From Where We Are

Thornton seniors ‘play on’ one last time

Seniors at USC Thornton School of Music perform for the last time at the long-established end-of-year showcase.

Photo of USC Thornton Senior Showcase at El Rey Theatre.

Music is food for the soul, and that could not have been better represented than by the sold out Thornton End-of-year Showcase at the El Rey Theatre Sunday night. Sara Kahn has the story.

Jamilla Johnson belts it out at the end-of-year showcase last night. She and her fellow graduating seniors at Thornton’s Popular Music program held their final performance as students. They showcased their hard work and growth of the past four years..

This concert gives students the opportunity to take charge of their artistry. Senior Jamilla Johnson opened the show and performed two of her own songs that she worked on with another student in the program.

Jamilla Johnson: Two that I’m releasing very soon. The first was Spotlight written, and both were written and co-produced by my best friend, and he’s my bassist as well, Austin Brown.

Collaboration is key to these showcases. Students work together as artists to create a show that highlights their unique skills. Austin Brown also performed.. He’s also a senior in the Popular Music program. He was glad to see the collaborative work he did come to fruition.

Austin Brown: Last year, we wrote some of those songs and we kind of just wrote it for fun, not for class or for anything, but just because we were friends and we wanted to work together. And then over time, those songs transformed into something that we could perform. And I’m really happy that Jamillah chose to pick those songs to do at the Senior Showcase.

Collaboration is one of many moving pieces that went into the Senior Showcase. USC Thornton Professor Chris Sampson founded the program. He says this senior wrap-up performance gives the students a taste of the music industry in a professional environment.

Chris Sampson: Well, my hope is that the showcase can serve as a little bit of a as a as a little bit of introduction to the stages that they’re going to experience later. So one of the things that we want to make sure of is, is that they get used to the professional environments that they’re going to be in.

Sampson lists just some of the venues his students have gone on to play.

Chris Sampson: Some of the world’s significant stages Madison Square Garden, Staples Center, Hollywood Bowl, just to name a few. And you want to be prepared for that.

The showcase gives students a taste of their future, and while doing that... it’s also an emotionally-charged culmination of their time as students in the Pop Music program.

Austin Brown: It was a special moment for our class as a whole.

Austin Brown looks forward as he looks back.

Austin Brown: It’s the last time we performed together. We’re all performance majors. We used to perform every quarter, every year together. And now this is the last time that we all perform as one unit.

Maria McMillan is a senior in the program with an emphasis on keyboards and she sings. She’s filled with pride at the show that was put on.

Maria McMillan: I feel very like satisfied and really proud of the work that me and my classmates and the the show that we put on last night.

Emotions are always high at this end-of-year showcase.

Ellie Williams also sang last night. For her, this performance represents a full-circle moment.

Ellie Williams: I remember as a senior in high school, I came to one of the senior showcases before I even knew I got in. I just kind of wanted to go to see it. And I remember just being blown away by the performers and all of the music that was played. So being able to, kind of go through that process now, I think it just kind of signifies a greater like you did it, you made it through. You kind of like did the whole thing.

In music, there’s often a pause before things really take off. That should be the case for these graduating Thornton seniors.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Sara Kahn