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May 2024 Alumni Spotlight – Robert Rearden, ’03

Robert Rearden (Bachelor of Music, horn performance) is a member of the National Symphony Orchestra. He serves on the horn faculty and is the brass coordinator at the Peabody Institute. We recently caught up with Bob to ask him questions about his time at the USC School of Music.

Why did you choose the USC School of Music?  

I chose USC because I wanted to study horn with Robert Pruzin.  

What ensemble(s) did you perform with while at USC? 

Carolina Band; Chamber Ensemble(s); USC Symphony Orchestra; USC Symphonic Band

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

Robert Pruzin was a pivotal figure at USC, both as a student and in my professional life afterward. Even though he passed away several years ago, his impact on my career continues. There isn't a day that goes by without me thinking, "What would Pruzin do?" His "Pruzin-isms" are always on my mind. He dedicated himself to instilling professionalism in all his students, and I'm grateful to him and USC for providing me with the education I needed for my career.  

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

USC provided me with a well-rounded education that equipped me with the necessary tools to pursue a career as an orchestral musician. One of the highlights for me was playing in the USC Symphony with Donald Portnoy. What made it truly exceptional was Dr. Portnoy's ability to bring in world-class soloists like Deborah Voigt, John Browning, Zuill Bailey, Awadagin Pratt and others. Being a part of these performances not only elevated the musicianship of me and my classmates but also instilled in us a strong sense of professionalism. James Copenhaver's leadership in the Band program was also instrumental in my development. His emphasis on precise intonation, rhythm, and a balanced sound pushed us all to become better musicians. I was also very fortunate to have oboe professor Rebecca Nagel as a chamber music coach. Her encouraging guidance of our woodwind quintet was pivotal in our success‚ and she taught us to love playing chamber music. I try to carry the enthusiasm she brought to us whenever I coach chamber music myself.  

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

Alongside the esteemed faculty I mentioned earlier, I've been reflecting on other teachers who made a significant impact on me at USC. Dr. Reginald Bain, who taught music theory, stands out in particular. Despite my being an average theory student, Dr. Bain's infectious passion for the subject made learning fun and engaging. Thanks to him, I found music theory unexpectedly enjoyable. Dr. Julie Hubbert's lectures on film music were so captivating that my friends and I would often continue discussing them over meals at IHOP or Cool Beans, perhaps en route to Five Points. And, Dr. John Fitz Rogers started the Southern Exposure new music ensemble, which I joined on the invitation of one of my friends. This experience sparked my interest in performing works by living composers. It was also during one of our concerts that I made my debut (and final performance) on the brake drum and triangle!  

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

For performers, my advice would be to learn the ability to be resilient. This business can be tough, and you’re going to face a lot of rejection. The key is to keep at it, stay motivated, and focus on what’s coming up next. Always have a “next thing”
on the horizon. And, for future educators, I would say try to be empathetic but not without expectation. Mr. Pruzin once said to me, “I don’t want excuses; I want results.” He knew I could do better, and I think that’s what made him a great teacher; we can all learn how to help push our students when they need so they can reach toward their full potential.

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

I'm incredibly thankful for my position in the horn section of the National Symphony, which has also opened the door to teaching at Peabody Institute. The education I received at USC laid the foundation for success, and I'm deeply grateful to all the faculty and staff who contributed to the excellence of the School of Music.

You can listen to Bob’s recent recording here.

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