There are a number of musicians who have obtained university degrees. While some may argue that the degree is not necessary for a successful music career, these musicians have shown that it can be beneficial.
For example, many people may not know that Joshua Bell, one of the world’s most renowned violinists, has a degree in mathematics from The Juilliard School.
Similarly, Yo-Yo Ma has a degree in cello performance from Harvard University. These and other musicians with university degrees have shown that having a formal education can help one succeed in the music industry.
Musicians With University Degrees
Musician #8: Milo Aukerman
Milo Aukerman, a lead singer and songwriter of the punk rock band the Descendents, is not your average rock star. He is also a biochemistry professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Most rock stars never finished college, let alone earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry. But for Aukerman, music has always been just a hobby. “I’ve always been interested in both music and science,” he says. “But I never thought they could be combined.”
Aukerman first started playing music with the Descendents in 1977, while he was still an undergraduate at UC San Diego. The band released its first album in 1981 and quickly became one of the most popular punk bands of the era.
Musician #7: Tom Morello
Tom Morello, a guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University. In his time at Harvard, he was a member of the school’s prestigious final club, The Porcellian Club.
Morello is not the only musician with a university degree; many other notable musicians have attended college or university. Musicians with degrees from universities include John Mayer (Bachelor of Arts from Berklee College of Music), Maynard James Keenan (Bachelor of Fine Arts from Arizona State University), and Bono (Master of Arts from Trinity College Dublin).
While many successful musicians did not attend college or university, it appears that having a degree in music can help boost one’s career.
Musician #6: Tom Scholz
Tom Scholz, the founder of the rock band Boston, is one example of a musician who has a university degree. Scholz earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While at MIT, Scholz played in a number of different bands and began to develop the technology that would become the trademark sound of Boston. Scholz’s engineering background has come in handy over the years; he has designed and built all of Boston’s recording equipment himself.
Musician #5: Greg Graffin
Greg Graffin, frontman for punk rock band Bad Religion, has a Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University. He’s taught at both UCLA and Cornell and is currently a professor of life sciences at Occidental College.
While some musicians choose to focus on their music full-time, others have pursued university degrees in various disciplines. Here are a few examples: John Mayer has a B.S. in psychology from Berklee College of Music.
IU alumna Courtney Barnett majored in studio arts and was awarded the University Medal in 2016. Trent Reznor attended Allegheny College where he studied computer engineering before dropping out to pursue music full-time with Nine Inch Nails.
Musician #4: Daveed Diggs
Daveed Diggs is a self-proclaimed ” theatre nerd .” A graduate of Brown University, he has made a name for himself on Broadway and beyond. He is the Tony Award-winning actor and rapper who originated the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the smash-hit musical Hamilton.
Diggs’ theatre training is evident in his mesmerizing stage presence and vocal prowess. But it’s his unique blend of talents that make him so special. He can rap with the best of them, but also has a beautiful singing voice. His acting is powerful and nuanced, making him one of the most sought-after performers in the business. What’s truly amazing about Daveed Diggs is that he achieved all this success while still in his early 30s.
Musician #3: Donald Glover
Donald Glover is an American actor, writer, comedian and musician. He first came to attention for his work on the NBC comedy series 30 Rock in which he played a young Tracy Jordan. Glover also wrote for the show. He has since starred in films such as The Martian, Magic Mike XXL and The Lazarus Effect.
Glover attended New York University where he studied Dramatic Writing. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and began working as a writer on 30 Rock.
In addition to his work on television and film, Glover is also a successful rapper and hip-hop artist. As Childish Gambino, Glover has released four studio albums including 2017’s “Awaken My Love!”. He has won two Grammy Awards for his music.
Musician #2: Rivers Cuomo
Rivers Cuomo is a musician who has a university degree. He is the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band Weezer. Cuomo was born in New York City and raised in Massachusetts. He attended Harvard University, where he studied classical music. After graduating from Harvard, Cuomo formed Weezer with other college friends. The band has released eight albums, and they continue to tour extensively. Cuomo has also pursued a solo career, releasing one album in 2006. He is married and has four children.
Despite being a successful musician, Cuomo has always maintained his love of learning and academia. In interviews, he has spoken about how his time at Harvard influenced his music career. “I was really surprised by how much I liked being in school,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “It was awesome to be around all these people who were really smart and motivated.
Musician #1: Dexter Holland
Dexter Holland, frontman and guitarist for the punk rock band The Offspring, is also a successful scientist. Holland graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in biology in 1993. He then attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology in 2000.
Holland has continued to pursue his scientific interests while also being a full-time musician. He is currently a professor at the University of California, Riverside, where he teaches undergraduate courses in genetics and evolution.