HELLO AMERICA!—I have been receiving tons of letters from students begging for advice concerning what music schools to attend. Well, since I was fortunate to attend not only the USC music school, under Dr. Charles Hirt, later at UCLA and finally at Dominican University of California at San Rafael, it is very easy for me to recommend the following institutions for the study of music on all levels. It was because of the support given my musical efforts at Dominican, I was to compose my first symphony “Flight of Columbia and Dances of Remembrance” which received a GRAMMY award.
Thornton School of Music
Running virtually neck-and-neck with Juilliard is USC, with its direct access to the region’s bustling film and music industries — making it a destination not only for local music students, but also for anyone seeking a path toward working in Hollywood.
“It’s probably one of the best in the country,” says legendary Motown songwriter and record producer Lamont Dozier, who taught classes in contemporary music at the school for over six years. “It has so many applicants and the people that come there are really talented. We turn away hundreds of people every year because they’re very strict about who they [accept], and their teaching is very rigid, [so] the people who want to be there have to be there talent-wise and have to have love and dedication.”
Director and chair of the screen scoring department Daniel Carlin brought a master’s degree to the program that gives students a pathway into academia as well as film and media scoring. Students in the screen scoring program collaborate with film students and video game designers to create music for over 100 yearly film, television and game projects, either generating music digitally or with acoustic scoring at the university’s John Williams Scoring Stage with student musicians. Students also have the opportunity to work on 10 projects with Los Angeles musicians and technicians on scoring stages in Hollywood, and a recording session of 64 players at the Warner Bros. Clint Eastwood Scoring Stage.
NOTABLE ALUM James Horner
Berklee College of Music
Berklee offers a cutting-edge curriculum that emphasizes production, engineering and recording technology, giving students the skill sets they need to get into the music business quickly and evolve along with changing techniques and applications.
Songwriter and musician Taura Stinson earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her work on “Mudbound,” and she’s self-taught — but she’s looking to enhance her music education and has high praise for institutions like Berklee. “At Berklee you learn everything from composition to marketing, so you come here and your discipline is in order. I feel like it gives you a safety net where if you go to one of these prestigious schools you might not be able to live like Sean Combs but you will be able to make a steady living at what you’re gifted in, and that’s beating half the game.”
Composer Marcelo Zarvos (Ray Donovan) notes that Berklee’s focus on preparing students to work with technology gives it a leg up. “That’s a side that I think academia can sometimes leave behind,” he says.
UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
UCLA Herb Alpert’s renowned ethnomusicology department and its determinedly multicultural approach to music education and performance make it as much a world music epicenter as a school, with concerts and lectures from A-list performers and artists from the Los Angeles area, while the school’s musical theater and opera productions draw in audiences from all over Southern California.
Composer Peter Golub (Con Man, The Great Debaters) teaches a seminar, Music for Visual Media, at the school. “I have [students] writing cues and we discuss them and revise them,” he says. “I bring in guests and we do some more analytical work where we look at film music of the masters and the leading contemporary film composers and we analyze what makes this work, what makes it effective.”
The school has added new B.A. programs in global jazz studies and music education and will soon add a new minor in Iranian music, and students can participate in or enjoy 45 ensembles in over 350 performances per year.