USC Thornton School of Music records
Scope and Content
The records of the USC Thornton School of Music consist of correspondence and memorandums, programs, clippings, and printed ephemera that document much of the School's activities from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 21st century. Included are the papers (generally incomplete) of some of the School's notable personnel, including Max Swarthout, Raymond Kendall, Ellis Kohs, Pauline Alderman, Walter F. Skeele, and Ralph E. Rush; records of academic activities; records of student and alumni organizations, including Phi Phi and the Friends of Music; scrapbooks of press clippings and press releases documenting the activities of the School's faculty and students for most of its history; and correspondence and related materials documenting non-USC activities in which the School participated, such as the Eisteddfod and the Metropolitan Opera National Council western regional auditions.
The collection also includes 106 gigabytes of concert audio recordings as well as PDF files and still images of concert programs ranging from 1949 until 2017. Most of these sound files were part of a donation made on behalf of the USC Thornton School of Music by retired School sound engineer Ted Ancona in 2017. Claude Zachary, University Archivist, supplemented the files by copying files from CDs from the Thornton School's archival files.
- 1897 - 2017
- Modified: 2017-2019, 2021
- Idyllwild Arts Foundation (Idyllwild, Calif.) (Corporate Entity)
- Rush, Ralph E. (Person)
- Kendall, Raymond (Person)
- USC Thornton School of Music (Corporate Entity)
- University of Southern California. School of Music (Corporate Entity)
- Vazzana, Anthony (Person)
- Arnold Schoenberg Institute (Corporate Entity)
- Skeele, Walter F. (Person)
- Macloskey, Pearl Alice (Person)
- Swarthout, Max van Lewen (Person)
- Kohs, Ellis B. (Person)
- Alderman, Pauline (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.
The files for the concert recordings and programs are saved in the USC Digital Repository and are not publicly accessible online. Researchers wishing to request access should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Music has had a strong presence at USC since the opening of the University in 1880, with music courses included in the first curriculum of the College of Liberal Arts. The USC Thornton School of Music was founded as the Conservatory of Music in 1884, at which students could only study either voice or piano, and a year later in 1885 it became the College of Music.
The early years were a time of many changes in the physical housing of the College. As the student body continually grew, the College of Music was constantly looking for more space. Thus, it inhabited several buildings during this time, both on and off the University Park Campus, including Widney Hall, the Blanchard Building downtown, the Mason Opera House, the Old Marble Homestead, Clark House, the Old Cohn Mansion, and Bovard Concert Hall.
As a result of the Great Depression and the financial difficulties that came with it, the College was downsized and administratively relocated in the College of Liberal Arts as the School of Music in 1933, headed by a Director instead of a Dean. Despite the obstacles caused by the Depression, several programs continued to grow and become more established. Horatio Cogswell, head of the Voice Department, created several award winning Glee Clubs. Harold William Roberts headed the Trojan Marching Band from 1927-1937, during which time it grew in numbers, theatrical flair, and prestige. Similarly for the university's Golden Jubilee in 1930, the music school helped to sponsor two concerts, one of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah, which included a chorus of 500 and featured famous leads such as Lawrence Tibbett, and The Apolliad, which featured original works by students from the Literature, Visual Arts, Music, and Drama departments. As registration and funds picked up in 1937, Dean A. S. Raubenheimer of the College of Liberal Arts reorganized the entire School to reflect a greater emphasis on core education and added the General Education requirements that are still used today. Furthermore, the first Doctoral degree candidates in Music were admitted in 1942.
Yet another upheaval occurred, however, when the School of Music became the College of Music in the Institute of the Arts under Dean Max Krone and Director Max Swarthout in 1946. With this change came the creation of a Preparatory School associated with the College of Music where children K-12 could take piano lessons from the faculty. It was withdrawn from the Institute of the Arts in 1951 and re-established as an independent School, and remained a School even though it was part of the School of Performing Arts in the 1970s under the deanship of Grant Beglarian.
In 1999, the school gained a major benefactor in Flora L. Thornton. Her naming gift of $25 million was the largest contribution to an American school of music up to that time.
