The mission of USC Upstate’s Commercial Music program is to prepare majors for successful careers in music, provide an inclusive environment for all students to create and learn about music, and enhance the quality of life in the Upstate region through public concerts, talent management, and professional / community partnerships.
Commercial Music is an innovative, career-relevant program that focuses on contemporary popular music and jazz within a liberal arts context. Our curriculum prepares students for careers in performance, songwriting, composing / arranging, recording / producing, music instruction, worship music, music publishing, artist management, event promotion, musical theatre, or music journalism.
Our faculty members have years of professional experience in the fields of instrumental and vocal performance, composition, and music technology. Our classes help students develop core competencies in performance, musicianship and music theory, music history, music production and recording, and music business and entrepreneurship. Our experiential learning philosophy provides students with high-impact opportunities in live musical performance and industry-standard digital music production technology. Our performing ensembles are a visible presence in the Upstate community, and our students regularly perform at venues and complete professional internships throughout the region.
B.A. in Commercial Music
The B.A. in Commercial Music at USC Upstate provides students with the skills to adapt and thrive in today's rapidly changing music industry
- By preparing students for careers in performance, songwriting, composing / arranging, recording / producing, music instruction, worship music, music publishing, artist management, event promotion, musical theatre, or music journalism
- By developing core skills in performance, musicianship / theory, music history, digital production technology, and music business
- By providing a general B.A. that equips students for the larger workforce with a secondary area of emphasis outside of music
- By providing performing experience with our five musical ensembles and private lessons from working professionals
- By offering hands-on music technology classes with industry standard DAW software in our new digital media lab
Minors and cognates are also available in Commercial Music and Jazz Studies. For more information contact Dr. Nolan Stolz.
During the first two years of study, Commercial Music majors at Upstate focus on performance, basic musicianship skills (theory, ear training, keyboard) and rock history. Years three and four include specialized courses such as Composition, Music Business, Music Technology, Songwriting and many others. Students take one-on-one lessons on their primary instrument and perform in ensembles throughout their time at Upstate.
The program culminates with a performance/research project on a topic chosen by the student. Recent senior projects have included the study of 90s alt-rock, Black Sabbath, country vocal techniques, The Killers, Led Zeppelin, Tool, and Usher.
We are currently accepting students who wish to major on any instrument, voice type, or as a composer or singer-songwriter. Incoming students should schedule a live audition on campus in addition to submitting a USC Upstate application. Students unable to come to campus can contact us to make alternate arrangements.
For your audition, please do the following:
- Prepare two contrasting songs with accompaniment. You may bring your own accompaniment (live or pre-recorded) OR arrange to use our staff accompanist.
- For instrumentalists: prepare a standard blues or jazz piece that allows you to demonstrate improvisation ability
- Be prepared to play a major scale (two octaves for instrumentalists, one octave for singers)
- Be prepared to sight-read a short passage of music
Auditions for the fall semester are held in spring semester, and auditions for the spring semester are held in the fall semester.
Please contact Dr. Nolan Stolz at email@example.com to set up your audition
Commercial Music Combo
Playing everything from classic rock to contemporary pop, with a repertoire that changes each semester. Recent examples include Country, 1980s pop, Motown / soul, reggae, 1970s rock and pop, 1990s alternative rock, and heavy metal.
Small group jazz combos playing a mix of instrumental and vocal repertoire from standards to fusion.
Upstate Vocal Ensemble
Performing traditional music for mixed choir alongside pop, rock, jazz, and Broadway selections.
Performing traditional and contemporary praise music.
Four to six guitarists accompanied by a rhythm section, performing a wide range of music--from classical to jazz and pop standards--arranged specifically for guitar.
- 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 U490. Senior Seminar in Commercial Music (3)
- MUSC U499. Internship in Commercial Music (1-3)
Assistant Professor of Music, Coordinator of Commercial Music Program (composition, theory / musicianship, popular music studies, drumset)
Dr. Nolan Stolz is the Coordinator of the Commercial Program at USC Upstate, where he has been teaching as an Assistant Professor since 2014. A composer, scholar, and drummer, Stolz teaches a variety of courses such as composition, songwriting, arranging, music theory/musicianship, popular music studies, jazz combo, and private lessons in composition and drum set. He is the author of the book Experiencing Black Sabbath and essays on Black Sabbath, Genesis, Rush, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. His 25-minute orchestral piece, the Lincoln Highway Suite, was recorded in the Czech Republic in 2017 and released on Ablaze Records in 2018. Several other of his compositions have been released on Ablaze Records, ESM, Navona/Parma, Six String Sounds, and Tributary Music. As a drummer, he appears on albums from Art Rock Circus, Coalition, Halloween Town (with members of The Killers, Louis XIV, and others), Johnnie Pate’s 80th Birthday Celebration (with Monty Alexander, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, James Moody, Phil Woods, etc.), Nolan Stolz Rock Orchestra, and several releases as a session musician. Dr. Stolz has performed with a variety of bands ranging in style from the avant-garde electroacoustic Southern California ensemble Caravan to the Tokyo-based J-Pop band Swinging Popsicle.
