Commercial Music students perform in the theatre

Commercial Music

The mission of the Commercial Music program at USC Upstate is to advance the careers and artistic development of our music majors, provide welcoming performance opportunities and engaging gen-ed classes for non-majors, and serve the musical needs of the larger Upstate community with musical events and educational programming. Our focus on contemporary popular music and jazz within a liberal-arts context is what makes the Commercial Music program at USC Upstate unique among state universities, and this philosophy provides our students with the well-rounded skills they need for a lifetime of musical employment and enjoyment.

Commercial Music students enjoy an active-learning environment featuring industry-standard live-sound and digital recording technology. With four different musical ensembles, all students have ample opportunity to gain valuable onstage performance experience. Whether your dream is to be a professional musician and performer, write music for film and television, record and produce in the studio, work behind the scenes managing and promoting artists, write about music as a journalist or critic, or simply to deepen your understanding of music and its history, USC Upstate’s Commercial Music program is the place for you. For more information, contact Dr. Nolan Stolz or Dr. Griffin Woodworth.

  • Goals Student Learning Outcomes
    1. The student will demonstrate high levels of musicianship so that they will be adequately prepared for work as a performer, private, instructor, band leader/music director, and/or songwriter. 

    1.1 The student will demonstrate a high level of performance on at least one instrument/voice (e.g., repertoire related to Commercial Music, scales, etudes, etc.).

    1.2 The student will demonstrate an acceptable level of sight reading ability.

    1.3 The student will demonstrate an acceptable level of aural skills.

    1.4 The student will demonstrate a knowledge of harmony, form and other aspects related to music theory.

     2. The student will be able to utilize technology to enhance their level of musicianship and employability.

    2.1 Using standard notation software, the student will be able to prepare lead-sheets, scores and parts of existing and/or original at a level appropriate for other musicians to use in performance.

    2.2 The student will be able to use music technology in order to promote their work for future employment.

    2.3  The student will be able to use music technology, such as websites and computer software, to enhance their musicianship (i.e., performance and aural skills).

    3. The student will learn appropriate research methods, writing skills, and oral communication skills in order to effectively communicate their findings to musicians and/or non-musicians.

    3.1 The student will write effectively about music in a scholarly manner.

    3.2 The student will create and deliver an oral presentation on a musical topic.

    4. The student will learn the basics of the music business to adequately prepare them for employment in the music industry.

    4.1 The student will exhibit a working knowledge of performance rights organizations, copyright law, mechanical licensing and other aspects of music business.

    4.2 The student will be able to compile and prepare audition/interview materials related to their career ambitions.

  • The Commercial Music program at USC Upstate provides students with the skills to adapt and thrive in today’s rapidly changing music industry. We offer a flexible curriculum that empowers students to tailor their education to the type of music career they want, including performing, songwriting, composing and arranging, recording and producing, music education, worship music, music publishing, artist management, event promotion, musical theatre, and music journalism. Our classes provide students with a solid background in practical music theory and musicianship, current pop, rock, and jazz performance repertoire, the history of popular music and Western Classical music, music production technology, and music business and entrepreneurship. Our hands-on learning strategy gives students ample performance experience in a variety of ensembles from choir to rock band, private lessons with working professionals in the field of contemporary music, and production courses that use the latest industry-standard digital audio workstation software.

    Minors and cognates are also available in Commercial Music and Jazz Studies. For more information contact Dr. Nolan Stolz.

  • The commercial music major at USC Upstate is a competitive, performance-based program that prepares students for successful careers in the modern music industry. We are currently accepting students who wish to major in any instruments, voice type, or as a composer or singer/songwriter.

    Each incoming student must schedule a live audition on campus. Students should prepare two contrasting songs that show proficiency on their primary instrument or voice. For instrumentalists, please prepare one additional blues or jazz piece that allows you to demonstrate improvisation ability. Auditions also require you to play/sing a major scale (two-octave for instrumentalists, one-octave for singers), and to sight-read a short passage of music.

    Students must use accompaniment for their prepared audition pieces, and you may do this in one of three ways. You may bring your own accompanist; or, if you wish to use our staff accompanist you must email a copy of the sheet music in advance to Dr. Nolan Stolz. If you wish to use a pre-recorded backing track, you may bring it as an audio file on your mobile device or on CD. Singers may not audition a cappella.

