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Summer 2007

News & Notes On All Things Trojan

A $4 Billion Economic Engine

USC is both the largest private employer in Los Angeles and its biggest private-sector export industry.

USC is responsible for $4 billion annually in economic activity in Los Angeles County alone, according to a recent economic impact analysis.

It is also the City of Los Angeles’ largest private employer, providing jobs for 26,446 people during the last fiscal year. USC’s economic activity produced another 16,318 non-USC jobs in the regional economy. In fiscal year 2005-06, USC injected $1.86 billion into the economy with an estimated additional indirect and induced output of more than $2.14 billion in Los Angeles County.

“Economic Impact Analysis of the University of Southern California Annual Operations: Fiscal Year 2005-06” was prepared by the international consulting firm Economics Research Associates. The data include the impacts of USC’s academic spending, but not the direct spending or impacts of USC-affiliated hospitals.

The study is the most far-reaching analysis of USC’s spending power ever conducted. It confirmed what experts knew – that the university is an economic powerhouse – but the numbers exceeded all assumptions.

 The report found that:

• Every $1 million spent by USC in the region supports 10.6 full-time equivalent jobs;
• For every dollar spent by USC in Los Angeles County, an additional 39 cents of economic output was created in the regional economy;
• The university’s 32,000 students annually spend $406 million in the economy;
• Its visitors bring more than $12.3 million in direct expenditures to the local economy;
• Its capital construction expenditures last year totaled more than $207 million.

“The university has always been an incredible asset to the city and the region as a whole,” says USC President Steven B. Sample. “Since its founding more than 125 years ago, USC has been there to meet the needs of this ever-growing and ever more important part of the world.

“Today, Los Angeles has a role of global importance – it is the de facto capital city of the Pacific Rim. USC is better positioned than ever to significantly impact not only the region’s economy but the world’s as well.”

Not only is USC the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles, but it is L.A.’s biggest export industry in the private sector, attracting more dollars from outside Los Angeles’ economy than any private corporation in the city.

“We knew USC was a huge economic engine for Southern California, and these study results reveal just how big the piece of economic pie the institution has in the region,” says study author David Bergman of Economics Research Associates. “The fact that USC accounts for one-hundredth of a percent of the state’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product] is very significant. California is the fifth largest economy in the world.

“Through its purchases of goods and services, USC is a significant contributor to the economy of downtown and central Los Angeles. If you look at purely private institutions, I would be hard-pressed to think of any single employer in Southern California that would have as much of an economic impact,” Bergman added.

–  James Grant

The full economic impact study can be found on the Web at www.usc.edu/community/economy.


Illustration by Michael Klein


Aging on a Fixed Income

The new USC Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology focuses on low-income and minority seniors.

USC recently unveiled a research and education center devoted to improving the health and health care of older persons from low-income and multiethnic communities.

The USC Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology expands on the university’s established leadership in the field of aging education and research.

“Minority ethnic groups comprise the fastest-growing segment within the U.S. aging population – and there is an increasing need for research, education and outreach to address the particular needs of these groups,” says Provost C. L. Max Nikias.

Based at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology as part of the Andrus Gerontology Center, the institute draws on expertise in the USC Andrus Gerontology Center and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Named for Rep. Edward R. Roybal – who served in Congress for 30 years – the institute was formerly housed at Cal State Los Angeles. In bringing the institute to USC, the Roybal family hopes to further the 15-term congressman’s goals by developing programs that emphasize health promotion and disease prevention, aging demographics and cultural dimensions of aging.

“USC’s commitment to the causes my father cared so much about and its demonstrated tradition of serving the community make the USC campus an ideal setting for the Roybal Institute,” says Lucille Roybal-Allard, representative for California’s 34th district.

A primary goal of the new institute is to establish a repository for research data that contributes to an understanding of the needs of low-income and minority communities and allows for the development of programs that improve services locally, nationally and internationally.

According to USC gerontology dean Gerald Davison, the institute also will provide education and training for students interested in careers in the field of aging, as well as training for volunteers, older persons and their families or caregivers.

“The variety of services and opportunities provided by the Roybal Center will continue this legacy as we seek to address aging and its impact on all members and all aspects of our society,” Davison says.

Jorge J. Lambrinos, Edward Roybal’s longtime chief of staff who directed the institute at Cal State L.A., continues in that role at USC.


Edward R. Roybal


›› TACTICAL IRAQI The Tactical Iraqi video game, which teaches soldiers the basics of foreign language and cultural customs, was the topic of a briefing for California congressional staffers given in Washington, D.C., by W. Lewis Johnson, director of the Center for Advanced Research in Technology for Education at USC’s Information Sciences Institute. One of his goals was to stress the importance of funding basic research by the Department of Defense. Players of Tactical Iraqi and other Tactical Language games manipulate characters in a geographic environment, conversing with game characters in foreign languages.

