For more than a century, the USC Thornton School of Music has produced musicians who go on to thriving careers in orchestras around the world. Closer to home, a long list of USC Thornton faculty and alumni have been members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
This summer, a 27-year-old alumnus joined the celebrated ensemble. Andrew Lowy ’13 MM recently was awarded the position of second E-flat clarinet with the orchestra. Lowy, who studied under USC Thornton faculty member Yehuda Gilad, currently is the principal clarinetist with the North Carolina Symphony – a position he was awarded while a graduate student at USC Thornton.
“Andrew was well prepared mentally when he began studying with me,” said Gilad. “He was one of the most meticulous students in my studio, and I don’t think this is the end of his growth. A musician’s growth never stops.”
An unconventional background
Unlike many musicians who pursue postgraduate studies, Lowy did not receive his undergraduate education in music. Instead, he obtained a degree in linguistics at Harvard University – a background that Lowy still draws from while playing music.
“I’ve found my studies in linguistics to be quite useful to my musical pursuits,” he said. “It can be useful to approach music from the perspective of language, both on the level of stresses in individual words and also rhetorically, thinking about how musical phrases relate to each other like sentences in a well-written paragraph. Just as a great speech involves a thorough understanding of the structure of the text, so too does a great performance of a piece of music depend on understanding the work’s structure.”
Gilad believes that Lowy’s knowledge of a different academic subject proved helpful while he attended USC Thornton. “The first four years of college, in my opinion, are meant for finding yourself,” Gilad said. “I encourage my undergraduate students to double major. At USC, we have the opportunity to be a school of music within a university. Engineering, public relations, business, philosophy – that’s education for total musicianship.”
In the studio of a master
Once Lowy decided to pursue a career in music, it was Gilad’s reputation that drew him to attending USC Thornton. “The main reason I came to Thornton was because of Yehuda,” Lowy said. “His studio is renowned for producing clarinetists who are successful in orchestral auditions and winning jobs. It was really important for me to study with him.”
Lowy credits the success rate of these students in the orchestral world to the environment Gilad creates in the classroom. “The talent level is very high in the studio, so you’re always being pushed,” he said. “But, it’s also an incredibly supportive environment.”
“It is a goal for all my students to find their own voice whether they are playing concertos, sonatas or orchestral excerpts,” said Gilad. He said that students often arrive with their true talent hidden, and “I go digging and we uncover this diamond, this voice.”
Although the perks of performing with a world-class orchestra are undoubtedly something to look forward to, Lowy admits he is most excited to collaborate with his fellow LA Phil members, including two USC Thornton clarinet faculty members, Michele Zukovsky and David Howard.
“I can’t wait to be inspired by my new colleagues,” he said. “I’ll be playing alongside clarinet legends in the orchestral world, so it will be great to learn from all the amazing playing happening around me.”