Screwed by McNally Smith? This South Carolina university wants you!

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The University of South Carolina Upstate is inviting students 'left in the lurch' by McNally Smith College of Music. University South Carolina Upstate

This week's City Pages cover story told the upsetting tale of the sudden closing of McNally Smith College of Music in December.

The story left many readers angry at administrators who pulled the rug out from staff and students, and sympathetic for those affected. Within hours, one of those readers was reaching out to City Pages. He thinks he can help.

Griffin Woodworth lived in Minnesota on two occasions: first as a student at Carleton College in the early 1990s, and then -- after obtaining a P.hD. in Musicology from UCLA -- as a professor at Riverland Community College and Inver Hills Community College. 

During that second stint here, Woodworth got to know professors at McNally Smith, whose skills and dedication to students he admired. Woodworth himself might've taken a job at McNally, had one reflecting his expertise been available. ("I'm a historian, and not a performance guy.") But he "loved the people" he met, and kept in touch with them.

Last December, Woodworth's Facebook feed started filling with those friends' sad news: McNally Smith was closing, and immediately. His faculty friends weren't even receiving the paychecks owed to them.

Mid-college students were doubly screwed: Not only would they not be getting a degree from McNally Smith, they might have difficulty getting one anywhere else. Coursework from McNally, an unaccredited college, would not automatically be recognized by other schools. Indeed, some have since learned they could only transfer to a handful of institutions -- and even then, not all credits earned would carry over.

Woodworth has a solution. He's now a professor at University of South Carolina Upstate (formerly University of South Carolina Spartanburg), and says his school would "sit down with anybody left in the lurch by McNally Smith," and work on helping get their completed coursework recognized.

He can't guarantee "100 percent" approval, but says the USC Upstate chancellor has been open to such moves in the past. 

"We have a process we go through when someone comes in," Woodworth says, "where we look at the transcript, see what you've taken, and say, 'What is the equivalent here?' And then we cross that off the list."

Woodworth also says the school provides a limited number of out-of-state tuition waivers, which "we can bring in to play" to recruit new students.

The music department at USC Upstate is small (about 25 to 30 music majors) and oriented toward popular music, rather than classical. (The department title, "Commercial Music," indicates one's goal is to make a living, and is not a reference to composing jingles.) Unlike at McNally Smith, or other music industry-specific vocational schools, graduates from USC Upstate receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), and not a "specalized degree." 

An added feature, from Woodworth: "The upstate [South Carolina] region is one of the fastest-growing locations in America. Spartanburg is about a 20-minute drive away from Greenville, which is comparable in its size, and cosmopolitanism, to Minneapolis or St. Paul. People might worry about the 'Podunk factor.' But it's not Podunk."

And one more bonus: As a publicly funded state university, and a 6,000-students-and-growing one at that, it's not going to suddenly go out of business one day.

McNally Smith students interested in Woodworth's offer can learn more about the school's music program here, or by contacting him directly at [email protected] 


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