›› NEW D.C. DIGS The director of the National Institutes of Health, Elias A. Zerhouni, met with USC trustees, senior administrators, deans, faculty and staff in March as part of the inauguration of the university’s new Washington, D.C., center. Zerhouni told the group that American universities receive 80 percent of the NIH annual budget of about $29 billion. He said that future life sciences research will build on the “hardware” discoveries of the past, such as X-rays and DNA, to explore the “software” of biology.  “If, 25 years from now, we practice medicine the same way, we will have lost the game,” he said.

›› NOTHING BUT NET Simon Wilkie, executive director of the Center for Communication Law and Policy and USC Annenberg Center senior fellow, gave a presentation on “Net Neutrality” at a Federal Trade Commission workshop. He spoke on competition policies to academics, technologists, economists and consumer advocates concerned about the issues surrounding the regulatory framework of the Internet.

›› RISKY LOANS A California Senate committee heard some disturbing news from Raphael Bostic, professor in the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development. He told the panel that about half of California home loans are riskier, non-traditional loans, compared to a national average of one-third. The exposure to these loans is unprecedented, Bostic said, adding that the regulatory oversight “is relatively lax.” Bostic is doing research on non-traditional loans.

For the latest on USC faculty and administrative news, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews




›› BUSINESS LEADER Rick J. Caruso ’80, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, a high-profile developer of open-air malls, has been elected to the USC Board of Trustees. Caruso Affiliated’s portfolio comprises more than 35 properties nationwide, with a particularly strong presence in Southern California through projects such as The Grove in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district and The Americana at Brand, currently under construction in Glendale and slated for opening in spring 2008. He has served on the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development’s board of councilors since 1989.
›› ENGINEER Ming Hsieh ’83, MS ’84 has been elected to the USC Board of Trustees. He is the founder and CEO of Cogent, a South Pasadena-based high-technology company that supplies automated fingerprint and other identification systems to governments, law enforcement agencies and corporations worldwide. Hsieh emigrated from China to the United States to attend USC, and three years after graduating he founded his first company, AMAX Technology. His $35 million donation to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering helped create the school’s largest department, the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering.

›› ENTREPRENEUR David L. Lee, co-founder and managing general partner of Clarity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in communications, media and related technology companies, has been elected to the USC Board of Trustees. A founding member and chair of the Board of Overseers of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Lee helped craft a business plan for the school’s 10-year strategic plan. He serves on the boards of several communications and media companies and is a trustee of Caltech. His family foundation has provided grants to establish centers for advanced networking at Caltech and the National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.

People Watch

American Revolution Idol

Peter Mancall achieves celebrity status, lecturing on the roots of independence for The Teaching Company.

If professors competed for the academic equivalent of American Idol, Peter Mancall would be a winner. The USC College historian and anthropologist was recently signed by The Teaching Company, an elite provider of higher-education content that hand-picks its “talent” with as much care and fanfare as the top-rated TV show. 

“We’re looking for the very best lecturers in the entire country, not just in one school,” says Lucinda Robb, a vice president at the Virginia-based business, which has offered lectures from “the best university professors in the country” for nearly two decades. Designed for general audiences, the lectures come in various formats, from DVDs and CDs to audio downloads available on the company’s Web site.

Of the nation’s nearly 500,000 college professors, The Teaching Company identifies what it believes to be the top 1 percent, based on teaching awards, published evaluations and word-of-mouth. The company doesn’t consider a professor’s publications (though Mancall has plenty of those, including four scholarly books and eight edited editions). Or one’s status as a media darling or public intellectual (Mancall also directs the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.) Instead, it is looking for good old-fashioned, off-the-charts teaching excellence.

“We travel the country from Harvard to Stanford,” says Robb, surveying faculty and students in search of exceptional lecturers. “Students are brutally honest,” she adds, “but they are very often spot-on.”

The Teaching Company sent a scout to tape a session of Mancall lecturing at USC. Company officials and longtime customers scrutinized the recording. Based on such tapes, one in 20 professors is invited to corporate headquarters in Virginia for a live audition. Mancall made the cut.

“I did a 30-minute lecture at their studio and went home again,” Mancall recalls. The company sent that audition recording to hundreds of longtime customers, who rated its quality. In the end, only one in 5,000 professors is chosen, company officials say. Mancall is the first USC faculty member to be so honored.

Mancall had it all, recruiters determined. A gifted professor. Enthusiastic. A great communicator. Captivating.

An expert on early American and Native American history, he was recruited to teach a course called “Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution.” His 48-lecture series details the political movement that ended British control and created a new nation – the United States of America.

