USC Thornton School of Music Dean Search

From the Office of the Provost

Message to USC Thornton School of Music Faculty, Staff and Students

From: Charles F. Zukoski, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dean Rob Cutietta has shared with me his decision to step down as dean of the USC Thornton School of Music at the end of the academic year, effective June 30, 2022. I am grateful that he will remain this year to continue to lead Thornton, as he has for the last 19 years. He will also step down as the inaugural dean of the USC Kaufman School of Dance.

Dean Cutietta is a bold visionary, transformative leader and creative talent. During his tenure, he has led an inventive reimagining of music education at USC.

His numerous accomplishments include the development of a cutting-edge music curriculum. Under his leadership, new majors were created in Arts Leadership, Music Production, Music Industry, Community Music, and Music Teaching & Learning, and he restructured the school into three divisions – Classical Performance and Composition, Contemporary Music, and Research and Scholarly Studies. In addition, the the classical music curriculum was revamped to erase silos between genres, equipping virtuoso instrumentalists to function as entrepreneurs and digital-savvy technicians while enhancing Thornton’s reputation as being among the best music schools in the world.

Dean Cutietta created new physical spaces for the school, including The Music Complex, Songwriter’s Theater, Schoenfeld Hall and Gateway Practice Facility. He also has put a focus on diversity and inclusion, notably by hiring more faculty who are women and people of color.

He grew the USC Thornton endowment, allowing for the addition of five new endowed faculty chairs and an endowed professorship. He also raised tens of millions of dollars for student scholarships and a fund that sends students to national and international competitions.

Nationally, Cutietta has cemented a reputation for making bold changes ahead of his peers at other music schools. The launch of the Popular Music Program 11 years ago, to incorporate pop genres into the curricula to challenge and transform outdated traditions, was an unprecedented move that established the gold standard for such programs.

In addition, Dean Cutietta pioneered study-abroad opportunities for undergraduates, borne from his belief that students should experience music cultures in other locations. Four years ago, Thornton became one of the first American music schools to offer systematic undergraduate semester-long, study-abroad opportunities.

To further advance this educational resource, Dean Cutietta formed a series of international partnerships to expand opportunities for students. Thornton is a founding member of the Pacific Alliance of Schools of Music (PAMS), an international network that creates closer ties between institutions in the Pacific Rim, and the only American member of the ConNext Network, a consortium of forward-thinking music schools and conservatories that spans the globe, including the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, the Royal Conservatoire The Hague in the Netherlands, and the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal.

While we will continue to celebrate Dean Cutietta’s many accomplishments in the months ahead, we will begin the process of assembling the search committee that will identify and recruit the next dean of USC Thornton. Dean Cutietta will return to the Thornton faculty after a sabbatical.

I seek your nominations of Thornton faculty and staff who should serve on this committee.

The committee will be chaired by Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. I thank her in advance for her service and look forward to your committee recommendations. Please send them to by Thursday, August 26, 2021.

President Folt joins me in expressing gratitude to Dean Cutietta. We wish him continued success this year.

cc: Elizabeth Daley

About the USC Thornton School of Music

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 and music industry firms and perform on stages and in studios around the world.

Blending the rigors of a traditional conservatory-style education with the benefits of studying at a leading research university, the Thornton School offers students a thorough music education in a real-world context. Located at the center of Los Angeles, the school is the collegiate partner of choice for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy, to name a few.

In addition to their work with these ensembles, Thornton students are a constant presence in local classrooms, reaching out to the next generation of musicians through music education and appreciation courses. With its faculty, students, events and work, the USC Thornton School of Music is one of the most important cultural resources in Los Angeles.

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