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School of Music

  • October 2023 Alumni Spotlight

Oct. 2023 Alumni Spotlight - Kevin Rogers

Kevin Rogers, ’09

Kevin Rogers (Bachelor of Music, violin performance) is the founder and violinist in Friction Quartet, violinist in Ninth Planet and a rostered member in the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. He is also the Community Engagement Manager at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. We recently caught up with Kevin to ask him some questions about his time at the USC School of Music.

Why did you choose the USC School of Music?  

When I was a senior in high school, I was deliberating between USC, Furman University, and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Of all the private instructors, I really enjoyed Dr. William Terwilliger’s teaching style the most. While technique is an emphasis for so many teachers, Dr. Terwilliger made a point to unify technique with musical decisions. They walk hand in hand as opposed to being mastered separately. I always appreciated that approach. 

I really loved the campus, the large university feeling. It enabled me to take wonderful courses outside of music.  Something which set me up for a lot of success in my academic class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. 

I earned a very well-rounded, general education alongside a music education that was on par with conservatory training. The general foundation though, has really given me an advantage over some of my peers who only had conservatory training. 

– Kevin Rogers

What ensembles did you perform with while at USC? 

I was in Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music Class, Jazz String Quartet (taught by Craig Butterfield) and the World Music Ensemble. 

What person, course or experience was most influential for you while at the School of Music? How?  

WOW, this is a hard question. I’m going to ignore the question slightly and offer a few examples which I think best represent what is so special about the USC experience. 

First off, my private teacher Dr. Terwilliger was a huge influence on me.  He wasn’t just a great teacher, making sure the music was always served by how we play the instrument, but also a great human being. When I struggled with interpersonal conflicts, passing classes, or mental health, he was always there to be supportive of me. He supported my goals musically, never belittling them or telling me they should go in one direction or another. By allowing me to lead the way, giving me space while also supporting my needs, he created an environment where I could really thrive. 

Second would be my colleagues that I played with, like Micah Gangwer. He was there in the graduate string quartet. I learned so much just by sitting next to him in chamber orchestra and symphony orchestra.  His sound was so developed and silky, and his natural way of playing was inspiring. You can learn a lot just by listening and playing with people who sound way better than you. And Micah was that person for me. 

And third would be my music theory classes with Dr. Reginald Bain. I had him for every theory course I could take, from basic music theory into more advanced classes. He had a delightful way of making connections between similar sounds in different contexts. We learned jazz theory; we learned about the acoustics that set up some of the frameworks for music theory; and we learned how to apply these things into our music making. Over a decade later, I am still using the skills I learned from Dr. Bain in the work I do as a chamber musician and contemporary music performer. 

How has your education at the USC School of Music helped you in your life and career? 

I earned a very well-rounded, general education alongside a music education that was on par with conservatory training. The general foundation though, has really given me an advantage over some of my peers who only had conservatory training. My writing skills helped me with writing program notes and writing grants. I also had the opportunity to study Jazz, something my peers have been envious about. And I will say being versed in multiple genres has made me competitive in a highly saturated musical market. The USC School of Music made me a whole musician, one who can “hang” with those who specialize in only one type of music making. 

What is one of your favorite memories, classes, professors or activities while attending the School of Music? 

I loved the Southern Exposure Concert Series. Being a huge new music lover, this was an incredible asset. I learned about so many wonderful composers and got to see the best examples of contemporary music ensembles. I still think back on several of these concerts as some of the best I’ve ever seen. 

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates pursuing a music performance or music education career? 

The most important thing is to get your time management under control and to be consistent. Consistency will trump talent in the long run. The slow drip of water can drill through a stone. Figure out what times you are most productive and carve out that time for your most important tasks (good idea to make this your practice time block). Focusing on doing work every day, as opposed to doing as much work as possible.  View things holistically: your physical and mental health, your financial health, your friendships and social support systems, your quality-of-life activities, these are all things that are of central importance in both your time at school and when you graduate. The enthusiasm for music and projects that matter to you will come easily. It’s the getting them accomplished bit that takes the work. 

What is one of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating from the School of Music in which your education played a role?

I’m very fortunate to have many I could share. Perhaps the most meaningful was being able to perform Black Angels by George Crumb at Carnegie Hall. I bought a Kronos Quartet CD when I was 16 that had Black Angels on it. I listened to that piece and was completely transported. I knew immediately that I wanted to play music like that, to make a string quartet dedicated to that. I eventually did, starting Friction Quartet in 2011. And in 2018 or so, we were invited by Carnegie Hall to play Black Angels specifically. It felt like a huge culmination of all the hard effort and work towards my dream.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.