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'The Hunger Games' soundtrack to showcase USC pop music students

USC students rehearse as part of their training for baccalaureate degrees in popular music
“Thanks for coming out to the Thornton School of Music pop music department festival,” a USC music student said Sunday afternoon during the inaugural on-campus event showcasing students who are working toward undergraduate degrees in pop music performance.

The name didn’t roll off the tongue quite like “Woodstock” or “Lollapalooza.” It did, however, give an audience of several dozen onlookers a glimpse of things to come in performances by nine bands and eight singer-songwriters working two stages for most of the afternoon in USC’s EF Hutton Park.

Associate Dean Chris Sampson, who heads the program that launched three years ago giving USC the nation’s first pop music performance bachelor's degree at a major university, said his students benefited Sunday by piggybacking on equipment that had been brought in for an indie rock concert the previous night.

The six-hour festival Sunday tapped the know-how of students in different specialties: the performers themselves, one group that selected the featured performers from among some three dozen that tried out for spots, another that worked to promote the show on campus, and others who helped with the logistics of running the equipment, lights and other production facets.

The bands that played the main stage consisted predominantly of musicians from Sampson’s program, and several are gigging on and off campus, he said. The fledgling program is beginning to log some success stories beyond the campus borders as well.

Sampson noted that two students will be heard on the forthcoming multi-artist soundtrack to “The Hunger Games,” alongside tracks from superstar acts such as Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Miranda Lambert and highly regarded bands including the Arcade Fire, the Decemberists and the Civil Wars.

Singer-songwriter Jayme Dee has a song of her own, “Rules,” on the album, and junior Rozzi Crane is featured singing with Maroon 5 on the track “Come Away.”

Dee,  Sampson said, “was only in the program for one semester before being signed to Universal Republic ... While Jayme is definitely connected to the program and was a student in my songwriting class, I can't say that she was in the program long enough to be immersed in it.  She's a wonderful talent, however.”

Another group, Bear Attack, consisting of juniors in the program, has a song being featured in the ABC-TV series "Pretty Little Liars" slated to air in mid-March.

While universities have long conferred degrees on students specializing in classical music and jazz performance, students interested in focusing on pop music haven’t had an analogous option in the nation’s top institutions.

The program gives students formal instruction in various components associated with performance, but also provides training for those in nonperformance disciplines including promotion, publicity, entertainment law and marketing.

Sampson said he hopes to develop Sunday's initial music festival into an annual event.

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At this school, kids get in trouble if they don't turn up the music

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-- Randy Lewis

Photo: USC music teacher Richard Smith, left, and Associate Dean Chris Sampson work with three students in the university's new popular music degree program. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

 
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