This multiple-case study addresses the nature of the out-of-school musical engagements of four undergraduate students who were enrolled as jazz studies majors in a large school of music in the U.S. southwest. It concerns what they did musically when they were outside of school, why they did what they did, what experiences they said they learned from, and how their out-of-school engagements related to their in-school curriculum. Research on jazz education, informal learning practices in music, and the in-school and out-of-school experiences of students informed this study. Data were generated through observation, interviews, video blogs (vlogs), and SMS text messages.
Analysis of data revealed that participants engaged with music when outside of school by practicing, teaching, gigging, recording, playing music with others, attending live musical performances, socializing with other musicians, listening, and engaging with non-jazz musical styles (aside from listening). They engaged with music because of: 1) the love of music, 2) the desire for musical excellence, 3) financial considerations, 4) the aspiration to affect others positively with music, and 5) the connection with other musicians. Participants indicated that they learned by practicing, listening to recordings, attending live performances, playing paid engagements, socializing, teaching, and reading. In-school and out-of-school experience and learning had substantial but not complete overlap.
The study implies that a balance between in-school and out-of-school musical experience may help undergraduate jazz studies students to maximize their overall musical learning. It also suggests that at least some jazz studies majors are fluent in a wide variety of music learning practices that make them versatile, flexible, and employable musicians. Further implications are provided for undergraduate jazz students as well as collegiate jazz educators, the music education profession, and schools of music. Additional implications concern future research and the characterization of jazz study in academia.