In Reverence Of A Music Critic: Professor Tim Page Composes New Book On Virgil Thomson

Tim Page with Virgil Thomson giving a master class in criticism at Juilliard in 1987 (photo credit: Bonnie Geller Geld).

Tim Page with Virgil Thomson giving a master class in criticism at Juilliard in 1987 (photo credit: Bonnie Geller Geld).

Within art, literary work, music and journalism, there have always been voices that truly capture the essence of a topic or even given genres. These writers often deal with the difficult task of breaking down dense material for their audience but their elucidation allow for better comprehension of the subject at hand.

For Tim Page, professor at USC Annenberg and the USC Thornton School of Music, that writer was Virgil Thomson, a famous music critic of the last century. Thomson was full of wit, frankness and had a deep understanding of classical music, Page explained.

“He didn’t talk about classical music as if it were some kind of magical, mystery tour,” Page said. “He wrote about it with the gift of being able to discuss fairly complicated musical terms and musical ideas, but made them come across to a general audience.”

Page’s latest book, “Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles 1940-1954,” — recently released this past Thursday, Oct. 16 — is a collection of what Page considers to be Thomson’s best music critiques during part of his tenure as chief critic at the New York Herald Tribune.

As a former music critic himself, Page wrote for both the New York Times and the Washington Post. He explained how reading Thomson’s works of criticism was instrumental to his own professional writing.

“He set a standard,” Page said. “He was influential in the way he wrote, his directness, his humor and his lack of pretension. Those all had a big effect on my own work.”

The Wall Street Journal mentioned Page’s book and praised Thomson for being one of the most comprehensible and relevant critics since that time.

“An indispensable collection, perfectly edited by Tim Page, of the journalistic writings of the most important music critic of the 20th century. … No music critic has ever been more readable,” Terry Teachout wrote.

Yet, this is not Page’s first book on the famous critic. In 1988, Page organized a book titled, “Selected Letters of Virgil Thomson,” but explained in Opera News that the project was much more controlled by Thomson, who was living at the time, who preferred to modify thoughts he had stated years ago.

“Like many topical commentators, [Thomson] didn’t want his assessments to be proven ‘wrong’ by posterity, so he omitted some of his liveliest and most controversial reviews,” Page said.

This book however was published long after Thomson’s death, and when Page was selecting pieces for the book he realized that he did not want to leave much out, Page explained in the Opera News article.

Virgil Thomson, born in 1896 in Kansas City, Missouri and studied at Harvard University. In addition to his work of criticism, Thomson was an American composer who composed in almost every music genre. According to his biography by the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Thomson was fearless, blunt and considered a bull in a China shop. At times, the critic was funny, even if offensive, and was said to be the only critic who told the truth as he saw it in the music world.

Although Page is no longer a music critic, he still writes for the Washington Post and the New York Review of Books. He explained that as a professor he’s determined to make his students the best possible critics they can be.

That aspiration, more or less, extends beyond his students, however. Page explained that the book is not only meant to educate readers about Thomson, but it is also meant to shine light on the art of criticism.

“These days, so much of the time we just can get dopey shortcuts, like two thumbs up,” Page said. “But really good criticism is an art in itself, and even if you’ve never heard these artists or composers, with Virgil you can learn a lot and you’re also amused.”

Read Page’s excerpt here (credit: Estate of Virgil Thomson).

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Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News

At USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. In this special edition of “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” we’ve gathered a selection of news stories on the new Wallis Annenberg Hall. – See more at:

640-quotedAt USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” gathers a selection of the week’s news stories featuring and written by Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others.

Gabriel KahnOrange County Register names new publisher

Professor Gabriel Kahn was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story about Richard Mirman, a former casino executive, who replaced Aaron Kushner as publisher of the Orange County Register.

Kahn — who is also co-director of the Media, Economics and Entrepreneurship program at USC Annenberg — said that newspaper publishing is “really ripe for a moment when we open this up to new areas, because it really needs a bold reinvention of the product.”

He said Kushner has relied on “traditional” methods and stood by print, putting the O.C. Register “behind the times in terms of innovating.”

But, Mirman’s familiarity with the gambling sector will be to his advantage as publisher. Kahn said the casino industry “has traditionally done a good job figuring out who its customers are and finding ways to interact with them.”

