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So You Want To Go Back To School…



Guest contributor and guitarist Scott Lofranco describes his experiences studying jazz as a non-traditional, adult student.

Scott Lofranco is a KSU Jazz Guitar Performance Major (Exp. Graduation Date: 2025) –
Good luck Scott!

The focus of this article is to share some of my insights on studying jazz in a university setting as a non-traditional, adult student.  When researching jazz programs, I did not find many personal accounts of what to expect as an adult learner, so hopefully this article will provide helpful information for someone considering a similar approach.  Before I delve any further, here are a few caveats:  

  1. Obviously, everyone has different circumstances.  The factors influencing my decision to study jazz in a university setting may not work for others.
  • Before dropping everything to pursue your passion, you will need to take an honest, personal assessment of what you hope to get out of your studies, your proficiency on your instrument, and your aversion to making life-altering changes that may not seem as “consequence-free” as they were in your late teens-early 20s.  
  • You must be able to read music and lead sheets to study jazz at a university.  For guitarists, this can be the proverbial, “kiss of death,” but traditional music notation (i.e., not tablature) is the standard.  
  • My experiences are limited to those as a Jazz Guitar Performance major at Kennesaw State University (“KSU”), which is a University System of Georgia (“USG”) institution.  As such, I have no personal knowledge of and cannot speak for other university-based, jazz guitar programs located in or outside of Georgia.  
  • This is not a sponsored article.  This content is strictly for informational purposes only and reflects my personal opinions and experiences. 

Keeping those caveats in mind, I would like to discuss the key elements associated with majoring in Jazz Performance at KSU and some of the tools some adult learners may be able to use to help finance their studies. 

Scott Lofranco playing out


    As an adult student, the cost of your education will probably be one of your top considerations.  The KSU website currently states that the total, estimated cost for students not living on campus to obtain a bachelor’s degree is approximately $29,859.  This estimate for a four-year degree will depend on how many general education/non-major credit hours you must take in addition to your major requirements.  Unless you plan on moving into the dorms, you will need to take a closer look at your personal finances and expenses (e.g., rent/mortgage payments, health insurance, auto insurance, etc.).  

    In my case, I hold a B.S. in Business Administration and a Juris Doctor, so KSU applied almost all of my undergraduate credits.  Unfortunately, none of my graduate-level coursework or my professional experience could be applied to the U.S./GA Constitution requirement (that is a conversation for another time).  

    Surprisingly, my biggest hurdle is that I graduated from a non-USG university.  I sent numerous emails to the registrar’s office and various department heads for approval of my previous coursework.  However, the administration at KSU’s College of the ArtsThe Bailey School of Music, and the student advising team were extremely helpful.  Thank you, Dean Harrison LongDr. Julia BullardProfessor Sam Skelton, and Professor Trey Wright!

    The Georgia Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver Program: USG institutions like KSU offer a tuition waiver program for eligible, Georgia residents who are sixty-two (62) years old and above that will cover most of the costs of studying jazz (or any subject) at a USG school.  KSU also has other tuition waiver programs for students, that can be viewed here.  In my classes and ensembles, there are several adult learners who are utilizing one of these waivers.  If you are not considering a university program in Georgia, I would strongly encourage you to research whether your home state offers similar tuition waiver programs!

    There are also numerous scholarship and financial aid (aka student loan) options available.  After my first semester at KSU, I received a BSOM Arts Gala Scholarship, which helped me with my tuition costs for the year.

    If you have questions or concerns about your transfer credit status, I strongly recommend contacting the KSU Registrar’s Office to schedule an appointment to meet with a KSU student advisor to map out your degree pathway.

    Time Commitment

    Most adult learners will need to work while attending classes.  I chose to enroll as a full-time student so that I could complete my degree in four years.  Adult students can also attend on a part-time basis.  Another option is to pursue a non-degree pathway, which involves auditing classes.  I have several adult classmates using this approach, which allows them to pick and choose the subjects they want to study, which can include performance ensembles and jazz combos.    

    During your first and second years as a Jazz Performance Major at KSU, most of your core, non-performance classes (i.e., theory, music history, aural skills, etc.) will meet two or three days a week for an hour, typically in the mornings.  Performance ensembles (i.e., big band) will rehearse twice a week for two hours in the afternoon.  Jazz combos, which are smaller groups that you would usually see in a club/bar setting, also rehearse once a week in the afternoon.  Private lessons with faculty for your instrument are also required and meet once a week for an hour.     

    As such, studying jazz at a university can require as much class time as a full-time job.  This time estimate does not include practice time for performance ensembles/combos, classes (some are performance-based, like jazz improvisation), transcribing, and private lessons, which are required for all Performance majors.  Most students work part-time and/or remotely, which is what I have been fortunate to do.  Teaching private lessons is another potential income stream. Gigging outside of school is also essential.  Performance majors are regularly referred to paying gigs outside of KSU by the jazz department faculty, which is a great way to get more experience on the bandstand and network with other musicians.  

    More Scott playing out.

    Why I Chose to Study Jazz at a University

    As the adage goes (I am paraphrasing, of course), “All the jazz education you need is in the recordings.”  This highlights my earlier point that what works for me is not going to work for everyone.  If you are considering a career transition, you must be clear with your goals, your abilities, your familial/personal commitments, and your willingness to make life-altering changes predicated on a “leap of faith.”  

    Personally, my decision took several years of research and discussions with other musicians, colleagues, and mentors.  I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the COVID pandemic, coupled with the sudden passing of a family member and close friends (all non-COVID related), illustrated the importance of re-prioritizing certain aspects of my life.  I saved as much money as I could and paid off all my debts in preparation for the new chapter of my life.  

    I chose to pursue another degree because I enjoy the learning process and wanted to be around people with the same passion for music as me.  Studying in a more formal setting also provides networking possibilities, which were important to me since the majority of mine are all in the legal profession. Finally, I wanted to have the option of pursuing a post-graduate degree to teach in a university setting.        

    Ultimately, your playing, attitude, and reliability will carry the most weight on the bandstand, not a piece of paper in your pocket.  Pursuing a degree in Jazz Guitar Performance was the pathway that made the most sense for how I learn, my circumstances, and my goals.  

    Of course, there are many amazing, private teachers in the Atlanta area (and throughout Georgia) who can help you reach your playing goals.  In fact, almost all the faculty at KSU offer private instruction.  Finally, schools like the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media offer adult learners with another option for learning in a more formal setting but without the general education requirements of a typical university and offer online options and in-person classes at night.  I would encourage you to research as many educational options as possible before embarking on your journey. 

    If you have made it this far, thank you for reading.  Hopefully, we can meet at a gig!  If you are interested in hearing KSU’s jazz program in action, I would encourage you to catch one of our fall concerts.  The fall concert schedule can be found here.

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