Assistant Professor of Music (music history, music technology, popular music studies)
Griffin Woodworth is an Assistant Professor of Music in the Commercial Music program at the University of South Carolina Upstate, where he teaches courses on popular music and music technology. Dr. Woodworth earned his Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of California Los Angeles. In his research, Dr. Woodworth unpacks the ways that popular music expresses political and personal issues including gender, race, and social class, as well as the ways that contemporary music technology has impacted the aesthetics and practices of modern musicians. Currently, Dr. Woodworth is working on a book about the music of Prince, an artist whose career Griffin avidly followed during his previous residence in Minneapolis MN before coming to teach at USC Upstate. In addition to his work as a music educator, Griffin also plays cello and bass professionally in rock, folk, and worship bands. Among his many professional gigs, Griffin played bass and guitar in the pit-orchestra for the national touring production of “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” the musical. He currently lives in Spartanburg SC with his wife and children.
Upstate Vocal Ensemble director (ensembles, staff accompanist)
Lance Bastian is the University of South Carolina Upstate’s director of the Upstate Vocal Ensemble. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music theory from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a master’s degree in church music composition from Bob Jones University. In addition to accompanying both vocal ensembles and soloists for 10 years, Lance is a published composer of choral music and enjoys writing arrangements and original compositions for voice, piano and strings. In addition to directing the Upstate Vocal Ensemble, Lance accompanies voice students for lessons and performances, and teaches piano.
Adjunct Instructor of Music (music theory / musicianship, Group Piano, Intro to Music)
Carter Callison is a native of Asheville, North Carolina, where he began studying music at a young age and developed a passion for composing and playing the double bass. His works have been preformed by numerous ensembles including the BBC Singers, the Manson Ensemble, Spitalfields Winter & Summer Festivals, and the Bristol School of Animation. His recent Clarinet Concerto 'Lucid Dreaming' was recorded by Ensemble Erasme at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris (CRR de Paris) in France. In addition to his composing endeavors, he has enjoyed performing double bass throughout Europe and America and is proficient playing in styles from the baroque to the avant-garde. Carter holds degrees from the Royal Academy of Music (MMus 2012, PhD 2017), Manhattan School of Music (B.M. Composition and Double Bass, 2009) and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (High School Diploma, Double Bass 2005).
Adjunct Instructor of Music (piano, Intro to Music)
Adjunct Instructor of Applied Music (voice)
Anne Denbow serves as Adjunct Instructor of Music in the Contemporary Commercial Music Degree program at USC Upstate. Primary duties include teaching private voice lessons in all styles of singing, class voice and occasional specialty courses in Musical Theatre and Cabaret, in addition to acting as vocal coach for the University Vocal Ensemble. Her own professional experience in the arenas of Musical Theatre and Cabaret in regional summer stock theatres, dinner theatres and cruise ships worldwide, both as performer and stage/musical director, give Anne an intimate perspective of what it takes to be a working singer/musician. Educated at The Ohio State University and New England Conservatory of Music, Ms. Denbow has previously held full-time vocal/choral faculty positions at both Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, and Ashland University in Ohio. She currently also holds teaching positions at Converse College and The Lawson Academy, and maintains a private studio. Serving as the Director of Liturgical Arts, Anne oversees the musical and dramatic elements of worship at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Spartanburg. As the vocal production specialist, she co-authored a choral textbook series for grades K-12, entitled Experiencing Choral Music, published by McGraw Hill/Glencoe Corporation. Anne is still an active performer, both regionally and abroad, in staged works and as concert soloist.
Adjunct Instructor of Music (Intro to Music, History of Rock)
Born in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Patrick Flynn has been on faculty as an adjunct professor at USC-Upstate since 2011. He currently teaches courses such as the History of Rock Music and Music Appreciation. He also teaches at several other colleges of higher education in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, whereby he teaches courses in guitar performance, guitar pedagogy, music theory, piano performance, and is the director of several instrumental ensembles of distinction. Dr. Patrick Flynn earned his Doctoral of Music Arts and Master of Music degrees at the University of Memphis, where he studied with the international recording artist Dr. Lily Afshar. As a student, he was awarded a full tuition scholarship and also the prestigious “Graduate Performance Award.“ He was the first recipient of a Doctoral of Musical Arts degree in classical guitar performance in 2005 from the University of Memphis. His undergraduate degree is from Florida Atlantic University, where he studied with Dr. Ken Keaton, a student of Pepe Romero and Juan Mercadal. Having a passion for the classical guitar, Patrick Flynn has had the great opportunity to attend and participate in numerous master classes held by many of the leading guitarists around the world. These include; David Russell, Manuel Barrueco, Eliot Fisk, Christopher Parkening, and The Romeros. Patrick Flynn is an active performer of solo and chamber works throughout the continental USA. When not performing or teaching, he enjoys playing tennis, reading, as well as studying and investing in the financial markets. Patrick resides in Spartanburg, SC, with his wife and two sons.