“That is exactly what the newspaper industry has been bad at, not understanding the customers,” Kahn said. “You had a one-size-fits-all product, and you try to shove it down the throat of the consumer.”

Winston_200pChristian rapper Lecrae, headed to Riverside Theater on Oct. 23, a crossover success

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted Professor Diane Winston in a story about rising Christian rap star, Lecrae.

“In general, the hip-hop lifestyle is not conducive to religion,” Winston — who also holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion — said and she added that hip-hop “is about being countercultural, and religion is just the opposite of that.”

Winston said he is part of “the new reform movement.”

“There’s a long trajectory of Christians trying to reach outside the flock. In the 19th century, the Salvation Army and other evangelistic groups used barroom songs and turned them into hymns,” Winston said and she called Lecrae “the latest iteration.”

ColeHBO to Launch Stand-Alone Streaming Service

The Wall Street Journal quoted Annenberg Professor Jeffrey Cole in a story about HBOs launch of a standalone, online streaming platform for their content next year.

“This is a seismic event in the future of television,” Cole — who is also director of the Center for the Digital Future at Annenberg — said. “Cable is shrinking and broadband is expanding. This had to happen.”

williamsTurning Social Influencers Into Brand Advocates

Professor Dmitri Williams was quoted in a Business News Daily story about how companies are starting to connect with influential social media users to promote their personal brands.

Williams’ predictive analytics company Ninja Metrics examines these “social influencers” to determine the dollar amount of their word-of-mouth-driven sales.

“It’s a ripple in a pond effect, and the pond is [an influencer's] social network,” Williams said. “Five to 10 percent of [social media users] are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of influence, [but] big influencers are almost never big spenders. The more ‘social’ the business category is, the more important [social value] is.”

He added that “social” industries — which include travel, dining and entertainment, and are driven heavily by word-of-mouth recommendations — are where a large percentage of money spent is driven by social aspects rather than the product itself.

ITMC: Diane Sawyer Stops by USC

Journalist Diane Sawyer stopped by Wallis Annenberg Hall on Monday to explore the new building and attend the Annenberg Media Center-wide news meeting.

ATVN covered her visit and talk with students in their new video series, Inside the Media Center (ITMC).

Continue reading

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USC Annenberg at the 2014 Online News Association Conference

Assistant Director of Admissions Justina Gaddy answering questions at the USC Annenberg booth. (Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

Assistant Director of Admissions Justina Gaddy answering questions at the USC Annenberg booth. (Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

The Online News Association held their annual conference and awards banquet at the end of September in Chicago, with numerous USC Annenberg faculty and staff members in attendance.


(Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

Professor Robert Hernandez gave a presentation on wearable technology — such as Google glass and Smart watches — and how content creation has to be altered to be engaging and effective on those devices.

“Technology is evolving, so we can’t dismiss it,” Hernandez said, adding that the adoption rate for technology is the fastest it’s ever been.

Digital journalism Professor Peggy Bustamante also gave a presentation on basic programming languages for journalists.

(Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

(Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

The Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project had a booth in one of the exhibit halls, where Director Dana Chinn held “office hours” to answer questions related to media metrics.

Professor Amara Aguilar attended the conference and said it gave her the opportunity to “meet other educators who are leading the way in journalism education.”

“I was also able to make new contacts in the media industry as well, and hear intriguing discussions on the current state of the media, but even more importantly, it’s future,” Aguilar said.

Professor Alan Mittelstaedt said this year’s conference helped shape the vision for the new USC Annenberg Media Center.

“A big push at the conference was on ways to interact with audiences and embrace mobile technology,” Mittelstaedt — who is also the managing editor of Annenberg Digital News — said. “Once we get that right at Annenberg, and if we continue to revolutionize our curriculum, our unified newsroom and public relations operation could be turned into a thriving media company employing dozens of top graduates working alongside students and faculty.”

Annenberg alumni in attendance included Callie Schweitzer, who is now the Director of Digital Innovation at TIME; Olga Khazan, who now writes for The Atlantic; Catherine Cloutier, who now writes for The Boston Globe; Catherine Green, who is now the deputy editor of Voice of San Diego; and John Adams, who now writes for The Los Angeles Times.

(Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)

Alumnae Catherine Green and Callie Schweitzer. (Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)


Alumnae Catherine Cloutier and Olga Khazan. (Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)


Alumna Olga Khazan and Professor Robert Hernandez. (Photo by Alan Mittelstaedt)


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Travelogue: Annenberg Students in São Paulo


By Neftalie Williams (MPD ’14 )

Sao-Paulo-2Earlier this year, the USC Annenberg Master’s of Public Diplomacy program conducted a research trip to São Paulo, Brazil to research how public diplomacy is integrated into various organizations within that nation. While there, I took time to chronicle some of the famously sprawling city’s more intimate streetscapes.

The photo, above, of the young man seated captures a quiet moment of solitude in a small bakery in São Paulo on a street called Rua Fradique. This photo was taken moments after the man exchanged hugs and kisses with the owner of the café.

Sao-PauloThe larger photo is an insider’s view of “Beco de Batman,” or “Batman Alley,” in Vila Magdelena, a beautiful, modern section of São Paulo. Originally made famous by a graffiti-rendered image of Batman by an unknown artist, this series of alleyways is now home to works by many of Brazil’s greatest graffiti artists, including the image in red by seminal artist, Speto.

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Sunnylands, the President’s Second Home for Diplomacy


By Proffessor Geoffrey Cowan*


Walter and Leonore Annenberg wanted Sunnylands, their spectacular 200-acre desert estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., to become the “Camp David of the West”—a place where Presidents would bring world leaders together to promote peace and facilitate international agreements.

Last year Sunnylands hosted President Obama and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in the historic “shirtsleeves summit” that helped them to forge a personal relationship and led to an historic agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. (See photo.)

Earlier this year, Sunnylands again hosted the President, this time for a meeting on the Syrian refugee crisis with King Abdullah II of Jordan.


In creating Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Walter and Leonore Annenberg also specifically encouraged it to work with the Annenberg Schools at USC and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to hosting world leaders, hopefully it will become a part of the life of students and faculty who want to visit another great Annenberg venue and to create important meetings designed to make a major impact on the world.

With the virtue of total privacy in an extraordinary setting that includes a nine-hole golf course and 11 lakes, Sunnylands offers leaders an exceptional place to pause, reflect, build meaningful connections and to focus on major challenges.

*Cowan is also Director of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and President of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands

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USC Students, Faculty, Neighbors Sound Off on #MySouthLA

Journalists and community activists from around Los Angeles came together last night to discuss the role of USC in the ever-changing South L.A. area.

USC Vision and Voices hosted “Voices of South L.A.: Civic Action and Community Voice” in the Annenberg Auditorium Thursday evening, drawing USC students, faculty and community members for the dynamic discussion.

Panelists included journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan; Francisco Ortega of the L.A. Human Relations Commission; Community Coalition’s Alberto Retana; and journalist Sahra Sulaiman.

Annenberg faculty members Alison Trope, Robeson Taj Frazier and George Villanueva contributed to organizing the discussion series. 

Thursday’s event is the first in a three-part series about how USC’s expansion is affecting residents in South L.A., and the leadership, initiatives and progress currently underway in the area.

Check out what attendees has to say about #MySouthLA:

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Q&A: Political Analysis and Media with Rebecca Black Donatelli


Online pioneer R. Rebecca “Becki” Black Donatelli is a USC alumna and president of Campaign Solutions/Connell Donatelli. She served as the chief Internet consultant to both of Senator John McCain’s presidential races, and was the first person to raise political money on the Internet. We caught up with Donatelli during a recent hard-hat tour she took of Wallis Annenberg Hall.

USC ANNENBERG: Can you please share with us how you embody the Trojan Family?

becki-donatelliR. REBECCA “BECKI” BLACK DONATELLI: My father was a graduate of USC. My stepfather was a graduate of USC. I graduated from USC. My daughter Elizabeth graduated from USC in 2004. So it’s a straight line, along with two uncles and three cousins, so you could say this is the family school. Elizabeth is entering her 10th year as an on-air reporter, this is her third market, and she credits it all to the actual hands-on work that she did here as an undergraduate. She took an ethics in journalism class here at Annenberg that made a big impact.

USC ANNENBERG: You have been credited with being the disruptor of an industry.

