Celebrities are not known for being well-educated. Even though they are often expected to have informed opinions about politics and popular culture, it is still surprising when a famous person is revealed to have attended college. Musicians in particular are expected to have eschewed formal education; those who are self-taught are thought to have more integrity than those who have received formal educations. Rappers and pop singers sometimes begin their careers as teenagers, so pursuing their educations beyond high school is not possible. Indie rockers are often exceptions to the usual trajectory of music careers. They tend to lead very private lives and begin releasing records as adults. Some even keep their day jobs while pursuing music. Many prominent indie rockers have master’s degrees and have used their intelligence to forge music careers on their own terms.
Greg Graffin formed the LA punk band Bad Religion when he was just 15 years old. His lyrics have always conveyed a deep understanding of politics and social issues. He has been praised for transcending the rote anger that is usually associated with the punk genre. He completed his MA in geology at UCLA and went on to earn a PhD in zoology at Cornell University. He teaches courses at Cornell when he is not touring or recording.
The Offspring had a wave of massive success in the mid-1990s, but the band’s roots are in Los Angeles’ independent punk scene. Singer Dexter Holland and his high school friend Greg Kriesel formed the band when they were teenagers, temporarily deferring their academic aspirations. Dexter eventually returned to the University of Southern California to earn both his BA and MA in molecular biology. He was the valedictorian of his high school class and had the opportunity to enter a PhD program at that time, so it is possible that he will return to school and earn a doctoral degree in the future.
David Macklovitch is half of the electronic duo Chromeo. He started dabbling in dance and rap music when he was still in high school. As an electronic artist, he is able to play at massive festivals while maintaining his anonymity. He is responsible for the club hit “Needy Girl” and has released two successful albums, but he is rarely recognized on the street. This makes it easy for him to pursue his education. He has his master’s degree in French literature and teaches lit classes at Columbia University in New York. He is in the process of completing his PhD.
Singer Phil Alvin is the front man of the little-known rock band The Blasters. It is no surprise that Phil has his master’s degree, since his band’s oeuvre covers nearly every genre of American music. He is clearly a student of the American cultural landscape. He plays rockabilly, folk and classic rock and roll music with an authenticity that can only come naturally to someone who has received a great deal of classical training. He has his PhD in mathematics, which makes sense, given the link between musicianship and math proficiency.
Corey Brown, the bassist of the Canadian band The John Henrys, has his master’s degree in architecture. He lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario when he is not on tour. Though his band hails from Canada, The John Henrys’ music is often compared to that of American legends such as Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.
Indie musicians benefit from completing advanced degrees. They understand the value of hard work and the craft of communication, both of which form the foundation of all great music.
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Lou Herring is a career counselor and guest author at Best Masters Programs. Click here to read her latest article on top-rated online masters degree programs.