The lectures were taped in 30-minute sessions – ideal for commuters. No credit or degrees are offered with the course.

It took three weeks to videotape the lectures inside the company’s studio near Washington, D.C. Although Mancall enjoyed the experience, he missed his students.

“Students are so smart, and they challenge what we think. Teaching is really back and forth. When I did these lectures, I missed that,” he says. “It’s not like teaching in the way that I do it.”

But there was one aspect Mancall could get used to.

“I’ll be honest,” he says. “I didn’t mind not having to grade midterm exams.”

–  Pamela J. Johnson


Illustration by Tim Bower

A Conversation with MIDORI

Fit as a Fiddle

The acclaimed violinist reflects on her teaching philosophy and the nation’s musical health.

She’s one of the world’s few musicians recognizable by her first name. (For the record, her full name is Midori Goto.) Performing since the age of 7, Midori became an instant legend at 14 when, The New York Times recounts, “she took the stage at Tanglewood to perform Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade under his baton and soldiered through two broken strings to a stunning finale.”  Midori joined USC in 2004 as holder of the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin. Her worldwide concert schedule notwithstanding, she is an active presence on campus, appearing frequently with student chamber groups, keeping up her private studio for a handful of promising violinists and overseeing the Midori Center for Community Engagement. She found time to speak with USC Trojan Family Magazine’s Allison Engel.

How did you become involved in music at such a young age? The instrument was a regular presence in my life from the very beginning, as my mother is a violinist, and her students were always around our house. My inclination toward the violin came quite naturally in a typical child’s way of wanting to emulate her mother.

What can you tell me about your violin? It is an Italian 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu ex-Hubermann violin that I have played for eight years. It is on a lifetime loan from the Hayashibara Foundation.

You give more than 100 concerts a year. What kind of adjustments do you have to make to keep such a busy schedule, both on and off stage? I fly to every concert outside of the Los Angeles area, so I’m pretty much traveling a part of the week every week. I try to come back to L.A. at least once a week, even if it’s only for 24 hours to give lessons. I don’t like to be away from my students.

For a while, you taught simultaneously at the Manhattan School of Music and USC. What made you decide to teach full-time at USC? The most important reason is that I wanted to work at a school where Robert Cutietta is the dean. He is a fantastic leader and visionary, and I continue to be motivated to be in the school where he is. Equally important is the department. Our string department is imbued with a wonderfully warm and caring atmosphere, which is felt by students. In addition, I like the university setting with a wider range of interests and resources than a conservatory.

Over the past several semesters, you performed with a number of undergraduate and graduate student-based quartets. By playing the second violin part in these ensembles, you create an environment in which your students become equal partners. Is playing with students different from playing with professionals? With students, making music together can mean an important shared process of learning. I keep the same group, most of the time, for two semesters. I usually have two groups per semester, an undergrad group and a graduate group. My own chamber music learning experience took place, for the most part, at the Marlboro Music Festival. There, older musicians take the supportive role to younger musicians, letting them take lead parts.

Tell me more about your teaching philosophy. My teaching philosophy – if one could call it such – revolves around three basic elements: health, honesty and dignity. These are the pillars of ethics by which my students are encouraged to pursue their studies. To try to achieve the first two is quite a challenge, and the third is to accept the issues with dignity.

Last year, you created the Midori Center for Community Engagement at USC. What is its purpose? It’s a resource, research and training center related to working with the community through music. The training component is designed to guide young musicians toward truly engaging audiences through their art. To be a musician today requires skills, of which performing is only one. The center aims to formally train and prepare musicians for such responsibilities expected in their future careers. 

To learn more about Midori, visit her Web site, www.gotomidori.com


Photo by Philip Channing


That’s Professor Zemeckis!

The director returns to teach a high-tech filmmaking course in the building that bears his name.

What’s it like to make a live-action movie with characters and settings calling for animation? Last spring, a group of USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate students got to find out when director Robert Zemeckis ’73 and digital systems specialist Eric Furie taught the inaugural semester of CTAN 599: “Motion Capture Performance.”

Zemeckis pioneered the large-scale use of performance capture in feature films such as The Polar Express (2004), Monster House (2006) and the soon-to-be-released Beowulf (2007).  Computer animation lab director Richard Weinberg called the director’s participation in this class “monumental.”

For his part, Zemeckis says: “Performance capture has changed the way I make movies. I’m thrilled that I’m able to help the next generation of filmmakers with this new technology.”

The class, which filled in record time, was conducted at the Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts, which the Oscar-winning director helped build with a $5 million donation back in 1998. The center opened in 2001.

In addition to benefiting from their world-famous instructor’s expertise, students gained hands-on experience with the Vicon MX motion capture system featuring 16 cameras – the same one Zemeckis used in his digitally rendered live-action movies.

