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Erica Muhl, DMA

Professor of Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation; Professor of Composition (USC Thornton School of Music)

Memo from the Dean - October 24, 2020
Memo from the Dean - June 1, 2020

In May of 2013, Erica Muhl was appointed as founding director of the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, which welcomed its first freshman class in fall 2014. Simultaneously, she served as dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design, a position she held from September 2012 through June 2018. Prior to joining the Roski School, Muhl served as associate dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, where she has been Professor of Composition with tenure since 1991. She currently holds a dual appointment as Professor of Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation and Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California.

In July 2018, Muhl was appointed as the inaugural dean of the USC Iovine and Young Academy as it became the university’s newest professional school — only the twentieth to be so named in the institution’s nearly 140-year history. Under Muhl’s guidance, in four short years the Academy has emerged at the forefront of the drive to expand the reach of higher education beyond traditional disciplinary silos, and toward new pathways for learning and discovery. The school’s unique educational model and its strong student outcomes have been highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The London Times, Forbes, Billboard, Variety, WIRED, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc., Business Insider, Tech Crunch, and MIT Technology Review. In fall of 2017, the Academy launched its first graduate degree program, a Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business and Technology, which aims to set new standards for online cross-disciplinary instruction. In 2020, the Academy launched a revolutionary new Master of Science in Product Innovation that reimagines product design for the 21st century.

Throughout her career as a creative artist, scholar, teacher and administrator, Muhl has remained committed to maintaining rigorous standards for academic excellence while seeking to forge new paradigms and models for higher education. She has been a catalyst for change in the field, in particular as a steady public advocate for multi-disciplinary and integrative programs that nurture innovative thought through team- and project-based learning, and individually customized pathways to the degree. She has presented talks and served as a panelist at national and international conferences, symposia and seminars focused on the future of education, including South by Southwest.edu (SXSW.edu); Adobe MAX; the Arts, Media and Entertainment Leadership Institute; the Education Writers Association Higher Education Seminar; the National Federation for Municipal Analysts Annual Conference; and the Microsoft Summit, Learning in the Digital Age. She has also been a featured speaker for Apple’s elite internal institute, Apple University. In addition to her work in higher education, Muhl often serves as a speaker and consultant for K-12 education, including most recently to design the capstone event for the 2018 Apple Learning Series, a 2-day seminar for K-12 teachers and administrators that will take place at the Iovine and Young Academy’s “Garage” incubator in October of 2018.

Prior to her move into higher education administration, Muhl maintained a vibrant international practice as a composer of contemporary classical music. Her works have been commissioned, performed, and broadcast by leading organizations such as Minnesota Opera, The New World Symphony, Italy’s Orchestra della RAI, Venezuela’s National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York, the Arditti Quartet, National Public Radio, Mexican National Television and Radio-Televisione Italiana, and featured at national and international festivals and competitions, including the Aspen Festival, the International Festival of New Music in Caracas, the International Forum of New Music in Mexico City, the Festivale Nuovi Spazi in Rome and the International Percussion Competition in Luxembourg. She has received grants and awards from such organizations as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts and Opera America, and has held residencies and fellowships from — among others — Italy’s Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Charles Ives Center for American Music, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the American Academy in Rome, the Cultural Ministry of Venezuela, the Richard-Wagner-Stätten in Dresden, Germany, and the State of Saxony, Germany.

Muhl received her early training in composition from legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger, who counted Virgil Thompson, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein as former students. Muhl later completed advanced study with Franco Donatoni at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy, followed by a doctorate from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. As a conductor, Muhl was a pupil of Fritz Zweig, renowned principal conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. She went on to serve as Assistant Conductor for Seattle Opera’s Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival and LA Opera precursor, Los Angeles Opera Theater, before choosing to focus exclusively on her composition career.