USC Latino Pop Class Crosses Language, Cultural Barriers

Class helmed by Andy Abad, first Latino instructor with Popular Music Program

By LatinoLA Contributor, USC Media Relations
Published on LatinoLA: May 2, 2013

USC Latino Pop Class Crosses Language, Cultural Barriers

As the first Latino instructor in the Popular Music Program at USC's Thornton School of Music, Andy Abad moves to a different beat. With the addition of a Latin Pop Ensemble class, he teaches students of all backgrounds how to master these rhythms.

In collaboration with his colleagues, the new Latin Pop Ensemble Class welcomed its first students in January, many of whom are non-Spanish speakers.

The inaugural class has double the number of expected students. Seventeen students are enrolled in the class, only three of whom are Hispanic.

Typically, students can be found singing in Spanish and playing music from artists such as Juanes, Ricky Martin, Los Panchos, Santana, Selena, Carlos Vives and others.

"The Latin music industry is growing along with the changing demographics of
the nation. It has been a part of the fabric of American pop music for decades. The new Latin Pop Ensemble class at USC allows students to trace this history through performance and provides an edge to their popular music training," said Abad, an adjunct instructor at USC Thornton.

The goal of the class is to develop an understanding of a variety of Latin music styles, and their application toward popular music through the study of selected repertoire.

The class meets once a week and is open primarily to all Popular Music students.

Highlights from the class include:
‘«ů Developing skills for a Latin music ensemble
‘«ů Singing and interpreting the Spanish language
‘«ů Developing ensemble, communication and
musical direction
‘«ů Emphasizing the historic and contextual backgrounds of the
musical genres
‘«ů Giving students coaching and feedback on their performances

According to Abad, the addition of the Latin Pop Ensemble class is important to the Popular Music Program because Latin music has had a tremendous impact on American popular music since the 1920s.

From the mambo craze of the 40s and 50s, to salsa in the 70s, to Cuban-influenced pop from Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine in the 80s, students are studying the influence of Latino music through the decades.

Abad, a native Angelino who is of Mexican and Ecuadorian decent, was recruited by USC when the Popular Music Program debuted in 2009. Abad plays acoustic, electric, African, Spanish and tres guitars, among others, and his musical training began with the accordion at age 10. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from USC Thornton School of Music.

With a professional musical career spanning over 23 years, Abad has collaborated with many top recording artists from both the English and Spanish-language music industries.

Among the artists with whom Abad has worked with include Pepe Aguilar, Marc Anthony, Cristian Castro, Juan Gabriel, Ricky Martin and Paulina Rubio.

He also has played with many popular English-language artists such as
Backstreet Boys, Michael Bolton, Josh Groban and Bonnie Raitt, among others.

Abad is also the producer of the Latin GRAMMY nominated group Trio Ellas, whose album Con Ustedes ‘«™ Trio Ellas was recognized in the best ranchero album category this year. One of the trio's members is currently a senior in the Popular Music Program.

"The Latin Pop class with Professor Abad represents the beginning of many new directions for the Popular Music program," said Chris Sampson, Vice Dean of Contemporary Music and Founding Director of the USC Popular Music program. "Our goal is to expand the opportunities for students so that they will be involved in Americana bands, Fusion bands, Country bands and many more. The idea is to develop a complete musician who will be ready for any style in the profession. Professor Abad has set a tremendous example to be followed."

"As a professional drummer, it's important for me to understand Latin musical influences, and how traditional Brazilian/Afro-Cuban rhythms, percussion parts and their drum-set adaptations translate in pop music. This class has taught me how to play with additional percussion players, which has improved my musical sensibilities," said Logan Shrewsbury, USC Thornton School of Music senior.

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