Achieving his dream at age 65

Master's degree spurs next chapter for musician

George Collichio

George Collichio '23G playing guitar (left), and posing at Commencement with Andrew Gallina (at right), vice chair of the Nazareth board of trustees.

George Collichio was already a professional guitarist, recording artist, and music educator. He ran his own music schools with three locations around Rochester as well as one in Syracuse, New York, for 40+ years, with 250 students and 15 instructors. But something was missing, he says: “I always wanted to get my master’s degree.”

At age 60, when he learned that Nazareth was offering a master’s in music performance and pedagogy, he felt the timing was right and took action. He was determined to achieve his longtime goal and to gain the skills and credentials for his next chapter — to teach as an adjunct professor, publish books, and create guitar course content. The father of four wanted to earn his grad degree before his youngest, then 12, started college.

Collichio (pronounced co-LEE-chee-oh) took two courses per semester, right through the pandemic, and achieved a nearly 4.0 grade point average. Nancy Strelau, one of his professors, says that Collichio gave a “ridiculously outstanding jazz lecture recital” to complete his grad degree, “a dream come true for this humble, amazing jazz guitarist.” 

Collichio says, “The encouragement of the professors and the staff is fantastic, and their willingness to help you is amazing.” Faculty allowed him to tailor projects to his interests. He gained research skills for writing books and appreciated one-on-one guidance in how to create, edit, and share videos for use in teaching. “I loved every minute of it. There wasn’t a time or a class or a professor that I did not thoroughly enjoy.”

George Collichio working with a music student on improvising concepts at Nazareth.

George Collichio working with a music student on improvising concepts at Nazareth.

George Collichio at commencement

Behind the scenes at Commencement.

Seeing his grades, "My son said, 'I didn't know you were that smart.'" Collichio told him: "I'm not. I just need to work twice as hard as everybody else."

The 65-year-old says he adjusted to today's college experiences, such as turning in assignments digitally, a big change from when he got his bachelor's degree in performance decades ago. "I liked it better than using a pencil and a pen. It was a whole different experience at my age to do this. I just appreciated everything so much more than I think I would have if I was right out of high school and undergrad school."

After proudly crossing Nazareth's stage in his cap and gown, with his family at hand, Collichio said, "If you have a dream or a goal, no matter what, with faith and determination you can accomplish it. It was a great sense of accomplishment and hopefully encouragement for my children and grandchild or to anyone else who has a realistic goal. It's never too late!"