“This system is brand new and very high-end,” says Furie. Vicon also had donated the previous eight-camera system to the Zemeckis Center, back in 2001. “With the new cameras, we’ll be able to capture more detail, grabbing facial and body data all at the same time exactly like Zemeckis does for his films. It’s really impressive.”

In addition to the Vicon capture and data system, students worked with Motionbuilder software by AutoDesk, and utilized Face Robot, a sophisticated program by Softimage, a subsidiary of Avid. “The complexity of facial expressions has made it very difficult for animators to convey the full range of human emotions realistically,” Weinberg says. “The new technologies that we are exploring here should allow us to do incredibly intricate facial animation.”

As they worked with Zemeckis, students experienced firsthand the director’s exacting process. They completed 2-minute exercises in which they wrote a scene, captured data and performers, and then returned to shoot the camera side. Once the camera was added to the scene, the students edited the rendered video on Avid’s Media Composer.

“We really struck a chord with our students with this class,” Furie says.

- James Tella


Robert Zemeckis

[ TOP TWISTER ] King of the Cube

Sophomore Chris Krueger has one of the fastest times in the world in his sport, though he practices only when he feels like it. “Nothing dedicated,” he says. And when he competes, he does so with eyes closed. Krueger is a champion “speed cuber,” and his sport consists of solving the multi-colored Rubik’s Cube puzzle in record time, using only one hand or while blindfolded. A biology and Chinese double major, Krueger was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education last winter during a San Francisco contest sponsored by the Caltech Rubik’s Cube Club. Krueger solved that puzzle, blindfolded, in slightly over two minutes. At a competition in Idaho in March, he did even better, with a blindfolded solve of 1:39 minutes – earning him the rank of third-fastest speed cuber in the world. How does he do it? Krueger says the key is memorizing the patterns on the puzzle from the 20 movable pieces, each with its proper placement and orientation. Krueger, who hails from Denver, didn’t pick up a cube until his freshman year at USC. While Troy boasts other “cubers,” no one else enters competions. The sport is more popular in China, where Krueger has every intention of trying his hand. While studying abroad at Peking University next year, he says he plans to organize the first Chinese national speed cube competition. 

For everything you may want to know about speed cubing, visit www.speedcubing.com


Illustration by Tim Bower

Lab Work

Kicking the Habit

Nicotine addiction depends on a healthy insula, a region of the brain linked to emotion and feelings.

Smokers with a damaged insula – a region in the brain linked to emotion and feelings – quit smoking easily and immediately. Those are the astonishing findings of a study by two USC neuroscientists and their former students at USC College.

Published in the journal Science, the research offers direct evidence of smoking’s grip on the brain. It also raises the possibility that other addictive behaviors may have an equally strong hold on neural circuits for pleasure.

“This is the first study of its kind to use brain lesions to study a drug addiction in humans,” says Nasir Naqvi, first author on the study, now a medical student at University of Iowa. The senior authors are Antoine Bechara and Hanna Damasio, both faculty in USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. 

The report has received widespread attention. It was front-page news in The New York Times and was the paper’s most e-mailed article from its Web site.

In the 1990s, Antonio Damasio – husband of researcher Hanna Damasio and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute – proposed the insula as a “platform for feelings and emotion.” The Science study shows that the pleasure of smoking appears to rest on this platform.

“It’s really intriguing to think that disrupting this region breaks the pleasure feelings associated with smoking,” he says. “It is immediate. It’s not that they smoke less. They don’t smoke, period.”

The finding that one small region could be the Achilles’ heel of smoking addiction is especially surprising, given the brain-wide effects of nicotine on the nervous system.

It raises the question of whether damage to the insula also could cause a person to quit other addictive behaviors. Can a brain lesion cure one’s bad habits?

The answer is not yet known, Bechara says, but he suggested the phenomenon could be “generalizable” regarding alcohol abuse, overeating and other addictions.

Deliberately damaging the insula is not an option as a smoking-cessation strategy. Even if it weren’t an essential part of the brain, the small island is fully enclosed by the cerebral cortex and highly inaccessible. Most study participants sustained damage to the insula as a result of stroke.

The discovery of the insula’s role in addiction opens new directions for therapies, Bechara says, including possible drugs targeted to a region that “no one paid attention to. There is a lot of potential for pharmacological developments,” he says.

Any treatment, he cautions, would need to preserve the beneficial functions of the insula, which appears to be involved in learned behaviors rather than the fundamental drives necessary for survival. It might be possible to target one without disrupting the other, he notes.

Hanna Damasio, co-director of the institute, stresses the difference between habitual and instinctive behaviors.

