Scholars of Rock: Musicians With College Degrees

Greg Graffin

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Most rock stars are not known for being the most tenacious students. Foo Fighters' frontman Dave Grohl dropped out of high school as a teenager and later became one of the most acclaimed musicians or his generation. A select few rock musicians have actively pursued higher education and achieved advanced degrees.

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Rivers Cuomo (Weezer): Bachelor's Degree, Harvard University

Rivers Cuomo with Weezer

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After the release of Weezer's 1994 self-titled debut album, frontman Rivers Cuomo enrolled in Harvard College – attending classes on and off from 1995 to 2006. He graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa honor society. Cuomo completed his degree several years after his musical success at the age of 35. Cuomo wrote most of Weezer's acclaimed 1996 Pinkerton album during his first semester at Harvard and recorded the album between terms.

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Brian May and Roger Taylor (Queen): Bachelor's, Ph.D., Imperial College

Roger Taylor and Brian May of Queen

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Queen guitarist Brian May met Queen drummer Roger Taylor after May placed an ad for a drummer at London's Imperial College student union. May formed the band Smile with Taylor which broke up in 1969. May and Taylor formed Queen in 1970 with singer Freddie Mercury and bassist John Deacon and released their self-titled debut album in 1973. Queen played their first show on July 18, 1970, at Imperial College's Union Concert Hall. Taylor earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Imperial College. May graduated from Imperial College receiving a bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics with honors. May later earned a Ph.D. in astronomy from Imperial College in 2007.

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Greg Graffin (Bad Religion): Ph.D., Cornell University

Greg Graffin

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Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin has balanced his musical life with academia for decades. Graffin double-majored in anthropology and geology as an undergraduate at UCLA. He went on to earn a master's degree in geology from UCLA and received his Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University. Between Bad Religion albums and tours Graffin has taught Life Science 1 at UCLA in 2009 and Evolution at Cornell University in 2011. 

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Jeff Schroeder (Smashing Pumpkins): Finishing His Ph.D., UCLA

Jeff Schroeder of The Smashing Pumpkins

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In 2006 Jeff Schoeder became the second guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins replacing James Iha. Schroeder remains the only consistent member of the band since their reunion besides frontman Billy Corgan. Before joining The Smashing Pumpkins Schroeder earned his bachelor's and master's degrees and is finishing his Ph.D. in comparative literature at UCLA. Although Schroeder had planned to become a professor after earning his Ph.D. he put those plans on hold due to The Smashing Pumpkins' busy schedule. 

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Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine): Bachelor's Degree, Harvard

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave

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Former Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello graduated from Harvard University earning a bachelor's degree in social studies before embarking on a musical career. Morello remains active in social causes as is the co-founder (with System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian) of the non-profit political activist organization Axis of Justice.

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Dexter Holland (The Offspring): Bachelor's and Master's Degrees, USC

Dexter Holland of The Offspring

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Before becoming the frontman for The Offspring, Dexter Holland was the valedictorian at his high school. Holland went on to achieve a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in molecular biology at USC. While working on his Ph.D. in molecular biology The Offspring's 1994 album Smash became a smash hit and Holland suspended his studies. In a 1995 interview, Holland said, "I won’t wanna play music when I’m forty, I’d rather be a professor at a university." Although Holland remains active academically, at age 49 he is still making albums and touring with The Offspring probably because it pays better than teaching.