Mallory Hauser
Guitarist (currently in her final semester at USC Thornton School of Music), California (USA)

Mallory Hauser is a Los Angeles-based guitarist from San Diego who can easily crossover to a multitude of genres. Throughout the years she gained experience when it comes to musical direction, composition and scoring, production, writing, teaching, and arranging. Besides music she also has a passion for photography, videography, and editing.

We sat down in the sun on campus and talked about her experience at USC, her expectations for the future and what triggered her to get into the world of music.

 

Guitar Hero

At a very young age Mallory and music crossed paths, but it wasn’t till the release of the popular game Guitar Hero that made her pick up the guitar more seriously.

“When I was about 4 or 5 years old my parents got me a little toy acoustic guitar for Christmas. I got really into it so they got me lessons, but what really triggered me was the release of Guitar Hero. When that game came out everyone was into that and I really wanted to know how to actually play this instrument. I continued my lessons with a teacher who could keep my interest, teaching me a lot of pop and rock songs. In Middle and High School we had music programs, but cause of lack of funding or not being able to find a good teacher I had no experience playing with other musicians until College”, she tells me.

 

Chuck Berry

Having the drive from her teacher to keep learning and playing various songs, she came across guitar camp during her junior year.

“The first time I realized that you could study music in College was here on campus when I attended the Jazz Guitar Camp,” she continues. It blew my mind, cause I had no idea you could actually make a living with playing music. It felt like my whole world shifted towards putting energy in practicing my guitar and really pushing myself in that area. So I auditioned and I got in.”

Mallory finally got into the pop program but her expectations were completely different from what it ended up being.

“Honestly I thought I would be able to play a lot of instruments, cause I had taken drum lessons and I knew that I wanted to work on singing and instruments like bass. When they introduced this idea of being in a band and learn repertoire, I was all in, cause it was familiar to me. In terms of learning music by ear and then performing the song was the craziest thing that took me by surprise, cause I never really performed. The first week we did “Johnny B. Goode” and all the guitarists had to do at least 3 Chuck Berry moves in that first performance. I remember it just broke my shell right away. I knew this program would really push me. Professionalism started the moment you walked through the door the first day on campus,” she recalls. 

 

4 to 6 hours

Getting into the program is not an easy thing at all, especially when the acceptance rate is extremely low. Mallory knew she loved the guitar and that there was something about music she just wanted to dive into.

“Preparing for that audition was something else. I got addicted to having this consistency of playing guitar everyday. Not beating yourself up but bettering yourself and growing. Personally the preparation was difficult, cause keep in mind there are only 4 slots for a guitarist. From the videos you send in you get asked for a live audition and from the live audition you find out if you get in. I remember being nervous. I will say that I had great support and mindset going into it because after doing that summer program there were a lot of guitar faculty members present. They knew in what area I needed more attention and what the things were that I needed to practice more. So the preparation was really good and I would practice like 4 to 6 hours a day until the big day”, she explains.

 

Finding inspiration

The students are all very driven and everyone works really hard to reach their goals. Mallory has that same drive and tells me the healthy competition between her and her siblings influenced that, especially with being the youngest at home. Looking back she has no regrets at all and points out that the whole experience has been worth the effort for sure.

“I consider myself lucky, cause my parents have been really supportive. In this program however I found out that there are 2 types of people. The once who are their own worst critics and put a lot of pressure on themselves and then you have the ones who need that little extra push a bit more. Looking back I don’t know how it could be better balanced, but I’m grateful for all the growth and rebirths I’ve gone through. It’s just interesting to think about and notice that between my classmates through our 4 years. I look at this as an investment in my future and right now I feel like I can really do this. The knowledge I have I can share with the rest,” she tells me with a smile.

The pop program is one of the most successful in the country. It’s very challenging and intense. One of the reasons Mallory picked this pop program is the faculty. An impressive group of experienced music industry people.

“The part I love the most is playing with people I love, being surrounded with people I respect. Whether it’s professors, friends or other people in my program, I greatly admire their talents. Just finding inspiration in any kind of person who seems to be so driven and talented and knowledgeable with a great sense of purpose. The hardest part is keeping that thinking process alive as long as you can. I do feel cause the program is so small we are like family. The teachers have so much wisdom and insight. They don’t force feed you stuff, they just advice you what comes in handy,” she says.

 

Being a creative person

Going through her 4th year here at USC and looking back at the journey up till now I wonder if there’s anything that is missing or that could be better in this program.

“Anything that takes you even further away from this idea of being a musician and more into being an artist, a creative person and challenging yourself in that regard. This is also coming from me who is an instrumentalist. I’m taking an experimental film class at the fine arts school and it’s pushing me in that mindset. In High School filmmaking was my creative outlet. So I was hoping that I had a little bit of more room in my schedule the first few years to do either; stage lighting or behind the scenes stuff or music videos. A lot of us are doing our own projects and we’ll have to reach out and dive into the music industry school where we also have access too, but it’s not in the program. Having a specific class just for music direction would be cool or anything with composition for pop. I really love string arranging and I’ve been taking composition lessons. There actually is an arranging class, but in terms in able to do orchestral arrangements in a pop mindset is not happening,” she tells me.

Mallory has obtained a very large musical skill set and points out that all the musical sensibilities came from this program. In terms of the networking she feels that this program makes the huge overwhelming world of the music industry feel so much smaller and more tangible. Especially when you’re from USC it’s pretty accesible, mainly cause there’s a certain level that can be expected.

“There are so many people who can play music that you’re thrown into a pot with and it can be so intimidating especially if you move from another place to LA. This program is so intimate and beautifully chosen from my experience that it makes it easier.  It feels like there’s a sense of community. I know from the instrumentalist stand point that if you grind really hard at school people notice you. That’s when you get called and get approached to work on projects, play on records and get the gigs. I’m mainly the guitarist for my friends projects and we perform alot. It’s pretty amazing. I feel so lucky, cause they’re genuinely talented.”

 

Be confident 

Being in music and being a female guitar player, she felt the need to proof herself as a guitarist.

“Guitar is just a very male centered instrument. Going into this school I was the only girl guitarist and I remember automatically thinking that the guys were better than me. That’s probably my own insecurity, so I really grinded for that first performance class, already assuming that they would be better than me, which is a horrible mindset. I do found out that if your voice is not confident it won’t be heard just cause you’re a girl. Now I feel if people don’t want me cause I’m a girl, that’s your loss. I don’t wanna be around that energy anyway,” she says.

Mallory’s advice for future music students is to not get discouraged.

“Music is a real job. There are 2 things I can advice which is that you should just put your head down and keep grinding, and..... look at the big picture of what music is and what impact it can have on people. If you’re willing to take that weight in continueing this story, this huge epic of creativity and art, then yes you should just do it,” she adds

 

More than a musician

With her semester at USC almost coming to an end what’s next for Mallory?

“I just want to do anything that’s creative. I’ve been thinking of having 2 sides of my music career, like touring (being a side person) and on the other side producing and doing string arrangements. I find so much joy in collaborating whether it’s in the performance or production aspect. I do consider myself a musician, but I feel like everyone here is so much more than just a musician. When someone really stands out, is when they acknowledge those differences what makes them unique. One other thing that I’ve always loved is photography and filmmaking and I kinda forgot that, cause I was focused on performance. So why not do both? It fulfills me in multiple ways”. 

Thank you Mallory for sharing your experience. I’m looking forward to see you in the future as you continue your adventure in the world of music.