“Because the insula is now recognized as a key structure in processes of emotion and feeling, the fact that insular damage breaks down a learned habit such as smoking demonstrates a powerful link between habit and emotion or feeling,” she says.

- Carl Marziali


Bechara (left) and Damasio

Photo by Philip Channing


[FREEWAY ALERT] Exhausted Lungs

Children living near a major highway are not only more likely to develop asthma or other respiratory diseases, but their lung development also may be stunted. According to a study appearing in The Lancet, researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC found that kids living within 500 meters (about a third of a mile) of a freeway since age 10 had substantial deficits in lung function by the age of 18, compared to children living at least 1,500 meters (about a mile) away. The study drew widespread interest in national and international media. “Someone suffering a pollution-related deficit in lung function as a child will probably have less than healthy lungs all of his or her life,” says lead author W. James Gauderman, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School. “And poor lung function in later adult life is known to be a major risk factor for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.” 

For more information on the study, visit http://uscnews.usc.edu/more/13313




Seeing Progress

FDA approves study of an artificial retina that can detect human faces, a major leap in combatting blindness.

People blinded by two common diseases of the retina are one step closer to regaining some of their lost sight, says ophthalmologist Mark Humayun of the USC Doheny Eye Institute.

He and colleagues recently rolled out a second generation of their implanted artificial retina. The original device had enabled users – six patients blinded by macular degeneration – to make out 16 pixels of information, enough to identify simple objects and detect movement.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has approved a clinical study of a newer robotic device – dubbed the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. The implantable technology is a collaborative effort between USC and Second Sight Medical Products, the device’s manufacturer.

While the first generation of implants contained 16 electrodes, the Argus II sports 60 electrodes. It is also approximately one-quarter the size of the original, reducing the invasiveness of surgery and recovery times.

The array is attached to the retina and used in conjunction with an external camera and video-processing system to provide a rudimentary form of sight to implanted subjects.

A more sophisticated version of this implant could be commercially available within two years, according to Humayun. “The models suggest 1,000 pixels will be enough for face recognition, and we hope to get there in five to seven years,” says the Keck School professor, who is associate director of research at the Doheny Retina Institute.

Some 25 million people around the world, including 6 million in the United States, have been blinded or are severely visually impaired due to diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. By 2020, that figure is expected to double.

– Jon Weiner


Illustration by Michael Klein

Inquiring MINDS

›› SMART AND FORGETFUL Well-educated adults over age 70 forget words at a greater rate than those with less education, according to a study directed by Eileen Crimmins of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. More education is related to better cognitive performance at any given age. However, the memories of those with the highest education dropped the most after 70. Educated adults do better on tests that look for dementia, but education does not protect against normal, age-related memory declines, the authors found. 

›› REGENERATING CHOPPERS Stem cells were used to successfully regenerate parts of teeth and restore tooth function in animals in research undertaken at USC and the National Institutes of Health. USC dental researcher Songtao Shi and colleagues utilized stem cells harvested from extracted wisdom teeth to create sufficient root and ligament structure to support a crown restoration. The breakthrough holds significant promise for application in humans.

›› BLUE REVOLUTION Ocean farming needs to follow the “Green Revolution” that multiplied crop yields, contend Donal Manahan and Dennis Hedgecock, professors in biological sciences in USC College. Working with oysters – which could become “the soybean of the sea,” helping to feed the world’s hungry masses – the two found the number of genes that determine growth rate. They also discovered the genes responsible for hybrid vigor, which favors biodiversity. Their research has relevance for genomics, aquaculture and agriculture.

›› CHICKEN FEATHERS Studying the development of chicken feathers may hold the answers to a number of health-related questions for humans, says a group of pathologists in the Keck School of Medicine of USC. In the laboratory of Cheng-Ming Chuong, professor of pathology, researchers study feather development to see how stem cells can be engineered into different tissue patterns. The multidisciplinary research may shed light on developmental disorders, evolutionary biology and even tissue engineering of stem cells.

For the latest USC faculty research updates, visit www.usc.edu/research



Arts & Culture

Going for Baroque

Taking the starch out of early music, USC Thornton’s Adam Gilbert has been finding ways to make it fun.

Ignoring the old proverb “if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it,” the new director of USC Thornton’s Early Music Program is on a mission to prove that early music is alive and well, and totally accessible.

It started with an open jam session in USC Fisher Gallery on that Elizabethan chart topper, “Greensleeves.” That was in November. The following month, Fisher reverberated with the hybrid harmonies of a Bolivian-Jesuit Christmas. An intriguing blend of Baroque and indigenous elements, this music was composed by colonial Spanish priests for the specific purpose of converting the locals to Christianity.