DONATELLI: We like to think we’re innovators—although I love your term, ‘The Disruptor.’ I think I might have to adopt that. We’re constantly looking at trends, and what’s new, and trying to innovate and keep up with things or be a step ahead. We have taken a great pride in being the first to do things, because at my age, I’m not afraid anymore of taking chances. If it doesn’t work you put it aside and do something else.



USC ANNENBERG: Was it hard to convince campaigns, at a national level or local level, to do things differently; to use online techniques?

DONATELLI: It is still hard. On our [Republican] side of the aisle, it’s a little bit harder than the other guys [Democrats], because President Obama actually won utilizing what we do for a living. But any time there is change, it’s difficult. So we are constantly evangelizing. I’d like to say everybody’s now running to our doors and saying, ‘Gee, I want to invest all of my media money in online advertising.’ It’s not the case, but it is changing, especially because of the people who went to Annenberg 10-15 years ago are now moving into leadership opportunities, and understanding the convergence of media and data and digital, and that it’s not all about buying TV spots anymore. Thank you, Annenberg!

USC ANNENBERG: Why did you establish the R. Rebecca Donatelli Expert-in-Residence in Political Analysis and Media program, which will bring leading political analysis and media technology experts to campus to share their perceptions and knowledge with our students and faculty?

DONATELLI: Because I love USC. I think it’s the finest university in the country. It has afforded me with the tools to go forth in life and succeed. That’s first. Second, the idea of working with young people is exciting. Plus, there’s a connection to Annenberg through Elizabeth. And, you’ve got an amazing Dean [Ernest J. Wilson III], whom I just connected with, and I’m overwhelmed by his willingness to enlarge the footprint here, and consider new things.

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Alumni Notes: Where Are They Now?


News and notes as reported by our esteemed graduates. From books published to awards won, here’s a sampling of what our alumni are up to.

Bill Owen (B.A. Telecommunications ’53) is the author of “Dropping Names: 60 Plus Years of Broadcasting Memories,” tracing his career from KUSC-FM to his 30 years at ABC New York. He is also the author of other books, such as “All Those Things My Teacher Never Told Me,” “The Over 60 Trivia Book,” “Runners-up, Bridesmaids, and Second Bananas,” as well as co-author of the first encyclopedia of radio programs, “The Big Broadcast.”


Dennis Neil Jones

Dennis Neil Jones (B.A. Public Relations ’76, M.P.A. ’78) was named a 2014 Southern California Super Lawyer by Law & Politics for his expertise in insurance law. This is the seventh year he has been named to this prestigious list.

Mark Kariya (B.A. Journalism ’78) was named the recipient of The American Motorcyclist Association’s 2013 Media Award at the annual AMA Championship Banquet in Columbus, Ohio on January 18.

Mike Huckman (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’83), award-winning journalist and former CNBC Life Sciences Reporter, was appointed chief strategist at Pure Communications, Inc.

Kevin Kirk (B.A. Communication Arts & Sciences ’83) was recently promoted to Director of Freestyle Sales for the Western United States by The Coca-Cola Company.

Steven Travers (B.A. Communication Arts & Sciences ’83) has published a new book titled, “The Duke, The Longhorns, and Chairman Mao: John Wayne’s Political Odyssey.”

Ellen Plotkin-Mulholland

Ellen Plotkin Mulholland

Ellen Plotkin Mulholland (B.A. Print Journalism & English ’85) recently published a young adult novel called, “Birds on a Wire,” which follows 72 hours in the lives of three best friends before they embark on their senior year of high school. Read more about Ellen at

James Davenport (B.A. Communication Arts & Sciences ’90) was recently inducted into the St. Francis High School Athletic Hall of Fame for Baseball; he was a member of the Trojan Baseball team from ’88 to ’89. He is currently the Director of Business Development, Hosting & Cloud, at AT&T.

David Sweet (M.A. Print Journalism ’90) was named Editorial Coordinator of three magazines at JWC Media outside of Chicago.

Cathy L. Hue (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’00), formerly Cathy Truong, is segment producer on a brand new docu-series for the E! Network, “Society X with Laura Ling.” The pilot episode on Designer Drugs aired in the fall. Previously, Hue has produced for award-winning shows including “SoCal Connected” (KCET), Current TV and Channel One Network. She is a freelance journalist and founder of Our Story Productions.

