The Hollywood Reporter has ranked California State University, Northridge for the second consecutive year as one of the top 25 music schools in the world. CSUN is No. 16 on the list, up from No. 22 in 2014.
According to the publication, CSUN’s programs in music industry studies, media composition and performance are “lauded around the country” and compete with those of “more vaunted, private institutions.” It cited the university’s proximity to Hollywood and its affordability. Other schools listed were the Juilliard School, University of Southern California, Oberlin Conservatory, Yale School of Music and international schools such as London’s Royal College of Music and France’s Conservatoire de Paris.
“CSUN has always had a good reputation as one of the largest music programs west of the Mississippi,” said Ric Alviso, chair of the Department of Music. “It leads as a music institution because of its dynamic, well-rounded curriculum, immersion in the entertainment hub of Los Angeles, experienced and dedicated faculty, and the industrious, resilient character of its students.”
The department offers traditional music programs such as opera, classical and jazz performance, as well as film composition, music therapy, music industry studies and music education — which received recognition for its professional achievements from the National Association for Music Education earlier this year.
“The combination of all these different types of programs is rare,” Alviso said. “There aren’t that many music industry studies programs in California, and there is only one other music therapy program.”
One of the most in-demand programs is the film composition program, he said, adding that the program has to turn students away. It trains students in composition for film, television and video games.
Alviso said he believes the entertainment industry’s increased recognition of the program is inspired in part by the department’s relevant programming. The department recently developed a master’s program in music industry administration, meant for mid-career professionals working in the industry who are looking to refresh their skills and move on to the next level in their careers. The graduate students get to work side by side with a cohort of individuals who are experienced and knowledgeable, as well as with professors who have excellent experience within the industry.
“It is central to our location here in the entertainment capital of the world,” Alviso said of the master’s program. “We have really garnered a lot of attention for the kind of contribution we are making to the region.”
The department’s robust programs are led by faculty who often have decades of experience and are still active in the industry, but most noteworthy is their zeal for teaching and dedication to their students, Alviso said.
“We are here because we love to teach and want to make a difference in the world,” Alviso said. “Most of us do not solely work in this field to do research or publish or do big concerts [like at research universities]. Here at CSUN, the emphasis is on excellent teaching. I enjoy publishing, but it doesn’t hold a candle at all to the joy that I get from the classroom and the appreciation I get from students.”
Tough, creative, industrious and humble, CSUN students, he said, have strong character.
“The students do not come from affluent backgrounds, nor did they have the best opportunities or the best training before coming to CSUN,” he added. “However, they have a hunger to learn and a sense of appreciation that students who go to more affluent schools may be lacking. What we get are diamonds in the rough. You can really see remarkable progress after two to four years in this program, and our students are amazingly enthusiastic and grateful to be studying here.”
Students are also prepared to go out into an industry that has gone through immense changes in the past 10 years, Alviso said, noting that undergraduates are required to take a course in entrepreneurship and learn how to promote and market themselves or start their own businesses.
“Most likely, our grads are not going to work for one employer that is going to provide full-time income and retirement like our grandparents did,” Alviso said. “They are going to be going out and cobbling together a living from doing a number of different things and even starting their own businesses.”
CSUN alumni have a great reputation in the professional world, said Robert Teegarden, an alumnus of the undergraduate and graduate programs in music industry studies — and a manager of copyright and royalties at Universal Music Group.
“CSUN students are much more responsible individuals and have a broader knowledge base than a lot of other people who I have dealt with,” Teegarden said. “Admittedly, I have bias — I am a CSUN grad and I have hired CSUN grads. But there really is a distinct difference between students that CSUN cultivates and students from other universities. There is a humility I don’t see in [students from] other universities. They work hard and want to make a difference. There is a grit about them that is different.”