The USC Thornton School of Music’s Board of Councilors has selected 29 students for its 2012 Mentorship Program.
Each year since its inception in 2005, members of the board – which is comprised of many of today’s premier musicians and arts leaders – mentor individual USC Thornton students to help usher them into the professional world.
“I find it an amazing testament to the dedication of the board members, all of whom are some of the busiest musicians in the world, that they take the time to work individually with a student for an entire year,” said Robert A. Cutietta, dean of USC Thornton. “Sometimes I think they get as much out of it as our students.”
Students selected for the program reflect the diversity of both the music profession and USC’s offerings, which seek to define music study in the broadest sense – from opera to songwriting.
This year was no different. Mentees for the 2012 school year have majors in film scoring, classical piano, songwriting, oboe performance, choral conducting and opera, to name a few. Students were chosen based on recommendations from the music faculty.
Singer-songwriter and board member Randy Newman called the mentorship “a remarkably rewarding experience for me and, I hope, for the mentees. Each one of them has been talented, personable and extremely conscientious about music.”
The mentorship program doesn’t follow a rigid structure. Each board member works with his or her mentee in the way that best matches the personalities and needs of both.
Some board members invite students to participate in their recording sessions or rehearsals. For others, the mentorship might consist of a series of lunches to introduce students to people who can help their careers.
“This relationship has afforded me and my fellow councilors a unique perspective into the real life of real students,” said producer and board member Glenn Ballard. “I’ve found it invaluable to hear and feel what drives them – their concerns, dreams and aspirations.”
Film composer Tom Newman added: “The mentoring program, for me, is a sort of reverse engineering. I remember all too well the gap that separates the student from the professional and the nervous feeling I carried with me that I could never stand on my own two feet.”
The benefits also are far-reaching for the mentees, according to past and present students in the program.
“Being a musician is a complicated, messy business. It often takes somebody who is immersed in the ‘real world’ to give you straight-ahead voice,” said USC Thornton alumnus Grant Gershon ’85, current music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and resident conductor at the L.A. Opera.
“The program is absolutely amazing,” said USC Thornton student Reggie Grisham. “I was awarded a wonderful chance to see movie studio orchestras in Los Angeles at work. This was an experience that no amount of money can buy.”
Fellow student Ana Guigui said the mentorship has “proven pivotal in bridging my academic experience with the professional world of opera.”
This year’s student mentees are: Max Aruj, Jared Banta, Caleb Barnes, Alex Beller, Torin Borrowdale, Zach Dellinger, Cristina Foster, Ryan Harper, Barry Harris, Benjamin Hopkins, Lara Johnston, Jeremy Lamb, Matt LaRocca, Brandon Lucas, Gina Luciani, J.G. Miller, Audrey Moise, Amber Navran, Yohan Partan, John Piscitello, Troy Quinn, Eric Radloff, Alexander Seaver, Erica Shieh, Will Sturgeon, Rachel Surden, Giuseppe Vasapolli, Christopher Vezzuto and Han Bin Yoon.
The mentorship program is part of the broader support system that USC Thornton offers its students. On April 4, the USC Thornton Alumni Association joined the Board of Councilors to host a panel, “Launching Your Career: An event providing direct access to the music profession’s most successful.” Moderated by KUSC’s Gail Eichenthal and featuring leaders in all aspects of the music world, the evening offered students and recent alumni an introduction to important figures in their field.
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