In February, Adam Gilbert converted United University Church itself into a European cathedral, a walled city, a battlefield. His six-piece Ensemble Ciaramella gave an ear-ringing demonstration of how Renaissance royals liked to make a grand entrance. The noisiest instruments of the day – trumpets, bagpipes and organs (“think of a shipping crate with keys,” Gilbert helpfully illustrates) – provided the Renaissance equivalent of a campaign song for the likes of Lorenzo de Medici, Philip the Fair and the Hapsburg emperor Maximilian I. This was music deliberately crafted to send a message of political and military power.

By mid-semester, it was plain to see that Gilbert was on a roll in his bid to spark a renaissance in Renaissance music. But why even bother dusting off those parchment manuscripts? Because, Gilbert says insistently, “This is not museum music. It’s still living!”

Adam Gilbert joined USC in 2005 to take over for the retiring James Tyler, founding director of the USC Thornton Early Music Ensemble (now the USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia). On top of his roles as director of the sinfonia and of the Early Music Program, Gilbert carries a full course load in music history and recorder performance. Among the world’s top shawm (ancient oboe) players, he also knows his way around the Renaissance bagpipe and early double reeds like the dulcian, a forerunner of the bassoon.

But first and foremost, Gilbert is an advocate for Renaissance arts and culture as a living, breathing thing.

It didn’t take him long to find kindred spirits at USC. Historian Peter Mancall, who directs the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, jumped at the chance to underwrite a six-part historic music series organized by Gilbert. Some events – like the “Greensleeves” jam session, put the emphasis on audience participation. Others, like the Bolivian-Jesuit Christmas concert, are about hands-on learning for students in Gilbert’s Renaissance performance classes. Mostly made up of vocal, string and wind students, that group goes by the name of “USC Collegium.”

Other concerts are meant to encourage critical thinking. In March, Gilbert invited a Newman Hall crowd to listen and decide for themselves whether Henry Purcell and Jean-Philippe Rameau would have approved of 21st-century performances of their music. A combined demonstration-concert-discussion, “Music the Way It’s S’posed to Be” was sponsored by the student-centered Visions & Voices arts and humanities initiative; it featured a pre-concert talk by acclaimed lutenist and Boston University musicologist Victor Coelho, who drew unexpected parallels between today’s pop and the Baroque scene: for example, both put great stock in improvisation.

The audience-participation events are open to musicians and non-musicians alike. “I’m interested in bridging the gap between professional music and the university community at large,” says Gilbert. He reports spotting a bookstore employee and a janitor with his young daughter among the audience-participants at the Renaissance jam session.

Meanwhile, the Thornton Baroque Sinfonia continues to do what it has always done: give USC musicians a platform for early music concertizing. No longer an arcane niche, this booming repertoire and performance style has steadily gained favor with musicians looking to expand their versatility. The sinfonia gave a concert of 17th- and 18th-century Italian songs and dances in October and an evening of Teutonic courtly music in December. It closed the season with an April celebration to the vernal spirit.

Gilbert and the USC-Huntington Institute offered three more early music pleasures during the month of April:

• A concert of British broadside ballads. These popular songs from the 17th century are named for the large, unfolded press sheets on which they were printed.

• USC Collegium performed jaunty music in praise of Fortuna, the Renaissance goddess of luck.

• Most intriguing, perhaps, was an all-day workshop on shape-note singing. In this traditional a capella style, dozens of participants form an open square and sing hymns arranged in haunting three-part harmony.

But what do 19th-century hymns have to do with early music?

“I’m interested in ‘early music’ – anybody’s early music!” replies Gilbert, the impresario. Besides, adds Gilbert, the scholar, the harmonies in shape-note singing are closely related to Renaissance music.

–  Diane Krieger


Adam Gilbert

Photo by Roger Snider



Industry Laurels

February brought its usual burst of golden statuettes for musicians and filmmakers with USC pedigrees.

The Motion Picture Academy smiled on three USC alumni who walked away with Oscars at the 79th Annual Academy Awards.

And the winners were …

Superstar and USC theatre alum Forest Whitaker ’82 earned the coveted Best Actor award for his extraordinary portrayal of Ugandan despot Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

Recent graduate Ari Sandel ’05 took the prize for Best Live-Action Short Film. His finger-snapping musical about competing Israeli and Palestinian falafel stands, West Bank Story, was Sandel’s USC School of Cinematic Arts thesis film.

And computer graphics guru John Knoll ’84 – co-creator of the software Adobe Photoshop and a veteran effects supervisor for ILM – shared the Best Achievement in Visual Effects prize for his work with four other artists on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Two weeks earlier, Trojans had scored nine hits at the 2007 Grammy Awards.

