 billion and receives annually close to $909 million in sponsored research.

Adding to the legacies of USC’s six arts schools and two museums, the USC Visions and Voices and Arts in Action programs produce and/or sponsor over 100 events each all of which are open to students at no charge. Visions and Voices brings world-renowned artists and public figures to USC, the vast majority of which engage issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Arts in Action program brings the arts to the community and neighborhoods beyond USC’s campuses in creative collaborations with local entities. In the three short years since its founding, USC faculty and students have already collaborated with over two-dozen local nonprofits, cultural institutions, and underserved schools. Together, Visions and Voices and Arts in Action are key components for engaging issues related to equity and diversity, pursuing social justice, and fostering a more inclusive university culture.


Build connections that leverage the power of Thornton’s broad programmatic portfolio and faculty expertise
With its strength across its three divisions – Classical Performance and Composition, Contemporary Music, and Research and Scholarly Studies – the Thornton School is uniquely poised to reflect the musical art form as it is evolving. The Dean will inspire and support cross-divisional connections to educate artist-leaders and scholars dedicated to enhancing society through music: between musical genres, between performance and scholarship, between art and enterprise, and between artistic creation and the community it serves. The Dean will be committed to facilitating and leading the creation of systems and processes that ensure alignment and inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration within Thornton and across the greater university.

Promote a culture of shared governance and inclusive planning

The Dean will uphold the highest ethical standards and embrace the benefits of inclusive shared governance as a means to enhance trust and transparency and improve the institution. The Dean will lead a robust process of strategic planning, welcoming participation from members across the Thornton community.

Ensure academic excellence and innovation

The Dean will help attract and retain the highest quality faculty and staff. The Dean will foster a culture of measurable academic excellence and sustain/bolster processes to ensure continuous academic improvement and innovation.

Continuously improve the student experience

The Dean will prepare the school for the unique academic, social, health, future career requirements and concerns of today’s students. The Dean will continue ongoing connections to the professional world in response to ever-changing student needs and readiness for careers of the future.

Promote Thornton’s visibility and brand promise

The Dean will engage the communities inside and outside of USC to promote the significant role of the Thornton School in the world of performance, composition, scholarly work, community engagement, and the music business, and as a contributor to the City of Los Angeles and beyond. The Dean will engage with civic, business, educational, alumni and cultural leaders, be a presence in Los Angeles, and attend relevant events globally. The Dean will articulate and promote Thornton School of Music’s brand promise, value proposition, and institutional attributes for wider and deeper recognition and distinction.

Infuse new technology into all facets of the School’s work

The Dean will champion the integration of technology to advance artistic creation, connection with new audiences, and innovative delivery of instruction. The Thornton School of Music will evolve its curricula and its culture to develop artist-creators who will connect, catalyze and collide long-standing music studies with digital and future advancements. By developing students who can navigate multiple musical genres and related technologies, Thornton seeks to be a standard-bearer in redefining what it means to train music students for the 21st century.

Generate and align resources to support the strategic goals of the Thornton School

The Dean will steward the long-term financial viability of the Thornton School by effective and transparent planning, by aligning existing resources to support emerging priorities and ambitions, and by generating new resources through diverse sources. The Dean will examine the existing allocation of resources, programmatic portfolio, and opportunities for efficiencies to ensure optimal support of evolving strategic priorities. The Dean will make well-informed yet sometimes difficult decisions while remaining true to the Thornton School’s academic excellence, history, culture, and aspirations. The Dean will pursue new programmatic opportunities and partnerships that simultaneously bolster the financial health of the school and uphold its academic and artistic standards of excellence.

Energize fundraising

The Dean will lead an ambitious fundraising effort to fuel the school’s lofty aspirations while maintaining an unwavering commitment to the highest ethical standards. The Dean will partner with University leadership, advancement and communications staff, department leaders, faculty and Board of Councilors to ensure that the school has the financial resources necessary to support scholarships, faculty and staff development and new hires, new technologies, capital and infrastructure improvement, and endowments.

Address critical needs in facilities and infrastructure

The Thornton School’s need to be strengthened in order to adequately support the work of its faculty and students. The new dean will need to develop new resources to invest in infrastructure – physical, technological and staffing. These need to be upgraded to keep pace with the rapid expansion of Thornton’s programs, continue the future development of the school, and fulfill Thornton’s forward- looking vision. The Dean will ensure that the potential of the Thornton School is well-supported by its facilities, equipment, technology and staffing.


The Dean reports to the Provost of USC and serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Thornton School of Music. The Dean works closely with the Provost, other members of the Provost’s leadership team, the School’s staff and department heads to ensure that the strategic direction and policies of the School are aligned with academic and artistic mission and the greater mission of USC. The Dean provides executive oversight of all aspects of the school, including academic program development, enrollment management, faculty and staff development, external relations and partnerships, fundraising, operational effectiveness, financial planning, and capital improvements.

The Dean manages a budget of approximately $45 million and an endowment currently valued at $228 million. The current senior leadership team includes three divisional vice deans, associate or assistant deans for Academic Programs, Administration and Finance, Admissions and Student Affairs, Advancement, Faculty Affairs, JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), Operations, and a director of Communications. With 20 distinct departments and one research center, the school offers BM, BA, BS, MM, DMA, PhD degrees and a graduate performance certificate. There are 90 full-time faculty, 90 part time faculty, 62 full time staff, and a student population of approximately 1,000 (550 undergraduates and 450 graduates).


The ideal candidate will have the following range of experiences and qualifications:

  • Previous senior leadership and management responsibilities in the music industry, performance, academic institution, or leadership of a complex creative industries enterprise.
  • A track record of successful fundraising and or revenue generation. Experience in developing and managing fiscal plans, financial models, and operating budgets; measurable and successful revenue is required.
  • An understanding of and deep appreciation for the world inhabited by students, university faculty, staff, performers, composers, producers, sound designers, recording engineers, scorers, and artists of all musical stripes and those in the business of music who facilitate the creation, performances and distribution of music.
  • A record of achievement that is well-regarded in the music field; experience working in collaboration with diverse teams of individuals representing different disciplines, needs, and perspectives; a demonstrated ability to forge mutually respectful relationships
  • Experience and a track record of success in attracting, recruiting, developing, retaining and leading a diverse group of top talent who work in alignment with the overall mission of an institution or business, and an ability to shape an organization to attract top talent.
  • The ability to work successfully with community leaders, musicians, researchers, and educators to incite interest in and strengthen the institution.
  • A collaborative spirit, interdisciplinary sensibility, and understanding of the impact that group and peer feedback has on teamwork and job satisfaction.
  • Outstanding oral and written communication skills and the ability to manage by influence, including the means to address issues and manage crisis in non-confrontational, collegial, and non-polarizing ways.

Please send inquiries, applications or nominations to:

USC is an equal opportunity employer and educator, proudly pluralistic and firmly committed to providing equal opportunity for outstanding candidates of every race, creed, and background. guidelines/