Billboard Names Oxy One of Top Music Programs—Again

Jim Tranquada

For the second consecutive year, Occidental College’s Music Department has been named as one of the country’s top music business programs by Billboard magazine.

Occidental is one of 26 schools—and one of only two liberal arts colleges—listed in Billboard’s annual alphabetical accounting of top music programs that includes USC, UCLA and NYU. “It’s worth noting that among the highest-achieving young executives in the music business, as profiled in Billboard’s 2019 ‘40 Under 40’ feature, nearly 40% said they were graduates of a liberal arts program,” the magazine says in its April 27 edition.

"We are delighted that Billboard has once again recognized that the strength and distinctiveness of our music program flow from our dual commitment to the liberal arts and to our Los Angeles location," says David Kasunic, associate professor of music and department chair.

“A liberal arts college in one of the world’s music business capitals, Occidental’s robust music department has added the new Choi Family Music Production Center, housing a recording studio, control room and music production/film scoring computer lab,” Billboard reports. “The space was designed by Peter Grueneisen of nonzero\architecture, known for his work for Sony Music, DreamWorks and Hans Zimmer, among others.”

Oxy’s music faculty include Grammy-nominated and Emmy-winning composer Adam Schoenberg; singer-songwriter Ramona Gonzalez ’09, the Johnston-Fix Professor of the Practice in Songwriting; TV/film/games composer Jongnic “JB” Bontemps; and Max Foreman, Mellon Professor of the Practice of Audio Engineering. Foreman began offering a class in live sound engineering this spring; the department is currently collaborating with Warner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper ’68 on an expanded music business course for this fall.

Oxy alumni include such prominent music industry figures as manager Ian Montone ’89 (Jack White, LCD Soundsystem); music attorney John Branca ’72, Billboard’s 2016 Lawyer of the Year; music attorney Richard Leher ’66 (Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam); Welz Kaufmann ’83, president and CEO of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival; and the late Guy Carawan ’49, musical director of Tennessee’s Highlander Folk School, credited with turning “We Shall Overcome” into a civil rights anthem.