UM Frost School of Music and USC Thornton School of Music Launch Popular Music Collaborations Online

By UM News

UM Frost School of Music and USC Thornton School of Music Launch Popular Music Collaborations Online

By UM News
Students form bicoastal songwriting partnerships for a compelling experiment in expanding creative possibilities with the Internet.

Four pairs of students from the USC Thornton Popular Music program and the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music program at the University of Miami Frost School have launched a new creative collaboration using technology. This project was the brainchild of Chris Sampson, associate dean and director of USC Thornton’s Popular Music program, and Rey Sanchez, chair of the Music Media and Industry program at Frost. The songs resulting from this collaboration will be showcased in a December 1 bicoastal performance, based in Miami and partially transmitted from USC Thornton studios.

The student songwriters participating in this project are Eric Radloff, Mia Minichiello, Will Sturgeon, and Annie Dingwall from USC Thornton; and Taber Onthank, Matt Alderman, Brittany Mullen, and Ben Goldsmith from the University of Miami Frost School.

“Both schools are at the forefront of evolving music education,” Sampson says. “The idea of advancing Popular Music programs is very important to both. So it is natural our two schools would collaborate together.”

Over the course of the 2011 fall semester, four student songwriters were chosen from each institution and paired as collaborators, working together over Skype or other Internet connections to forge productive partnerships.

“The students had to overcome the fact that there were no preliminary introductions,” Sampson says. “They were thrust into a situation where they had to create a song, without creating the trust dynamic first. They couldn’t play along with each other because of the delay in Internet connection, a latency that doesn’t work for playing.”

Dingwall, a Thornton student mentored by Randy Newman, whose co-writers have included Jeffrey Steele (Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill), Chas Stanford (Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Chicago) and other luminaries, collaborated with Goldsmith in Miami. She said the personal nature of songwriting seemed the biggest hurdle to the project. “It can make it difficult to open up to someone else about your emotions, thoughts, and ideas,” she said. “Many people have difficulty doing this with someone sitting in the same room as them, let alone someone who is 3000 miles away! I was a little apprehensive before I met Ben, but we had a great time writing the song together.”

Four songs have been written and will be performed during a December 1 concert at the University of Miami. The first half of the performance will take place in Miami. For the second half, USC students will perform the songs from a studio on the USC campus, to be transmitted via the high-performance research network known as Internet2 and coordinated by Brian Shepard, professor of Pedagogical Technology at USC Thornton. In Miami, students will add harmonies. 

“The idea of musicians working together around the country, and around the world, has been my vision and goal for more than a decade,” says Shepard, who pioneered the use of Internet2 in 1999. “To see these young songwriters interacting like this is incredibly exciting, and I’m thrilled to be able to help facilitate this collaboration.”

Cameras will be set up in Miami so that the students performing in Los Angeles will see the audience response.

Sampson says the project emphasizes that the heart of songwriting is collaboration. “This is a demonstration that when collaboration is involved, musicians write something that they wouldn’t ordinarily write.”


About the USC Thornton School of Music
The USC Thornton School of Music brings together a stellar faculty chosen from a broad spectrum of the music profession and gifted students from around the globe. Founded in 1884 and today the oldest continually operating cultural institution in Los Angeles, the Thornton School consistently ranks among the nation’s top music schools and conservatories.
By blending the rigors of traditional conservatory-style education with the benefits of a leading research university, USC Thornton offers an impressive range of performance opportunities and a curriculum designed to prepare students for successful careers in the 21st century. The Thornton School presents more than 500 concerts each year and is the only music school with a weekly radio broadcast in a major media market featuring student performances.

Located in the heart of Los Angeles, USC Thornton offers students every advantage of studying, performing, and networking in the world’s most vibrant music industry hub. Every week, our students engage with leading professionals in all aspects of the music, recording, and entertainment industries, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Opera, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Grammy Foundation®, and The Recording Academy®. Our students also are a constant presence in local classrooms, reaching out to the next generation of musicians. 

About the University of Miami Frost School of Music
The Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music is one of two schools created in 1926 when the University of Miami was founded. With over 700 students and 100 faculty, it is one of the most comprehensive in all of higher education.

The mission of the Frost School of Music is to foster musical leadership by providing an innovative, relevant, and inspiring education; advance performance, creativity, and scholarship; and enrich the world community with meaningful outreach and brilliant cultural offerings.

The Frost School has pioneered new curricula and was the first in the nation to offer professionally accredited bachelor and master’s degrees in Music Business and Music Engineering Technology. Renowned for its Instrumental Performance and Studio Music and Jazz programs, it is the home of the Frost Chamber Orchestra, Frost Symphony Orchestra, and Frost Concert Jazz Band and is a leader in vocal training with the Frost Opera Theater, Frost Chorale, and other notable choirs.

Frost is the exclusive home of the Experiential Music Curriculum which fully integrates performance, music history, ear training, music history and composition through chamber music and skills ensembles; the Henry Mancini Institute which provides students with cross-genre performance opportunities in real-world professional settings; the Stamps Family Distinguished Visitors Series which brings free music masterclasses and lectures to the community; and the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program which develops the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions of American songwriting.