    Auditions for the fall semester are held in spring semester, and auditions for the spring semester are held in the fall semester. Students must also submit a USC Upstate application. Please contact Dr. Nolan Stolz to set up your audition.

  • Commercial Music Combo

    The Commercial Music Combo performs classic and contemporary rock and popular music at concerts both on and off campus. Each semester, the combos focus on a different style of music; recent combos have included Motown, Stevie Wonder, 70's classic rock, 90's alternative rock, and heavy metal. Combos give concerts at the Humanities and Performing Arts Center and at school functions and professional venues in the community. For more information contact Dr. Nolan Stolz.

    Gospel Choir

    The USC Upstate Gospel Choir performs traditional and contemporary repertory both on and off campus. For more information, please contact Dr. Nolan Stolz.

    Guitar Ensemble

    The USC Upstate Guitar Ensemble includes four to six guitarists accompanied by a rhythm section, and performs a wide range of music - from classical to jazz and pop standards - arranged specifically for guitar. For more information contact Adam Knight.

    Jazz Band

    The USC Upstate Jazz Band, which is typically split into two or more jazz combos, performs classic and contemporary jazz at concerts on and o campus. The combos are made up of music majors and minors, and non-majors taking the course for elective or cognate credit. Solo improvisation is not required, but welcome. For more information contact Dr. Nolan Stolz.

    Upstate Vocal Ensemble

    The Upstate Vocal Ensemble performs traditional and contemporary music for mixed choir, as well as pop, jazz, musical theatre and rock selections. This touring ensemble performs regularly throughout the school year. For more information contact Lance Bastian.

  • Courses Available

    • MUSC U100. Recital Attendance (1) 
    • MUSC U101. Fundamentals of Music Theory (2)

    • MUSC U102. Fundamentals of Aural Skills (2)

    • MUSC U110. Introduction to Music (3)
    • MUSC U111. Applied Lessons (bass, composition, guitar, percussion, piano, saxophone, strings, trombone, trumpet, voice) (1)
    • MUSC U115. Commercial Music Theory and Aural Skills I (3)
    • MUSC U116. Commercial Music Theory and Aural Skills II (3)
    • MUSC U126/U326. Vocal Jazz Ensemble (1)
    • MUSC U127/U327. Jazz Band (1)
    • MUSC U128/U328. Gospel Music Workshop (1)
    • MUSC U129/U329. Upstate Vocal Ensemble (1)
    • MUSC U131/U331. Guitar Ensemble (1)
    • MUSC U132/U332. Chamber Choir (1)
    • MUSC U133. Pep Band
    • MUSC U134. Commercial Music Combo
    • MUSC U140. History of Rock Music (3)
    • MUSC U145. Group Guitar
    • MUSC U155, U156, U255, U256. Group Piano (2)
    • MUSC U162. Intro to Music Technology (2)
    • MUSC U165 - Singing Master Class 92)
    • MUSC U166 - Class Voice (2)
    • MUSC U215. Commercial Music Theory and Aural Skills III (3)
    • MUSC U216. Commercial Music Theory and Aural Skills IV (3)
    • MUSC U301. Music History I (3)
    • MUSC U302. Music History II (3)
    • MUSC U310. Jazz History (3)
    • MUSC U311. Applied Lessons (bass, composition, guitar, improvisation, percussion, piano, saxophone, strings, trombone, trumpet, voice) (1)
    • MUSC U325. Jazz Theory (3)
    • MUSC U334. Commercial Music Combo (1)
    • MUSC U335. Singing Master Class (3)
    • MUSC U339. Musical Theater Voice (3)
    • MUSC U345. Jazz Improvisation I (3)
    • MUSC U346. Jazz Improvisation II (3)
    • MUSC U361. Music Business (3)
    • MUSC U362. Music Technology (3)
    • MUSC U364. Music Entrepreneurship (3)
    • MUSC U365. Songwriting (3)
    • MUSC U366. Composition (3)
    • MUSC U367. Arranging for Ensembles (3)
    • MUSC U398. Selected Topics In Music (3). Recent selected topics include The Birth of Heavy Metal Music, Analysis of Popular Music, Sound Design, and Cabaret Performance

      MUSC U399. Independent Studies in Music (1-3)

    • MUSC U490. Senior Seminar in Commercial Music (3)
    • MUSC U499. Internship in Commercial Music (1-3)