Adjunct Instructor of Music (Intro to Music, History of Rock)
Max Hardy has performed in a variety of settings and genres throughout the United States. He has worked with various bands, musical theatre troupes, ballet companies, chamber ensembles, and as a solo artist in addition to studio and session work. Though primarily a guitarist, he is also proficient on the banjo and mandolin. In addition to performing, Max is a passionate music educator with years of experience teaching in private studios and at the collegiate level. He has served as adjunct faculty with Midlands Technical College, the Midlands Audio Institute, Presbyterian College, the University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina Upstate. Mr. Hardy received his Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University in 2006 and his Master of Music degree from the University of South Carolina in 2009.
Adjunct Instructor of Applied Music (saxophone, clarinet)
An active performer, Karen Hill is currently the Principal Clarinetist of the Spartanburg Philharmonic, Principal Second Clarinetist of the Asheville Symphony and a member of the Arbor Wind Trio. She has appeared as a soloist with the Spartanburg Philharmonic, Brevard Chamber Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Music Academy of the West Festival Orchestra, Hunan Symphony Orchestra, the Converse Symphony Orchestra, and collaborated with the American Chamber Players. She has also served as Principal Clarinetist with the Hendersonville Symphony, the Brevard Chamber Orchestra, and the French Broad River Woodwind Quintet. A freelance musician in the area for over 20 years, she also has performed with the Asheville Lyric Opera Company, Augusta Symphony Orchestra, Augusta Opera Company, Charleston Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Greenville Symphony, North Carolina Symphony and the South Carolina Philharmonic. Karen has traveled to China more than fifteen times as a performer and teacher in cities such as Hangzhou, Wenzhou, Zhengzhou, Changsha and Qingdao. In addition to USC Upstate, Karen has also taught at Converse College, Brevard College, Mars Hill College, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Union, and the School for Gifted Students in the Arts. A high school graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy, Mrs. Hill holds degrees in clarinet performance from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan, where she was a full-tuition Fellow. She is a former student of the world-renowned clarinetist Robert Marcellus. Karen lives in Gaffney, SC with her husband Chip, also a clarinetist, and their three boys.
Adjunct Instructor of Music (guitar, ensembles, Music Business and Entrepreneurship, Intro to Music, History of Rock)
Adam Knight is a dynamic, soulful, and versatile guitarist. He’s also an accomplished composer, writing for rock, funk and hip-hop groups, jazz and guitar ensembles, and big band orchestras. In 2004, Adam earned a Bachelor of Music degree in jazz performance from Georgia State University. He later earned a Master of Music degree in jazz performance from New England Conservatory of Music. Since 2008 he has been on the music faculty at the University of South Carolina Upstate, where he is the head guitar instructor. Adam teaches numerous music courses and ensembles, including American Popular Music, Guitar Ensemble and Commercial Music Combo. Over the years, Adam has performed with various bands, touring, recording, and opening for artists like Maceo Parker, Incubus, and Robert Randolph. Adam’s music has received major market radio airplay and has been placed on episodes of MTV’s, The Real World and Road Rules. In 2011, Adam formed Earsight, an original, high-energy funk/jazz project. Earsight’s music has been featured on SC/NC radio station WNCW, 88.7. Adam performs in the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band, a contemporary jazz orchestra based in Greenville, SC. You can also find Adam performing with his jazz trio, at festivals, venues, and events around the Southeast.
Adjunct Instructor of Music (Intro to Music)
Adjunct Instructor of Music (Intro to Music, History of Rock)
Megan Murph completed her Ph.D. in Musicology and Ethnomusicology at the University of Kentucky with a dissertation titled Max Neuhaus, R. Murray Schafer, and the Challenges of Noise. She received a Master in Music from Louisiana State University and a Bachelor of Arts from Brevard College, NC. Megan has published her research on Neuhaus as well as presented internationally. She is interested in noise, sound studies, ecomusicology, experimentalism, and beyond. Megan adores performing Mbira, Korean drums, Balinese Gamelan, and singing jazz. Currently, she is the co-chair of the Society for American Music’s Experimental Interest Group and serves on SAM's Conference Site Selection Committee.
Adjunct Instructor of Applied Music (staff accompanist, vocal coach)