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas ’67, MM ’76 went home with two golden gramophones: one for Best Classical Album and another for Best Orchestral Performance. Both were for his recording of Mahler’s  Symphony No. 7 with the San Francisco Symphony, where he is music director.

USC Thornton faculty member William Kanengiser ’81, MM ’83 won in the Best Opera Recording category for his classical guitar performance on the Deutsche Grammophon release of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar: Fountain of Tears. The album also raked in Grammies for the flamenco stylings of Adam Del Monte, a faculty member in studio/jazz guitar; and for classical guitarist Andrew York MM ’86. Two vocalists on the project took home statuettes, too: mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor ’02, who performed the leading role of Federico García Lorca, and soprano Jessica Rivera MM ’98, who sang the role of Nuria.

Drummer Peter Erskine, an adjunct professor of jazz studies, got the nod in the Best Large Ensemble Jazz Recording category for his work on the Randy Brecker album Some Skunk Funk. Sharing the honor was conductor/arranger Vince Mendoza MM ’85, a fellow jazz studies faculty member.

Last but definitely not least, faculty member Pepe Romero and his Romero Guitar Quartet received a Grammy Merit Award.


Forest Whitaker

Photo courtesy AMPAS


[CLASSY COMMUTE] Less Stress, More Strauss

Since December, four rolling ambassadors for classical music have been roaming the streets between Union Station and USC’s two campuses. A quartet of USC trams are completely wrapped in distinctive KUSC slogans and graphics – reminding pedestrians and motorists that the university-operated classical radio station is a place to escape the tensions of the world.  To wit: “Less Violence, More Violins.” They also pun shamelessly on major composers’ names. For example, “Less Holler, More Mahler,” and “Less Shock, More Bach.” The idea of wrapping USC’s shuttle buses first came up in conjunction with the university’s 125th anniversary celebration. “The trams are a blank canvas,” says USC director of transportation Ian Sephton. “It gives us a great opportunity to celebrate and promote the USC experience.” The KUSC wraps will stay on for two to three years, he says. 

– Allison Engel

To experience KUSC’s particular brand of relaxation, tune to 91.5 FM in Los Angeles or visit www.kusc.org

Photo by Milton Ordonez

Shelf Life

Blinded by the Lithe

A choir of reviewers says “amen” to a critique of the Gospel of Naught consuming America’s culinary beliefs.

The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong
By Barry Glassner

After five years of research into the food-consumption habits of our nation, USC sociology Barry Glassner concludes the old adage “You are what you eat” is no longer true. On the contrary, he says, in today’s culture, “You are what you don’t eat.”

Many Americans have fallen sway to killjoys who preach what he calls “the gospel of naught,” the view that the worth of a meal lies principally in what it lacks.

Their thinking is: “The less sugar, salt, fat, calories, carbs, preservatives, additives or other suspect stuff, the better the meal,” says Glassner, a professor of sociology in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

In his new book, The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong, Glassner confronts this and other culinary and nutritional beliefs that have become the dogma of American food culture.

With thorough research involving review of several thousand studies and interviews with a range of authorities, he debunks obesity theories and gets to the heart of the commercial, cultural and socioeconomic factors behind everything from why we glorify certain foods and demonize others to what our dining choices say about who we are.

Americans fall sway to nearly every myth about food imaginable, he concludes. And our picky behavior has led us to select foods and restaurant experiences that underscore our own romantic image of food – often at the expense of common sense.

“If I eat at The French Laundry in Napa or Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills, that projects an image of what I think about food as well as my status,” says Glassner, who is also USC’s executive vice provost. “Or, if I subscribe to Chowhound.com and search out an obscure restaurant that serves sugar-fried squid in Monterey Park, that projects another image entirely.”

Just as knowing where to get the most authentic foods projects an image, so does shunning certain foods or eating others labeled organic or “natural.”

“People believe natural means safer, better or purer, but these foods are often just as processed,” he says. “And natural isn’t always a good thing. ‘Natural’ invokes thoughts of a benevolent Mother Nature – but Mother Nature is responsible for fires, earthquakes and floods too,” Glassner notes.

Scientific studies that are the backbone of much of this gospel can lead the faithful into murky territory. Upon closer examination, they are often proven to be faulty, contradictory or in some cases outright bogus.

Even the governmental dietary guidelines that shape the healthful American diet are an amalgam that results from a compromise among its creators – a group of people with differing opinions and agendas. It’s neither pure nor based on definitive scientific studies and, when taken as gospel, is difficult to swallow.

Indeed, this joyless view of food may be one of the factors behind the obesity epidemic. While over-eating and poor nutrition are factors, there are clearer links, Glassner contends, with the proliferation of anti-smoking campaigns, chronic stress and the most ironic culprit of all – avoidance of foods we’ve been told will make us fat or sick.

