Dean Erica Muhl


With achievements that embrace academia, fine art, design, and classical music, Erica Muhl has served in various arts leadership roles at USC since 1991. Most recently, she was appointed as dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design and founding director of the USC Iovine and Young Academy in 2013.

A Professor of Composition at USC's Thorton School of Music since 1991 and a Professor of Fine Art and Composition at USC Roski since 2013, Muhl also has served as Administrative Vice-President of the Faculty, Chair of the University Committee on Academic Review, and a long-serving member of the Arts and Humanities Panel of the University Committee on Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure. At USC Thornton, she was Associate Dean from 2009-2013 and chaired the Department of Composition from 2006-07. Until fall 2012, Dr. Muhl taught steadily in Thornton's top-ranked Composition program at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. With a sub-specialization in film, Muhl's course offerings often included analytical and theoretical explorations of sound in time-based art forms, and in particular of the work produced by seminal collaborations between composers and auteur directors, such as Prokofiev and Eisenstein, Takemitsu and Kurosawa, and Badalamenti and Lynch.

Under Muhl, the Roski School has embraced USC's strategic vision and begun its transformation into an institution that is facing head on the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Roski faculty artists and scholars are driving new ways of being and engaging with art through work that is commissioned, shown and presented in leading art, research and public venues around the world. Its undergraduate and graduate programs are adapting to reap the immeasurable benefits of the university's breadth, size, diversity, international character and global reach, and its location in Los Angeles -- the contemporary art capital of the world and the Pacific Rim. With the recent hires of transformative resident and visiting faculty such as art historian and critical theorist Amelia Jones, and renowned artist Edgar Arceneaux, the Roski School is enabling new paradigms for collaboration, and for individual practices that span making, research, activism, and curating. In a unique campus environment that boasts six world-class art schools, the Roski School is taking the lead in a broad, multi-disciplinary investigation of the performative arts.

During Muhl's tenure, annual philanthropic giving to USC Roski has more than tripled. This fundraising effectiveness is enabling the school to provide more generous scholarship packages for students, improved benefits for faculty, and upgrades to facilities. In support of greatly increased interest on the part of artists and designers, Muhl was able to outfit two new 3D print labs. Classroom, studios and other facilities have received extensive upgrades under Muhl's leadership.

New funding for international study will aid students with financial need for travel-based opportunities. In addition, USC Roski launched an exchange program with University of the Arts, London in fall 2015. The UAL program draws upon the specific histories, identities and achievements of its six constituent Colleges to offer an extensive range of courses in art, design, fashion, communication and performing arts, all while immersing students in the cultural life of the city.

Erica Muhl was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her father, Edward Muhl, head of production for Universal Pictures from 1953 to 1973, and her mother, Barbara, an author and opera singer, were important patrons in the superheated '50s-'60s L.A. arts world. Guests at their home included Aldous Huxley, Sidney Poitier, Dalton Trumbo, Douglas Sirk, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Kubrik and Horton Foote. Erica Muhl trained both as a composer and conductor, with much of that training completed in Europe, where she also acquired fluency in Italian and French and a deep appreciation of art, literature and architecture. At age sixteen, she was invited to study with renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Paris. After returning to California to earn her Bachelor of Music, she returned to Europe for graduate studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, studying with Italian composer Franco Donatoni. In 1991 she completed her D.M.A. at the University of Southern California. Along with Boulanger and Donatoni, her primary teachers in composition were Aurelio de la Vega and Daniel Kessner. In conducting, she worked with Walter Cataldi-Tassoni, long-time conductor and stage director for Rome Opera, and the legendary Fritz Zweig, a student of Humperdinck and Schoenberg, and a close friend and colleague of Leos Janacek, Alexander Zemlinsky and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

As a composer, Erica Muhl's works have been commissioned and performed by, among many, Minnesota Opera, the Neue Jüdische Kammerphilharmonie Dresden, New World Symphony, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Orchestra of the RAI Rome, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Venezuela, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Arditti Quartet, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, National Pubic Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mexican National Television, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, and Radio-Televisione Italiana. Her music has highlighted countless festivals and competitions, and she has received many grants, awards, residencies and fellowships, all throughout the world and from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy in Rome, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Muhl's recent concert overture "Smoke and Mirrors" is currently being recorded as part of the 100th anniversary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and will be released on the Naxos label in 2016. Her 2002 work "Consolation" will be performed by Seattle's new Phänomen Ensemble during the 2016-17 season.

Muhl has served as Assistant Conductor for Los Angeles Opera Theater, and for Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival's complete "Der Ring des Nibelungen." She regularly conducts her own works, including the recording of "Consolation" with Cleveland Chamber Symphony contained on her CD "Range of Light." A noted speaker on contemporary music, Muhl has lectured for major arts organizations such as the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics, Opera Pacific, LA Opera, and many others.

Erica Muhl lives outside Los Angeles with her family and a wily rescue named "Silly Cat."