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Back To School

Katy Krassner

September 9, 2021

Pink Floyd once sang “We don’t need no education,” and while it’s true, you really don’t need a degree to be a rock star, it still might come in handy someday. First of all, you may not choose to be a rocker your whole life, so why not have something to fall back on? But also, you may want a better understanding of some of the business aspects of the “music business,” or to study communication as a way to present yourself better. Because it’s September, and people are going back to school, let’s dedicate this blog to musicians who went to University. 

John Legend

You may not have known that John went to University of Pennsylvania had he not had social media beefs with another graduate – Donald Trump Jr – but Legend DID attend the Ivy League institution, studying English and African American literature.

Sara Bareilles

The five-time Grammy nominated pop singer graduated UCLA with a degree in Communication Studies. That probably helped her to better present herself to people, which likely came in very handy when pitching to write the music for the musical WAITRESS, which she eventually did.

Duncan Sheik

Sheik went to Brown University (another Ivy Leaguer), where he studied something called semiotics which is too hard to explain in this blog. Needless to say, he’s smart. He was Grammy nominated for his hit single “Barely Breathing,” and then went on to co-write the smash hit Broadway musical, Spring Awakenings, earning him a Tony Award. PS- his classmate at Brown was singer Lisa Loeb.

Childish Gambino

It doesn’t really surprise this writer that Gambino has a degree in dramatic writing from the Tisch School of the Arts from New York University. Agreed? 

Carrie Underwood

Carrie was a student at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma when she auditioned for American Idol, and even after winning she went back, getting a degree in mass communication with a concentration in journalism. She even graduated Magna Cum Laude!

Rivers Cuomo

After the success of Weezer’s first, self-titled album, Cuomo enrolled at Harvard University to study classical composition, but then left to record Weezer’s second album, Pinkerton. After the release of that record, the band went on a three-year hiatus, and Cuomo went BACK to Harvard where he graduated with a degree in English.

Sheryl Crow

She may have sold more than 50 million records worldwide, but just as important, Sheryl Crow has a Bachelor of Science Education degree from the University of Missouri. After graduating, Sheryl worked as a music teacher at Kellison Elementary School, which allowed her to sing in bands on weeknights and weekends. A local musician heard her voice and helped her get work as a singer for jingles, and the rest is history.


“The Light” singer and actor got a 2-year scholarship to Florida A&M University where he earned a business administration degree. 

Brian May

And we thought his hair was impressive – check this out: Mr. Brian May is Dr. Brian May to you, as he has earned his Ph.D. in Astrophysics! He initially left his Ph.D. studies to record the first Queen album but then went back in 2007 to finish. In 2015, Dr. May went to work with other astrophysicists to analyze data from the Pluto New Horizons probe from NASA. Galileo, Figaro – magnificooo!

Greg Graffin

Greg may be the MVP of our list. As singer of the punk band Bad Religion, Greg was singing songs called “Infection” and “Recipe for Hate,” but that didn’t stop him from double majoring in anthropology and geology at USC. He then went on to get a Masters in geology at USC AND receive his Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University. He now guest lectures, and has taught at both UCLA and Cornell. Rocking!!!

If you’re a Play MPE member, then you’re clearly already super smart, so maybe finishing up that college degree is on your agenda? It may not be the most rock ‘n’ roll thing to do, but knowing about business, how to present yourself in interviews and the smartest way to invest all that publishing money is pretty hardcore, you know? Use your Play MPE account to get your music into the ears of tastemakers everywhere so you can start putting that University degree to work!!!


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