“A great deal of evidence points in that direction,” Glassner says, citing a group of Harvard and Stanford researchers who observed that, for many people, “dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain.”

Glassner’s Gospel has attracted attention nationwide, garnering reviews in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, national magazines and segments on national radio programs. It is also sparking public discussions about food myths. For example, Glassner appeared with humorist  Sandra Tsing Loh at the Fine Arts Theater in Los Angeles to discuss current food obsessions.

Deborah Vankin, in a full-page review in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, calls the book “pure fun to read.” She describes it as an “exhaustive survey of contemporary food culture” that is “part journalism and social commentary” and “part culinary history and sociological analysis, with a little food gossip for good measure.”

Publishers Weekly agrees that the book is “formidably researched and footnoted,”  adding that Glassner “really does take on almost everything, from Atkins to vegans, with particularly hard jabs at those who, in the name of nutrition, take the fun out of food.”

In the end, Glassner says, enjoyment of food must be part of the picture.

“A piece of baked fish with a side of broccoli has its place when you’re looking for something light, but don’t tell a Tex Mex devotee that it beats a great carne asada burrito,” he says.

- Evelyn Jacobson and Allison Engel


Photo by Mark Tanner



Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson
By Tom Sito

“The unions are the one undeniable fact of life in Hollywood animation,” writes Tom Sito, adjunct professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts and former president of the Hollywood Animation Guild, in this labor history of the animation industry. As animation grew more popular, workers faced greater demands to produce while working in substandard conditions. Sito details the struggles and victories of the animators and their future.


Hakluyt’s Promise: An Elizabethan’s Obsession for an English America
By Peter C. Mancall

Years before many realized the advantages of establishing English colonies in the New World, Richard Hakluyt the younger devoted his time to editing travel accounts about the recently discovered western hemisphere. Peter C. Mancall, professor of history and anthropology, traces the life and contributions of the minister who became an international authority on overseas exploration despite never traveling further than Paris.


Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective
By Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernández-Ardèèvol, Jack Linchuan Qiu and Araba Sey

The rapid rise of wireless technology has changed how we conduct our day-to-day lives, but how does this affect us, at both the local and global level? Drawing on data gathered from around the world, Manuel Castells and Araba Sey of the USC Annenberg School for Communication, and two co-authors explore the social effects of wireless communication, addressing issues of access, inequality and how wireless technology affects politics and culture.

Faculty books can be purchased at Trojan Bookstore. Call 213-740-9030 or visit www.uscbookstore.com


For the Good of the Game

A fateful Trojan football contest in 1970 ended 140 years of segregation on the college gridiron.

Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South
by Don Yeager with Sam Cunningham and John Papadakis

College football changed forever one hot and humid night in Birmingham, Alabama. The year was 1970. The United States was riven by civil rights activity. Although the NFL had been integrated for five decades, Southern college football was still segregated. On the evening of Sept. 12, Paul “Bear” Bryant’s all-white University of Alabama Crimson Tide took on John McKay’s fully integrated USC Trojans in a sold-out game.

The Trojans trounced the Tide 42-21, with every major play made by a black athlete. USC claimed victory not only in its winning plays, but also in successfully breaking down the last racial division in college football.

It is said that Sam “Bam” Cunningham’s performance – he rushed 135 yards on 12 carries – along with that of his teammates convinced Bryant to finally integrate Southern football. As Alabama assistant coach Jerry Claiborne later said, “USC did more for integration in 60 minutes than had been done in 50 years.”

Much mythology surrounds this landmark game. Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South tells the complete story of what really happened. New York Times bestselling author Don Yeager joined forces with Cunningham, the 1972 All-American fullback, and Trojan linebacker John Papadakis, defensive captain, to write the book.

Trojan football fans, armchair sports historians and students of the desegregation era can sift through facts and fabrications at their leisure in this intriguing read. 


Photo courtesy of Trojan Athletics

[IN PRINT] Poems of Passion

Powerful, passionate and meditative. Body Bach (Tebot Bach, $14) by USC associate professor of history Marjorie Becker has been called all three – and has earned the Latin American scholar a National Book Award nomination in poetry. Becker draws upon memories of her hometown of Macon, Ga., time spent in the Caribbean and Latin America, studies in Spain and her experiences with the Peace Corps to weave together a mediation on passion, the body and memory. Her vivid imagery is of water, dancing, jewels and other sensual pleasures. Becker, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., has been the star of several local poetry readings, prompting listeners to reflect on the body and spirit’s response to beauty and pain. “As you will soon discover,” promises colleague, friend and poet David St. John, “the chords of Body Bach will resonate long after the book itself has been closed.” 

For more books by USC faculty, visit www.usc.edu/uscnews/features/in_print.html