Bich Ngoc Cao (B.A. Print Journalism & Political Science ’04), digital marketing director at Harvest Records, was appointed to the Board of Library Commissioners by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and serves as the board’s vice president.

Erin Coscarelli (B.A. Broadcast Journalism ’06) is working as an on-air anchor and sports reporter for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, an NBC Regional Network.

Lindsay Miller (B.A. Print Journalism ’06) is the creator and host of PopSugar’s new interview series, “In Her World,” which showcases inspiring women and the personal passions behind their success stories.

Clint Schaff (M.A. Communication Management ’07) recently became the U.S. General Manager of Dare, a global creative digital agency and was also named a 2014 New Leaders Council Fellow.

Breanna M. Cardwell (B.A. Journalism and Communications ’08) was named Communications Officer at The California Wellness Foundation. Breanna received her MPPA from California Lutheran University.

Anastasia Alen (B.A. Communication ’10) was sworn into the California State Bar and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Dec. 4, 2013.

Claire Spera

Claire Spera

Claire Spera (M.A. Specialized Journalism ’10) was recently named publicity coordinator for the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music, where her first project was organizing publicity for the 10-day Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, which came to North America for the first time in its 30-year history. She continues to write dance and theater reviews for Austin’s daily paper, the Austin American-Statesman, and is a contributing writer for Arts + Culture Texas Magazine.

Katharine Azar (MPD ’10) married Behtash Azar (Architecture ’05) in Newport Beach, Calif.  In addition, Kate is now an Account Executive at issue advocacy firm, Griffin|Schein.

Kamala Kirk (B.A. Communication ’11) recently joined E! Entertainment as Writer/Editor for E! Shows.


Susana Bautista

Susana Bautista (PH.D ’12) is the author of a new book, “Museums in the Digital Age: Changing Meanings of Place, Community, and Culture”—see excerpt below, Bautista has also been named the interim deputy director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum.

Krista Daly (M.A. Specialized Journalism ’13) is a staff writer for the Imperial Valley Press in El Centro, Calif. As a county reporter, her wide-ranging beat takes her from government to health to renewable energy to community events.

Have news to share, questions to ask, regarding our alumni? Visit:

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Is Downtown L.A.’s Figueroa Corridor the Next Silicon Valley?


By Professor François Bar and John Seely Brown

Here are suggested clusters around the Figueroa Corridor. [Open map.] (François Bar)

Suggested clusters around the Figueroa Corridor in an open map by François Bar and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab.

A remarkable transformation is taking place in the heart of Los Angeles. Over the last 10 years, Downtown L.A. became vibrant as it built ties to the south, reaching USC and Exposition Park.

Now, from the Walt Disney Concert Hall to the California Science Center, a dynamic innovation corridor is just beginning to flourish, receiving a boost in May as the Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use Committee formally adopted the MyFigueroa project, allowing the area on and around that well-known street to become inclusive and more welcoming to pedestrians, transit riders, cyclists and drivers. Construction is slated to begin at the end of 2014 and finish up by end 2015.

At USC Annenberg we’ve long been advocating for such a transformation, with Annenberg’s Dean Ernest J. Wilson III writing of the power of an interrelated “quad” of sectors: public, private, civil, and academic. Meanwhile, our faculty’s research demonstrates that innovation thrives on clusters: interconnected businesses, creativity across sectors and fluid jobs.

The proposed innovation corridor taps a rich ecology of experimental media, arts and technology start-ups, education and civic institutions that already surround the area, with deep ties to the diverse communities of Los Angeles. All this innovation cluster needs now are the connections that facilitate the free flow of people and ideas. There are too few congenial places along Figueroa for innovators to meet informally, run into one another and have serendipitous conversations that spark new ideas and projects. Innovation is about flow—about informal encounters rather than formal meetings, when people can connect unexpectedly.

This has the potential to be deeply transformative for Los Angeles. As Figueroa begins to feel less like a freeway and more like a boulevard, it will foster a network of tightly woven institutions that welcome ideas—and export bold ideas to the world. From here on, Figueroa will serve as a vital artery along which Los Angeles’ innovative energies can flow freely.

*Based on an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times

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