Along with Mrs. Thornton, USC Thornton School of Music has had several other important donors throughout its history. A particularly notable example is Captain G. Allan Hancock, whose love of music and the biological sciences, combined with his friendships with John S. Garth, a USC music student, and USC President Rufus von KleinSmid, inspired Hancock to establish the Allan Hancock Foundation, fund the construction of the USC Hancock Foundation Building, and sponsor multiple concerts by his Hancock Trio in the 1940s. Many alumni and former professors have endowed scholarships, chairs, and professorships throughout the years including: the Carolyn Alchin Chair scholarship for students of composition in 1930, the Carrie Jacobs Bond scholarship in 1947, the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin in 1974, the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello in 1974, the Stephen Crocker Professorship in Music in 1987, the Bowen H. "Buzz" and Barbara M. McCoy Chair in Jazz in 2004, the H. Robert Reynolds Professorship in Wind Conducting in 2008, the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Chair in String Instruction in 2008, and the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music in 2013.
Currently, the USC Thornton School of Music is the oldest continually operating cultural institution in Los Angeles with 16 undergraduate and 25 graduate programs. It also presents over 500 concerts each year and has a weekly radio broadcast on KUSC, Thornton Center Stage.
Heads of the Music School
Mrs. C. S. Nellis, 1884 to 1886 (principal); Louisa M. Wright and Leila Breed, 1886 to 1887; Mrs. L. H. Stagg, 1887 to 1890 (principal), 1893 to 1895 (dean); F. A. Bacon, 1895 to 1898; Walter F. Skeele, 1898 to 1934; Max Swarthout, 1934 to 1948 (director); Raymond Kendall, 1948 to 1951 (director), 1951 to 1967 (dean); Grant Beglarian, 1969 to 1982 (Dean of Performing Arts); Howard Rarig (director, Music), 1971 to November 1979; William Thomson, July 1980 to 1986; Larry Livingston, 1986 to 2001; Robert Cutietta, 2002 to present
96.05 Linear Feet (103 boxes)
106 Gigabytes (1,517 computer files)
Language of Materials
The University of Southern California's music school was officially established in 1884, and conferred its first degrees in 1885. The records document many of the activities of the School from the late 19th to the early 21st centuries. Included are the papers (generally incomplete) of some of the School's notable personnel, including Max Swarthout, Raymond Kendall, Ellis Kohs, Pauline Alderman, and Walter F. Skeele; records of academic activities; records of student and alumni organizations, including Phi Phi and the Friends of Music; and scrapbooks of press clippings and press releases.
The collection also includes 106 gigabytes of concert audio recordings as well as PDF files and still images of concert programs ranging from 1949 until 2017.
The records are organized into the following series: 1. Academics; 2. Administration; 3. Alumni; 4. Arnold Schoenberg Institute; 5. Composition Forum records; 6. Ellis Kohs papers; 7. Friends of Music; 8. Fundraising; 9. Lillian Backstrand Wilson papers; 10. Metropolitan Opera National Council; 11. Pauline Alderman papers; 12. Performance; 13. Phi Phi; 14. Press and publicity; 15. Raymond Kendall papers; 16. Students and faculty; 17. Miscellaneous.
Most of these sound files were part of a donation made on behalf of the USC Thornton School of Music by retired School sound engineer Ted Ancona in 2017. Special Collections does not have the original recordings from 1949-1999. Description of the digital files in ArchivesSpace began in 2021.
- Alderman, Pauline -- Archives
- Arnold Schoenberg Institute -- Archives
- Digital images
- Fund raising -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
- ISOMATA (Idyllwild, Calif.) -- Archives
- Idyllwild Arts Foundation (Idyllwild, Calif.) -- Archives
- Kendall, Raymond -- Archives
- Kohs, Ellis B. -- Archives
- Legal documents
- Macloskey, Pearl Alice -- Archives
- Metropolitan Opera (New York, N.Y.). National Council -- Archives
- Moving images
- Mu Phi Epsilon. Mu Nu Chapter -- Archives
- Music -- Competitions -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
- Music -- Instruction and study -- California -- Los Angeles -- Archival resources
- Music -- Performance -- Archival resources
- Programs (documents)
- Rush, Ralph E. -- Archives
- Skeele, Walter F. -- Archives
- Sound recordings
- Swarthout, Max van Lewen -- Archives
- USC Thornton School of Music -- Archives
- Universities and colleges -- California -- Los Angeles -- Administration -- Archival resources
- Universities and colleges -- Faculty -- Archival resources
- University of Southern California -- Alumni and alumnae
- University of Southern California -- Faculty
- University of Southern California -- Students
- University of Southern California. School of Music -- Archives
- Ussher, Bruno David -- Archives
- Vazzana, Anthony -- Archives
- Wilson, Lillian Backstrand -- Archives
- Finding aid for the USC Thornton School of Music records
- Sue Luftschein
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2021 June: Finding aid updated by Lindsay Anderson and Bo Doub: described digital audio, PDF, and still image files added to the collection.
Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States