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Some musicians go their whole lives without playing the Troubadour, the legendary West Hollywood hall of rock. But seniors in the USC Thornton Popular Music Program have done it already.
On March 6, the roughly two dozen musicians graduating this spring performed original music on the same stage where Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, Elton John, Carole King and hundreds of others have played.
The club was packed with friends, family and other well-wishers. The iconic marquee on Santa Monica Boulevard spelled out “Troubadour Presents USC Thornton Popular Music Senior Showcase.” And the musicians displayed not a hint of nerves.
I am more excited than nervous.
“I am more excited than nervous,” said guitarist and composer Jonny Sim before the afternoon sound check. “We’ve been rehearsing very steadily the last couple of weeks and we’re ready.”
Sim said he came to hear bands at the Troubadour when he was in high school in La Cañada Flintridge. “And now I’m playing at the place where I saw them.”
The first two female drummers in the program, Tiffany Tarampi and India Pascucci, were backstage marveling at where they found themselves.
“I definitely didn’t think I’d be able to play in a place with this much history,” said Tarampi.
“I agree 100 percent,” said Pascucci. “It’s notorious.”
“It’s a really special moment for everyone,” said bassist Nikki Brisson. “It’s a huge sendoff for us.” Brisson first visited the Troubadour when she was a freshman, attending the inaugural Troubadour Senior Showcase for the first Popular Music class.
She, like most of her classmates, appeared in more than one band in the showcase. Many of the student musicians are proficient on several instruments, and all move easily between musical genres and band styles. Fifteen individuals or bands took the stage, all playing original material they wrote and composed.
The sets included singer-songwriters such as Skyler Garn and Abby Litman, hard rocking groups such as GoodKids and genre stretching groups such as Small Shelter, which added a classical string trio of USC students from other majors: Eunghee Cho on cello, and Christine Min and Kij Baeg on violin.
Nathan Fertig, a graduate of the program last year, was there to cheer on his fellow musicians who were carrying on the Troubadour tradition. The singer-songwriter said the experience of playing there was unforgettable.
“You feel elevated to the place where your idols played,” he said. “It is so cool that USC brings us here.”